BMW has introduced a raft of improvements to its 2014 model year cars, spearheaded by the new F10 5 Series, which also received its mid-life LCI facelift.
Rather than describe each and every change, I’d like to bring your attention to just ‘two’ models – the (significantly) more powerful 550i (in M Sport guise) and the 335d Saloon, which gains BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive transmission for the first time.
First the 550i M Sport..
Just over a decade ago, the E39 M5 ruled the sports saloon roost, with its 4.9-litre 32 valve V8 engine kicking out a prodigious 400PS (394bhp) and 370lb-ft (500 Nm) of torque. At that time, the most powerful non-M 5 Series you could buy was the 282bhp 540i, which would still trouble a 996 model Porsche 911 due to its abundance of torque.
Nowadays you’ll find 552bhp under the bonnet of an M5 (or 567bhp with the Competition Package), and in the latest 2014 5 Series, BMW have upped the ante of the most powerful non-M variant (the 550i) by 42bhp to 443bhp.
That’s still a sizeable chunk less power than a £73,550 M5, but with 650Nm (479lb-ft) of torque the gap between M5 and 550i is just 30Nm (22lb-ft), and the 550i range starts from £57,165 for the Luxury saloon up to £60,010 for a 550i M Sport.
Although power and torque have been raised, emissions and fuel economy have been lowered to comply with EU6 regulations, meaning you can now buy a BMW 5 Series that consumes 32.8 mpg and emits 199g/km of CO2, yet is considerably quicker than the 2003 E39 M5. Nice job BMW.
Of course the 550i is intended to compete with Audi’s £54,505 S6 saloon, although there’s no longer a direct Mercedes-Benz rival, and Jaguar’s nearest (3.0-litre supercharged V6) is either much slower or significantly more expensive to run (£65,415 XFR – 503bhp, 625Nm, 24.4mpg and 270g/km of CO2).
BMW 550i M Sport against its rivals
|#||BMW 550i M Sport||Audi S6 Saloon||Jaguar XF 3.0 S/C|
|Engine||4.4-litre twin-turbo direct-injection V8||4.0-litre V8 TFSI||3.0-litre V6 supercharged|
|Torque||650Nm (479lb-ft)||550Nm (406lb-ft)||450Nm (332lb-ft)|
|Gearbox||8-speed Sport auto transmission||7-speed S tronic auto transmission||8-Speed auto transmission|
|Combined Fuel Consumption||32.8||29.4||29.4|
So it looks like game, set and match to the 550i – the one ‘slight’ fly-in-the-ointment though is the BMW’s lack of all-wheel drive, which for some might tip the balance back in the Audi’s favour (although bear in mind you’ll be missing out on the 550i’s extra 100Nm of torque..).
The 335d xDrive..
BMW’s N57 diesel engine followed on from the M57 which won the International Engine of the Year award no fewer than seven times (between 1999 and 2009), so it’s pretty good unit – a little louder than some of its rivals, but powerful and very efficient.
You’ll find the fastest version (excluding the triple turbo version in the M550d) in the 3 Series, but up until now, deploying 309bhp and 630Nm (460lb-ft) of torque through just two wheels has proven something of a challenge.
Not any more. For 2014, BMW has fitted its xDrive all-wheel-drive system to the 335d, combined with a modified version of the its 8-speed Sport auto transmission with Launch Control.
Launch Control was previously only available on BMW’s M models, but can now be found on versions of the 1 Series, 3 Series and 6 Series fitted with BMW’s 8-speed sport auto box.
The 335d xDrive Saloon joins the range from £40,650, which pitches it well above Audi’s 242bhp A4 3.0 TDI quattro (£37,490) and closer in performance to the 328bhp S4 (£39,020). While the S4 may have the edge in outright power (+19bhp), the 630Nm 335d makes Audi’s 440Nm look distinctly inadequate, so you pays your money and you takes your chance – nice choice to have though.
Both 335d xDrive and BMW’s new 550i models are available to order now.