While there wasn’t much of a contest between the E28 M5 and E34 535i, by the end of the E34 run the 540i M Sport was – for all intents and purposes – a M5 without the S38. BMW upped the ante to 400 horsepower in the new E39 M5, once again widening the gap to the 540i model. But the successor E60 545i offered 330 horsepower with matching torque in 2003 alongside the outgoing E39 and once again the gap in performance became much smaller. That gap was made almost impercievable in 2005, when BMW revised the E60 with the increased displacement in the N62 motor. Now sporting 4.8 liters from the N62B48, the new “550i” now had 360 horsepower and 361 lb.ft of torque – a much better match for the S62. What was perhaps more amazing was that the new N62 also nearly matched the torque of the new E60 M5’s S85 V10. But while that screaming V10 produced far more horsepower, the peak torque was reached only at 6,100 revolutions – hardly practical in your daily commute. In comparison, peak twist on the N62 came at a much more realistic 3,400 r.p.m.s, and on the fly these 550is were – and still are – seriously quick sedans. They also introduced the next generation of design language and computer technology into the 5-series. Some love the look while others lambaste the design. While it’s certainly not my favorite 5, at least it’s distinctive and different in a world full of cookie-cutter designs and dare I say I think it may look better today than it did new – perhaps a testament to its avant garde lines. While the lust-worthy V10 captures the imagination of enthusiasts, day to day the 550i is likely as fast 95% of the time and much cheaper to get into and run. The thing is, is this the one to get?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 BMW 550i on eBay
Engine: 4.8 liter V8
Transmission: 6-speed sequential manual
Mileage: 43,443 mi
Location: Naperville, Illinois
Price: $12,900 Buy It Now
Condition Used Clear Title
Engine 4.8L 8 CYLINDER
Transmission 6 Spd Sequential Semi-Manual
Drivetrain Rear Wheel Drive
Exterior Color Black Sapphire Metallic
Interior Color Black Leather
VIN # WBANB53516CN93246
Warranty Warranty Available
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Actual rating will vary with options, driving conditions, habits and vehicle condition.
Yep, you didn’t see that incorrectly. This is one of the few late E60s non-M5s that came with a SMG gearbox. What makes this particularly interesting was that this was the SMGII 6-speed transmission – the same setup that was found in the E46 M3, along with the really late E46 330i, rather than the SMGIII 7-speed that was in the M5 and M6. It’s one of those technically interesting moments that will be relegated to the pages of history. The SMG box was an expensive option when new and was cutting-edge technology at the time, which was of course quickly superseded by the flood of dual-clutch boxes that were much quicker to shift as well as the vastly superior as an automatic ZF 8-speed. What does that do to the value of this car?
Well, to me one of the redeeming features of the 550i was that you could get a manual. As someone who owns an SMG-equipped M3, the transmission is really like the IMS bearing of the BMW world; the internet has blown the perceived slight of the sequential box to near-biblical proportions, when in fact it’s a pretty slick transmission overall. It can and does function fine in full automatic mode, which offers you respite from shifting if you get stuck in slow moving traffic. But there are a few times along the way when I wish it was a manual, in the same way that once in a while when I drive the 135i I would love to not shift through the six stoplights in a row near my house. The thing is, I sought out the M3 specifically because of the car it was, not because of the transmission. Would I do the same here? No. This one looks nice and I’m sure that, like the M3, if you want to do some heavy lifting you can convert it to a manual. The thing is, would you want to? I’m afraid the 330i SMG and 550i SMG will be relegated to the history books; a technically interesting exercise, but one that was fleeting.