June 25, 2012
This is a new replacement for a 6 yr old 550. The engine is the 3.0 300hp. On the plus side, it is an extremely comfortable car, and when cruising I have NO complaints. The ride is smooth, interior ultra-lux, very comfortable seats, awesome sound system, low road noise level. On the bad side, there is an annoying turbo lag, and if I want to quickly accelerate in traffic, it takes a second for the turbo to spool up and give me the speed. The new transmission is an 8-speed steptronic, which I think is too many speeds. BMW sacrificed fun-to-drive for fuel efficiency. My old 6-speed steptronic 550 and 540 were much more fun to drive, and the fact that they were not turbo gave me a much greater sense of speed. The new transmission always downshifts to first gear when you stop, so you cannot start out from second unless you manually shift up to second, and the car has to be at a dead stop to get into second from first. In my 5 series cars, starting from second was the way to go, since you can go about 30 feet before having to shift up, anyway. I think that an 8 speed transmission is just too busy. I am averaging 23 mpg in combined traffic, but I would give up some of that efficiency for more fun. Once I am up to speed, it is a great vehicle. Had I the opportunity to do it over again, I would have looked for a 2010 model, while it was still 6 speeds. I guess my test drive was not long enough to really appreciate the nuances of the new transmission.