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      12-28-2010, 12:21 AM   #1
BimmerGuyFL
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Lightbulb Inside Line: 2011 BMW 550i vs 2011 Infiniti M56S Comparison

http://www.insideline.com/bmw/5-seri...ison-test.html


2011 BMW 550i vs. 2011 Infiniti M56 Comparison Test
BMW's Velvety New 550i Takes on Infiniti's Macho M56


When it comes to respectability in the midsize sport sedan segment, all roads lead through BMW's 5 Series. It's been ruling this class for decades now, and for good reason. It has the uncanny ability to satisfy both driving enthusiasts and buyers who are simply looking for a luxury sedan with German cachet.

Now that the all-new twin-turbo 2011 BMW 550i is here, it was time to see just how well it stacks up against its newest competitors. But instead of going toe-to-toe with a classic European rival, we figured a match-up with the latest from Japan would be more interesting. For that we turned to the all-new 2011 Infiniti M56, a thoroughly redesigned sedan that is once again aiming for the Germans. It has all the makings of a worthy competitor, but how does it hold up on the road?

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How They Stack Up
Not surprisingly, the 2011 BMW 550i and 2011 Infiniti M56 have plenty of similarities. Both are rear-drive sedans powered by sizable V8s. In this case, both are hooked to automatic transmissions, a seven-speed in the Infiniti and an eight-speed in the BMW.

To make sure no one whines about "stacking the deck" in one car's favor, both the 550i and the M56 were outfitted with Sport packages. The Infiniti's $3,650 option adds a stiffer suspension with upgraded springs and shocks, larger brakes, Bridgestone Potenza RE050A summer performance tires on 20-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel active steer, paddle shifters, sport seats and a unique steering wheel and shift knob.

The BMW 550i had the benefit of both a Dynamic Handling package, which includes electronic damping control, active roll stabilization (active antiroll bars) and Adaptive Drive (allowing for specific chassis/drivetrain settings) for $2,700, as well as a $2,200 Sport package, which adds a sportier leather steering wheel, multicontour seats, special exterior trim, an increased top speed (limited to 150 mph) and surprisingly 19-inch Goodyear Excellence run-flat all-season tires.

Technology and luxury abound in these cars, the kind of niceties that make your drive safer (the BMW's standard adaptive cornering headlights) and more relaxing (Infiniti's standard heated and cooled front seats). Differences come in the form of which features each manufacturer supplies standard, and which ones they make you pay extra for as an example, you can get those adaptive headlights on the Infiniti, but it'll cost $3,000 as part of the Technology package; conversely, neither heated nor cooled front seats come standard in the BMW heated seats cost $500 (or could be part of a package), while seat cooling tacks on another $1,950-$2,950 depending on the package.

As you might have guessed, these are expensive sedans. The M56 starts at $58,765 with an as-tested price of $67,130, while the BMW is a few grand more. The 550i starts at $60,575 and our tester topped $70K with options.

What's the Motivation Here?
Turbocharged engines are quickly becoming the norm at BMW, and now the 550i is on board. Its direct-injected 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 produces 400 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 450 pound-feet of torque from 1,750-4,500 rpm. Yes, that's a massive torque curve, but it comes at the expense of the old V8's rumbling exhaust. Now there's little more than a muted growl, and you can't even hear the turbos working their magic.

The 2011 Infiniti M56 uses cubic inches and plenty of revs to achieve its power. Its 5.6-liter V8 is good for 420 hp at 6,000 rpm and 417 lb-ft of torque at 4,400. It's no dinosaur, also utilizing direct-injection and variable valve timing and valve lift for a smooth, reasonably efficient power plant.

A little more driver involvement is required to get the most out of the M56's V8, though, as its power is concentrated at higher engine speeds. The Infiniti sounds more like a sport sedan than the BMW, especially when it approaches the 6,700-rpm redline.

By the Numbers
At our test track, the M56 was slightly quicker to 60 mph than the 550i, 5.0 to 5.2 seconds, respectively (4.7 and 4.9 seconds with a 1-foot rollout, as on a drag strip). So the BMW is slower, despite the fact that it's capable of getting a near-perfect amount of wheelspin off the line thanks to power-braking, something the Infiniti's brake-override system won't allow.

So how come the BMW is slower? Might have something to do with the extra 287 pounds of ballast the 4,380-pound 550i carries versus the M56. Seriously, what's a 5 Series doing weighing nearly 4,400 pounds? This is "EfficientDynamics?"

Weight aside, by the time the 550i hits the quarter-mile, its twin-turbo V8 inches the BMW ahead by 0.1 second (13.2 vs. 13.3); it's also traveling a lot faster at this point 108.3 mph against the Infiniti's 106.7.

A Shifty Pair
The BMW 550i comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but our test car was fitted with the no-cost-option eight-speed automatic. BMW says this new tranny's two additional ratios (over the old six-speed auto) come with no increase in size or weight.

It's a smooth operator in full automatic mode and easy to shift when you want to take control of the gears yourself. Not only does it shift in our preferred pattern (forward for downshifts, back for upshifts), it also blips the throttle when you grab a lower gear to match revs. It's not actually a true full manual mode, though, as a stomp on the gas will call up a multigear downshift. It doesn't hold gears either. If you hit the redline, you get the next cog whether you like it or not.

Infiniti offers just one transmission in the M56, a seven-speed automatic with four driver-controlled modes that affect transmission and throttle mappings. As with the BMW, leaving the center console shifter in "D" gives supremely smooth automatic shifting. But moving the center console lever toward the driver puts it in Manual mode, bringing the optional leather-covered, steering-column-mounted magnesium paddle shifters into play. The control is fully with the driver at this point, as the transmission will neither shift up nor down without consent from the paddle shifters. Downshift under braking and it rev matches, too.

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These Are Sport Sedans, After All
With all of the BMW's high-techery, you'd think it would easily handle the Infiniti when the going gets twisty. Not so, especially in terms of instrumented testing. The M56 bested the 550i by 1.2 mph through the slalom (66.7 vs. 65.5 mph, respectively) while generating 0.89g around the skid pad against the BMW's so-so 0.84g.

The blame for the 550i's less-than-stellar performance doesn't lie purely with its all-season tires either, as they provided enough grip for it to stop almost as well as the M56 just 1 foot longer from both 30 and 60 mph. The BMW's pedal felt stronger at the test track, but when pushing hard on back roads the Infiniti's optional ($370) high-friction brake pads felt more consistent.

More than anything, the 550i is simply too heavy and softly sprung for aggressive back-road driving. Even with the suspension at its stiffest setting, the 550i exhibited a surprising amount of understeer, while the 5's electric power steering feels artificial. You can still flog the 550i, but you won't feel completely in touch with the car.

The Infiniti isn't spot-on either. Its variable-assist steering, combined with the optional four-wheel active steering (the rear wheels are turned in phase with the front wheels, depending on vehicle speed and steering angle), makes for overly quick turn-in at low to medium speeds, alarmingly so at times.

But it's clear the driver seat of the Infiniti is the place to be when you pick up the pace on any kind of curvy road. The M56's steering becomes more and more natural as speeds increase, while the stiff suspension soaks up turns, if not bumps, with ease. The whole M56 experience, from its quick steering to its stiff suspension, is a bit on the frenetic side, but it's more engaging than the vague BMW.

There is one area where the BMW trumps the Infiniti on the fun scale powerslides. Now, the average enthusiast may not find this very relevant, but in the right hands the BMW's electronic limited-slip rear differential does allows you to utilize the twin-turbo V8's prodigious low-end torque to induce some wicked corner exits. And that's all we'll say about that.

When You're Not Laying Rubber
Our enthusiasm for the Infiniti drops slightly the moment the road gets bumpy, or basically any time you're just driving from A to B. The M56's stiff, nonadjustable suspension makes the average commute tiresome and unnecessarily jumpy. The tire and road noise is also a bit much for a luxury sedan, too. Basically, this car reminds you that you bought the Sport package every time you drive it.

The BMW, on the other hand, is always plush and serene. The same sedan that can execute tire-smoking powerslides can also tame mangled city streets. We would still prefer more steering feedback, but the trade-off is slightly less sawing at the wheel during normal driving. It's still a sport sedan, but one you can live with.

No Cabin Fever Here
When you pay around $70,000 for a luxury sport sedan, you expect to be coddled, and neither car disappoints. Both are extremely comfortable places to spend time, the BMW's front seats getting the nod for their width and comfort, the Infiniti's for lateral support.

The M56's rear seat is more plush, while the BMW has more headroom. Fine leather and wood abound, as do such niceties as power rear window shades and excellent navigation systems, the BMW in particular boasting an impressive 10.2-inch transreflective screen that becomes easier to see in direct sunlight the exact opposite of many systems.

In general the BMW's controls have better detents and are more ergonomic, while the Infiniti's are easier to decipher from the moment you sit in the car. And yes, iDrive Version 4 can still be a bit nonintuitive.

When it comes to interior design, though, the Infiniti has a more interesting take on luxury. The mix of materials in the M56 is more modern and stylish without looking overdone. The 550i has plenty of high-quality stuff; it's just on the sterile side.

And the Winner Is...
As athletic and well-mannered as the Infiniti is on back roads, the BMW 550i squeezed out a win by 2.2 points. Why?

The BMW 550i is simply a better all-around sedan. Infiniti may have figured out the sport sedan piece of the formula, but BMW is better at making a sport sedan that you can live with. We like a tightly wound sedan as much as the next enthusiast, but we don't want to be reminded of the car's capabilities every time we head to the office. It's a fine line for sure, but one the Infiniti still needs to work on.

With the 550i, you get the refined driving experience along with plenty of sport sedan capability. Should it weigh less? Yes. Would we prefer more precise steering? Yes again. The new 5 Series is by no means perfect, but it still puts all the pieces together in a way that makes it feel like a proper luxury sport sedan. The Infiniti is close, but the BMW is already there.
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      12-28-2010, 01:14 AM   #2
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I agree with the article the new 5-series has lost some of its precise steering and connected feel it use to have.

But I guess the car is growing up, getting bigger, and becoming softer. It is just a different car than it use to be.
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      12-28-2010, 01:46 AM   #3
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That infiniti looks quite good from the front.
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      12-28-2010, 01:53 AM   #4
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      12-28-2010, 01:57 AM   #5
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The Infiniti looks like an amazing car when it comes to sportiness. A rev-happy V8 with great sound and also handling and precision to boot. 0.89g is seriously amazing for such a big and heavy sedan. Funny how these were the attributes BMW used to be known for.

Though, the 5-series overall fared better due to more comfortable ride, giving credit where it is due, great job Infiniti kicking that BMW's a** when it comes to all-out sportiness in a luxury sedan segment.
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      12-28-2010, 03:24 AM   #6
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Talking

The review seems a little biased... It sounds like the editor already favored Bimmer prior to writing this article.

I think the winner should be Infiniti, because it's come a long way to match a German "ultimate driving machine". However, would I buy M56 over 5 series? Of course not, the ultimate driving experience cannot be described in words =P
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      12-28-2010, 04:19 AM   #7
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I Agree with the final result.
Great car the New 5 with the powerfull V8 Twin turbo.
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      12-28-2010, 05:38 AM   #8
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Honestly, having read this I would have sworn that driving enthusiasts (that used to make up the huge majority of BMW owners) would be disappointed in the new 5, and prefer the performance of the Infinity; linear, NA engine; trading a little comfort for better handling etc...

Yet so far, the comments favour the BMW anyway? Is the Infinity not more like what most BMW enthusiasts would want over the portly turbo'd 5?
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      12-28-2010, 06:40 AM   #9
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5 series is better for sure!!!!
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      12-28-2010, 07:30 AM   #10
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I'm interested to know the residual value on both. that will probably be my final decision maker since this comparison is so close.
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      12-28-2010, 07:36 AM   #11
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I would take the 5, but watching the video review I dont understand why the 5 won.

The infiniti was equal in acceleration and proved better in handling. Then they go on to complain about the 550i having soft suspension, feeling heavy and the steering being "artificial". Whereas, the Infiniti has firmer suspension and sharp steering. Only complaint is suspension is hard to live with everyday. Infiniti interior is better to use too.

Conclusion: 550i wins, wtf? The closing line is that the 550i is the better choice, "but does it retain its title as most fun to drive? Nope".

I would take the 5 because for me even though the Infiniti is close I prefer the design of the 5 series with Msport kit. However, watching the video and seeing the conclusion it doesnt make much sense.
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      12-28-2010, 10:05 AM   #12
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I'll start this comment by apologising if it causes any offence, but there are some grains of truth in it.

Its true the new 5 is a bit heavier than it should be (and remember this is with a car which has a lot of aluminium and high strength steels in it) but part of the reason is the demand from the 'market' or should I say reviewers who constantly moan about interior space even though each and every generation of 5 (and its competitors keeps getting bigger and bigger). People are getting bigger in some continents as they eat more and more crap food with all manner of additives. This drives the constant upsizing. As soon as one manufacturer increases size to get an edge, then all the others do it too. It is happening in all segments of cars and I have to say this size issue is particularly prevelant in America. Constantly evolving crash protection is also driving up weight.

Also notice how they make very little play of real world economy figures or CO2 emissions in this review. In Europe this is very important. In the States less so - at the moment...

Regulations in Europe is what has driven BMW to embrace technology and turbo's to meet their consumption and emissions regulations otherwise I am sure the 5 would still have more NA engines. This will continue to happen. Infinity (ie Nissan) would not market their car in the UK and much of Europe as it just wouldn't sell for these reasons.

As for the interior, I cannot understand who thinks the Infinity has a great interior. To me it looks like something melted in the cabin. Every switch with a label (ala Lexus) for those people who can't understand what a button might do or have learning difficulties. It certainly is not high end design. Less is nearly always more in design terms and the whole Infinity smells of being over-designed. I admire and applaud their ambition, but I think you will find it will age less well in the coming years. To me it reminds me of a Lexus crossed with a Maserati.

I think this comparison would be better if it compared an M Sport version of the 5 against the M65. This version they compared was the SE and I am sure their will be tuning differences in the suspension.

As a sign off, I applaud them for what they have done and it goes to show how close Nissan is to producing a truly amazing car. The Japanese have always been very good at copying others and now they are adding their own spice to the mix as well. The competition is good and just makes good products for all of us, but I still think the 5 is the most homogeneous design in the segment and each and every year it will be tweaked and improved.
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      12-28-2010, 10:22 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by esqu1re View Post
That infiniti looks quite good from the front.
agreed
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      12-28-2010, 12:29 PM   #14
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I'm pretty sure the 4-wheel active steering would help the 550i handling making it feel much lighter and eliminate understeer tendency. I tested with and without, and it makes a big difference. Unfortunately, this option seems to come on the Infinity Sport's package. But for BMW, 4-wheel steer (IAS) is an additional option not widely available on dealer stock inventory, and most need to be custom ordered.

Although these packages tested are what's widely available at dealers, I would have at least noted BMW offers the 4-wheel steer for an additional $1750, or better yet - tested it's difference and noted it, along with the availability and pricing differences.
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      12-28-2010, 01:39 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hks786 View Post
I would take the 5, but watching the video review I dont understand why the 5 won.

The infiniti was equal in acceleration and proved better in handling. Then they go on to complain about the 550i having soft suspension, feeling heavy and the steering being "artificial". Whereas, the Infiniti has firmer suspension and sharp steering. Only complaint is suspension is hard to live with everyday. Infiniti interior is better to use too.

Conclusion: 550i wins, wtf? The closing line is that the 550i is the better choice, "but does it retain its title as most fun to drive? Nope".

I would take the 5 because for me even though the Infiniti is close I prefer the design of the 5 series with Msport kit. However, watching the video and seeing the conclusion it doesnt make much sense.
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      12-28-2010, 02:39 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SDSmurf View Post
Honestly, having read this I would have sworn that driving enthusiasts (that used to make up the huge majority of BMW owners) would be disappointed in the new 5, and prefer the performance of the Infinity; linear, NA engine; trading a little comfort for better handling etc...

Yet so far, the comments favour the BMW anyway? Is the Infinity not more like what most BMW enthusiasts would want over the portly turbo'd 5?
There in lies the question, and basically, that is why the demographics of BMW owners is changing. The engineers have lost to the marketing, pencil pushing morons that now run BMW with the goal of selling more units, rather than being good at what they were known for.

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      12-28-2010, 03:53 PM   #17
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I know Motor Trend may not be the best or most reliable source of automotive information, but for what it's worth they found the interior of the Infiniti to be a "jumble" of mis-arranged and poorly integrated trim pieces and luxury gadgets. They seemed to agree with inside line about the 5 series though, complaining mostly about the weight of the car and the steering feel, and mentioning that in their quest to make an ultimate luxury sedan, BMW slacked just a little on that whole "ultimate driving machine" thing.
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      12-28-2010, 08:53 PM   #18
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Here is what I am thinking based off of absolutely nothing and a complete opinion (my mom has an F10 5 and I have an e92 335i and had an e46 330i and a G35, that is my only experience):

F30 sedan will be like an e60 5 series
F10 5 series is gaining equivalence to a 7 series
New 7 series is the size of a small destroyer (or a Rolls Royce phantom)
1 series will actually be more similar to a 3 series and in my opinion could end up (might already be) the ideal car for enthusiasts.

I am sure when a new 1 comes out it will be bigger and therefore almost the size of a 3. I know they have the 1 hatchback, maybe we will see a 1 sedan in America eventually? (aka what a 3 series used to be)

I am an American and I agree with simnew. Some Americans are getting larger and it is seen within the growth of the BMW series. Will we ever see the day that a 7 or 5 or 3 or 1 series gets smaller? The 3 series grew and grew and then all of a sudden the 1 series was born/brought to America.

Regarding the Infiniti, I think all the enthusiasts in here would of said they prefer the Infiniti over the 550 based on the actual review. We all know these reviews are usually rushed but in my opinion the 5 has moved from a sport/luxury sedan into just a luxury sedan (a platform, in my opinion, meant for the 7 series).
^
Unless you get that 760 which is just insane :-)

Let me know what you all think. Just a thought I had when reading this today.
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      12-29-2010, 12:20 AM   #19
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Maybe BMW is making room for a 4 series like Audi and Merc, they are all trying to fill in the gaps between their products size, performance and price so that they can attract all types of people, markets and budgets.

I personally think my 550m sport is way too heavy. Its weight and lack of throttle response make the driving experience less satisfying.
If I were to sell my 550 because of lack of performance and sportiness, I would get a m3 or 335is not an infiniti. BMW knows most of its customers will hang around for now, but not for ever, they need to bring back the sport in the 5 series price range.
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      12-29-2010, 09:58 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simnew View Post
People are getting bigger in some continents as they eat more and more crap food with all manner of additives. This drives the constant upsizing. As soon as one manufacturer increases size to get an edge, then all the others do it too. It is happening in all segments of cars and I have to say this size issue is particularly prevelant in America.
People ARE getting bigger and OLDER. Let's not forget that America's Baby Boomer market is hitting their senior citizen years and they have the disposable income to spend. They want space, good mileage and a big cushy ride.

Rest In Peace 5-series. Guess what, you're the new Cadillac of the new blue hair generation. RIP
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      12-29-2010, 11:14 AM   #21
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That infiniti looks quite good from the front.
Pretty fugly from that rear angle though...
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      12-29-2010, 10:19 PM   #22
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WTF? How did the BMW win the test. These 2 cars are sports sedan not luxury sedan. The M56 should have won hands down. I am a big BMW fan and I am in the market for a new 5 series. After test driving a 550i I was very disappointed. Coudn't tell if I was on a 7 series or 5 series. BMW is heading in the wrong direction with the 5 series. I wish that the 5 series loose more comparisons so that BMW get the message and get back to their root of building sports sedan and not luxury boats. I also agree that the Infiniti is ugly as hell from all angles.
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