For father's day weekend Susan gave me all of Saturday to go car shopping. (Best wife ever!) So I took my father-in-law with me and together we had a lot of fun kicking tires and test driving.
Here is how they stacked up:
1. BMW 550i w/ sport package - I drove the steptronic transmission in sport mode, and manual shift mode. Both were excellent. Shifts were fast (almost aggressive) but completely smooth. In manual shift mode it will up-shift at redline, so making fast starts a no-brainer: just mash the gas pedal to the floor and take off. I hate automatics, but I LOVE this automatic transmission, it is a joy to drive. The brakes are firm and have an intimidate and strong bite. Lots of backseat space. Super comfortable seats and nice leather interior. The best seats and interior of the bunch. The front sport aero package looks like the current M5, which is to say it has a lot more character than the the standard 5er. I love the look of the sport wheels too.
Pros: Awesome V8 power. sport package aero kits looks good. Ipod integration. great handling with sport suspension. Nose bleed inducing brakes.
Cons: turn signal ( WTF?! I could not figure out how to turn it off. I really don't think I should have to read the manual to work the turn signals.) Otherwise perfect.
2. BMW 535i w/ sport package - yes, second place was the same car, but with the "smaller" engine. The new BMW twin turbo had all the other cars beat.
Pros: The engine. feels lighter than the 550i (because it is)
Cons: turn signal. Feels so plain after driving the 550i.
3. Mercedes E350 - This was the best and most comfortable ride. Not sporty. The engine is reigned in by the very sedate 7-speed automatic gear box. Extreme inputs from the gas and/or brake pedal are needed to wake up the beast.
Pros: SOLID feel. smooth boulevard ride. Nice, understated interior. classic looks.
Cons: not sporty.
4. Infinity M45 - This car makes a great first impression when you get in. Great, conformable seats. The most elegant dash and clean/sharp instrument cluster of the group. The control knob for the stereo and navigation was very iDrive like, but in a bad way, a worse way. It looked beautiful though. :) Very pleasing and powerful engine, rivaling the BMW 3.5l turbo. Great space and quality thoughout. Where the car fell down was on its electronic drivers aids: the computer is much too intrusive during driving. Even light throttle steering is rendered impossible without the computer kicking in to "save" you. It can be turned off, but with it on, anything but traveling in a straight line delivers a numb driving experience. It very sad that such a great car has been so completely castrated.
Pros: Mercedes should steal the M45s interior.
Cons: handling castrated by the stability control computer
5. Audi A6 - This car probably suffers a bit much in this review because it was driven immediately after the BMW 550i. Interior was the worst of the log. Very clean looking, but with inferior leather and by far the least comfortable. The the 3.2l engine, while sporting good stats, in reality didn't come close to the BMW 3.5l turbo. Under-steer was very pronounce, worst of the bunch. Even the M45 with its numb feeling did better. I really expected much more from this car. In its favor, it had the largest trunk of the group, by a large margin.
Pros: Lots of junk in the trunk
Cons: under-steer. Average engine power. below par interior.
6. Acura RL - My father-in-law goaded me into driving this one, he's a long time Acura fan. I'm a long time Honda fan, so I gave it an open mind. The car was nice. Least power of the group. The engine only comes alive above 4500 RPM (typical Honda) but then its all over too soon when it redlines at 6800RPM. It had the fewest gears: 5. The smallest trunk. Smallest backseat. To its credit was also the least expensive and the paddle shifters were crazy fun.
Pros: Its a "Honda." Its the cheapest.
Cons: least of everything.
So I ordered the 550i. I'm curious how I will adapt to iDrive. Despite reports of its lameness, I'm confident that I'm tech savvy enough to figure it out. I just hope I figure out that dang turn signal. In iDrive's defense, looking at the extremely cluttered dash of all the other cars it is clear that something like iDrive is absolutely necissary. They just need to get it "right."
Delivery in 6-8 weeks. I can't wait!