Because Hamann has expanded its boundaries far and wide with Ferrari, Lamborghini, the Fiat 500, and even Range Rover tuning falling under its remit in recent years, it is always interesting when Richard Hamann’s team returns to its roots: tuning the very latest BMW models.
Today, I am at Hamann Motorsport’s Laupheim headquarters to drive the company’s first take on the new F10 5 Series. While turbodiesels may be the most popular models in Europe, the fact is that most of Hamann’s business these days is in export markets. In the USA, Russia, and the Middle and Far East, the new 550i with its twin-turbo V8 is the new mid-range king amongst car enthusiasts.
In fact, until the new M5 bows in next year, the 550i is the most powerful 5 Series you can buy. Its 4.4-liter V8, with direct fuel injected, twin turbochargers and Double VANOS steplessly variable valve timing generates 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, which on paper makes it the perfect blank canvas for the aftermarket tuners.
This generous power flows to the rear wheels through a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with sequential shifting that always seems to be in the right gear. And if it isn’t, it soon gets there seamlessly without the hunting around that sometimes plagued the previous generation gearbox.
Hamann has now extracted as much as 700 hp from the twin-turbo V8 in the X6M. As this was their priority, for their Russian and Middle Eastern clients in particular, the company has only just begun to work on a tuning package for the similar capacity but less highly tuned motor in the 550i.
BMW claims 5.0 seconds for the 0-62 mph sprint with the top speed electronically limited to 155 mph. Without that limiter, this is probably a 175-mph car.
At the time of my visit, the team was talking about a conservative output of 480 hp for stage one with ECU software alone, and later on 580 hp with larger turbochargers and other upgrades. By then the new M5 should be out, and they will apply their outrageous 700-hp conversion to it.
In the meantime, the EU-certified four-pipe Hamann rear exhaust upgrade brings the horsepower count to 417 by reducing backpressure. The export-only version, with high-performance metal catalysts and a center silencer, releases an additional 20 hp. This brings the total count to 437 hp, along with a deeper and more purposeful exhaust note.
The suspension lowering kit uses 35mm shorter, stiffer springs with the standard dampers to give the car a more purposeful stance. In combination with larger wheels and tires to fill out the arches, this completely changes the demeanor of the elegant but rather polite looking 5-Series.
The recommended wheels are Hamann’s Evo design in 8.5 and 10x20-inch sizes, wrapped in 245/35ZR20 and 275/30ZR20 Continental SportContact3 rubber. However, they were keen to show off their new 9.0 and 11.0x21-inch Edition Race wheel with 255/30ZR21 and 295/25ZR21 rubber. The satin black centers and polished outer rims do a good job of accentuating the size of the wheels, which look really good on the metallic black car. The catch is that these larger sizes are not yet TV approved in Germany, and are for export markets only at this time.
Body styling starts with a new front spoiler lower section with lip that helps to reduce front end lift at speed. This is glued and screwed to the OE front bumper/valance. Hamann also offers inserts for the front bumper intakes that feature LED daytime running lights.
The new deeper side skirts lead your eyes around the car to the new rear bumper valance insert, which has a small aerofoil section in its middle flanked by cutouts for the four big exhaust outlets.
The final pieces of the aero kit are the rear rooftop spoiler and the bootlid spoiler that goes around the perimeter of the lid. This signature Hamann boot spoiler design takes its cues from the one first seen on the dynamic 6 Series aero kit.
Inside, the changes are subtle but telling. White, stitched Hamann logos appear on the headrests and carpet mats, and the alloy pedal set is classic Hamann. But the most significant change is the matte-gray carbon trim, a new trend in the German tuning industry.
People have grown bored with shiny carbon trim, both to look at and to touch, as it is slippery when used on steering wheels. The new matte carbon looks and feels more homogenous next to perforated leather or Alcantara on a steering wheel.
On this car, the matte carbon is used on the area below the airbag on Hamann’s new flat-bottomed sports steering wheel. The thicker-than-standard, contoured rim uses perforated leather on its handgrip area and Alcantara elsewhere.
First impressions are of a car that is distinctly Hamann in both looks and stance. Driving just a few hundred meters however, flags the fact that the 21-inch wheels take the 550i’s normally calm ride and move it well into the firm side. On this score, I for one am quite happy to stick with the 20s, which look large enough anyway.
Although the engine has just 30 hp more on paper, the lower backpressure has improved throttle response and the twin-turbo V8 feels more lively at all speeds.
At higher speeds, two thirds of this extra power is probably being consumed by the drag from the larger tires, but on today’s crowded roads, throttle response and torque are more important, and the motor feels even keener to rev. This sharper feel is matched by a more pleasing, deeper exhaust note and a more distinct edge to the lovely V8 rumble when you accelerate hard.
This car may not have 580 hp yet, but even this first step shows that despite deviating from its core BMW tuning business, the company hasn’t lost its touch. I for one can’t wait to try their take on the new M5.
Hamann BMW 550i
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
4.4-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve, twin turbocharged. Hamann sport exhaust, metal catalysts and center silencer, remapped ECU
Sport lowering springs, OEM dampers
Wheels and Tires
Hamann Edition Race alloys,
9.5x21 (f), 11x21 (r)
255/30 (f), 295/25 (r)
Front bumper spoiler, side skirts, rear bumper valance insert, rear rooftop spoiler, trunk spoiler
Hamann sport steering wheel, alloy pedals, matte-gray carbon trim
Peak Power: 437 hp