BMW practically invented this niche two decades ago, the sporty active vehicle – a segment where Land Rover always played in the mud and Jaguar, with the prior firm’s help, are only now beginning to wade more deeply.
Even Porsche have several entries here – and they all have their work cut out for them in the game of staying relevant and competitive. This then is BMW’s hottest X, with a formula we’ve seen before but in a new format that needs to be unpacked.
See, six cylinders measuring three litres may not sound impressive in an SUV of this fire-breathing stature, but it this M Performance TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder diesel engine is mated to a pair of low-pressure turbos as well as a pair of high-pressure turbos. That’s four turbos! We’ll get to that in a moment.
A bark befitting its massive bite
With gaping arches full of 21-inch alloy hoops and equally gaping airdams and vents, the new, more svelte X5 loses nothing in road presence. It's still a bold and imposing bruiser, and if anything, it looks as though its metal has been pulled even tauter against the 'muscle' underneath.
And I do mean muscle, that aforementioned powerplant doing duty under the plenty of bonnet ahead of me is turbo charged to 294kW and 760Nm. Yet it is meant to return a frugal 7.2l/100km fuel consumption and an eco-burn rate of 191g/km. Yet again, it will headbutt yon horizon with a zero to hundred in just 5.2 seconds. That’s quite astonishing given the sheer dimensions of the thing, both size and mass (2350kg unladen).
"A masterclass in automotive living quarters"
The latter being quite forgivable when you step (up and) inside the gloriously appointed cabin. Expensive materials, sumptuous hide, tactile surfaces and a list of comfort and multimedia options longer than both my arms, the X5 is a masterclass in automotive living quarters. My test unit has obviously been kitted beyond the hilt but even so there are plenty ‘hard points’, traits and features that come standard here.
Then there’s the driving modes including Sport and Sport + with their firmer setups, coupled with active suspension and steering for a more precision oriented driving experience in something with the profile of a menhir, albeit one with intricate and dare I say ornate lamp detailing fore and aft.
But none of that matters
Because on the pearly white rump of my test car lives an M badge, and that implies a modicum of performance. My expectations are low, I mean how good can a turbodiesel possibly sound? In short, this good. And surely not much better – a gravelly staccato that rumbles low, accompanied by bassy flatulence with each swap of the cog under spirited driving.
With me, on this road it is ALL spirited, as I wrestle the helm and proceed to carve up left, right and left again. The experience was in a word, commendable. When you’re driving something this tall and this far north of two tonnes, you’ve long left the realm of the sportscar behind you.
The X5 M50d isn’t a true M car, it isn’t an MX5 (because that badge belongs on a Mazda a third of its size) and so therefore doesn’t get the full M Division treatment. Nor does it pretend it does, behaving exactly the way a massive AWD bus with a fiery powertrain should.
This won’t make a lot of sense for most people, but if you like the idea of having a popular ex-flagship from the Bavarian stable in the hottest trim and tune possible, the X5 M50d remains peerless.
BMW X5 M50d Spec:
|Engine ||3.0-litre, inline-six quad-turbo diesel|
|Gearbox ||8 speed Steptronic auto|
|Driven Wheels ||All|
|Top Speed ||250kph|
|Average Fuel Consumption ||7.2l/100km|
|CO2 Emissions ||191g/km|
What about a more sensible option?
A week later, I found myself in a more rational situation, the cabin of a X5 xDrive 30d specifically. Power drops to a still copious 195kW and 620Nm but I never felt that I absolutely needed the greater reserves of the M car. Instead of the other car’s R1.5million sticker price, the 30d (again, no slouch) can be had as ‘cheaply’ (in comparison) as R1,186.200. Food for thought.