For years the BMW X5 has been the benchmark in sporty SUVs. The X5 has always been the best handling, most stylish and most desired of the bunch.
Only recently competition from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Lexus and even Porsche has meant BMW needed to look beyond performance and handling to compete on a price basis with buyers after the look and not necessarily the bite.
The latest generation of BMW X5 is now offered in everything from rear-wheel-drive entry-level petrol to a tri-turbocharged performance diesel. In keeping with tradition, I jumped behind the wheel of BMW’s all new X5 M50d to see what all the fuss was about.
Generally in BMW nomenclature, the higher the number on the back, the more powerful or faster the car is. You would expect the M50d to relate to something quick that uses a lot of fuel to get around. Thankfully, the M50d offers the best of both worlds — performance and economy.
Powered by a tri-turbocharged (yes, three turbochargers!) 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine that produces 280kW and a mammoth 740Nm of torque, the M50d can sprint from 0-100km/h in just 5.3-seconds. Even more remarkable is the fuel consumption, a combined 6.7L/100km.
The exterior of the X5 M50d comes complete with all the ‘M’ gear you would expect — big wheels, big bulges and plenty of sculpted angles. The rest of the X5 range has benefitted from similar updates that have given the range a refreshed look and revitalised feel.
Some of the cool new features include powerful LED headlights (these are low-powered high-intensity headlights that move away from the traditional gas-discharge system) and a bird’s-eye camera that allows you to see the car from above as if you were a bird. The latter feature comes in very handy when parking against walls or near other cars.
Inside the cabin, it’s all class. Designers have gone to work on the steering wheel, seats, doors and dashboard to redevelop the interior and keep it modern. The quality of materials remains very high with soft-touch leather door surrounds, textured plastics and grippy pads on the steering wheel audio controls.
An update to iDrive offers a marked improvement to multimedia performance. The old iDrive system was slow and sometimes lagged when zooming on maps or changing between screens. The new revision is lighting fast and even offers owners the ability to browse the Internet on the central screen while the car is stationary.
The standard 16-speaker Harman/kardon sound system offers deep bass and accentuates high frequencies. It offers so much clarity that it’s hard to believe you are listening to a car audio system. Those after even more from their sound system can option the 16-spear Bang and Olufsen stereo that uses speakers often found in high-end cinemas.
Each of the car’s features is easy to use and become second nature after a short while. In fact, most systems can be controlled using voice recognition, which picks up even the deepest of accents to read out street addresses or change radio stations.
Head and legroom throughout the cabin is absolutely exceptional. There is 650-litres of cargo room available in the boot, which is reduced slightly when the optional third row of seats is included.
Safety is high on the list of most buyers and the X5 has all bases covered. In addition to great safety features such as a heads up display, the X5 comes with lane departure warning and even a system that will automatically stop the car if you are about to hit a pedestrian or another vehicle.
The real fun begins when you hit the start button and begin putting the X5 through its paces. Direct steering and excellent brake pedal feel inspires confidence, while switchable dynamic driving modes alter the throttle sharpness, suspension firmness and stability control settings.
An eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts so smoothly that gear changes are often hard to notice. During faster driving, gears can be changed using paddle shifters on the steering wheel. This mode allows full control of gearshifts and gives the driver more from the engine.
Starting from $82,900 for the X5 sDrive25d, the X5 M50d tested retails for $147,900. There are six variants available in between the entry-level X5 sDrive25d and top-spec X5 M50d meaning there is an offering to cover every budget.
In this price bracket, buyers are spoilt for choice. As it stands, the BMW X5 remains one of the best SUV’s on the market. If you are looking for a vehicle in this segment, make sure you include the Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Mercedes-Benz ML and Porsche Cayenne in your test-drives.