Road Tests / Car Reviews: BMW X5 M50d 2014

Road Tests / Car Reviews: BMW X5 M50d 2014

DSC_0066For those people who wanted to buy a large luxury SUV (or SAV in BMW parlance), the biggest conundrum was did they plump for the diesel version or the petrol version.

Obviously at this end of the luxury market paying for fuel was not necessarily a large consideration for buyers, it was more about which fuel suited their lifestyle and vehicle use.

DSC_0074With the new X5 SAV (sports activity vehicle) range that choice has been rendered obsolete as all New Zealand new X5 models will be powered by turbocharged inline four and six-cylinder diesel engines allied to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The top of the line ($174,500) M50d tested here won’t be the cup of tea for every potential X5 buyer, and BMW also offers a 2-litre four-cylinder 25d variant from $112,500, while the six-cylinder 3-litre 30d variant retails from $129,500 and the more powerful 40d  from $148,500.

DSC_0090The other interesting aspect of the X5 is that BMW resolutely refers to it as a sports activity vehicle rather than a sports utility vehicle, and after spending a week behind the wheel, I can assure you there is nothing utilitarian about the M50d, but it certainly offers plenty of practicality.

It wears a number of cosmetic and performances enhancements from the fabled BMW M (Motorsport) department.

Just for the record, M is to BMW, as RS is to Audi, and AMG is to Mercedes-Benz, an in-house motor-sport and performance tuning operation that turns passenger vehicles from mild mannered luxury models into much hotter road eating performance cars.

So to meet this criteria the X5 M50d is equipped with M adaptive sports suspension, M servotronic power steering, 20-inch alloy wheels, oval exhausts, adaptive LED headlights, four zone climate control, keyless entry, panoramic glass sunroof, a M leather steering wheel, and a 600W Harmon Kardon audio system.

 

Thats in addition to the standard specification which includes:

  • Radar cruise control
  • Lane departure warning
  • Forward collision warning
  • Surround view 360 degree camera system
  • Bi-xenon adaptive headlamps with high beam assist
  • Dakota leather upholstery
  • Automatic electric tailgate
  • Electric seats
  • Bluetooth phone connectivity
  • Head up display (HUD)
  • Satellite navigation
  • Voice control
  • Internet connectivity

Although the M50d shares the same 2993cc six-cylinder diesel engine as the X5 30d and 40d, it has not one, not two, but three turbochargers hooked up to it. Power output is 280kW, torque is rated at 740Nm and its zero to 100km/h time is 5.3 seconds but combined fuel consumption is quoted at 6.7l/100km.

As one of my learned colleagues said in his review recently, its an absolute hot rod on the road.

The M50d not only accelerates off the line in a most un-diesel manner, it even manages to sound aggressive, and not at all tractor like. If the young fellow in a Japanese sports sedan who tried to outgun me on the approach to the North Western motorway onramp knew he’d been bested by a diesel, I think he might have swallowed more than just his pride.

You can choose your preferred driving experience control programme in the M50d. Feel like being frugal, well the ECO-PRO mode is definitely for you. Comfort mode is great for inner city commuting, Sport livens things up, and Sport + reduces electronic intervention if you feel the need for a bit of fun on a winding back country road.

It’s quite impressive that a vehicle as big and bulky as the M50d can accelerate and handle as well as a 2-litre hot hatchback in the urban environment – yet it is also competent getting a little bit off-road as well.

DSC_0065While the M50d is not a tough truck with a low ratio gearbox, the hill descent control system will allow you tackle hills and grassy paddocks, in reverse as well as forward gears. It is also remarkably competent on our local dirt and metal sealed rural roads.

The shame of it is that most buyers will most likely never explore the soft-road abilities of the M50d, they tend to buy such vehicles to take the family on holiday, tow a boat, jetski, caravan, or horse float.

Or some simply buy it because they can and it makes a statement, and fair enough too.

And then there is me, who used the M50d as a station wagon to cart gear and equipment for the Rugby team I manage. It was impressive how the M50d swallowed two enormous tackle bags, two smaller crash pads, a huge bag of rugby balls, and a crate full of water bottles.

Parking the beast isn’t hugely problematic thanks to that very clever 360 surround camera system installed by BMW, the Head Up Display not only gives you a read out of the speed, it will also provide turn by turn instruction if you are using the satellite navigation system.

DSC_0087Motorway journeys are made even more pleasant in our speed restrictive society by the radar cruise control system, which will bring the vehicle to a complete stop, if the vehicle in front of you stops to a complete stop. BMW calls this system driving assistant plus, I call it spooky but useful.

That huge panoramic glass sunroof is great fun for games of eye-spy, should you cart children on the daily school run, and while its fun to have the roof completely open at urban speeds, for motorway cruising its best shut as it does create quite a lot of whistle through the cabin.

I have never understood the markets desire for a black SUV/SAV with black or charcoal leather upholstery in our sunny New Zealand climate, but thankfully the four-zone climate air-conditioning system pulls the cabin temperature down very quickly and efficiently.

DSC_0088One very small niggle in a very well equipped, executed, and finished vehicle, was the stop/start system. It might have just been me, but I found then system a bit slow to react sometimes in urban traffic. I would come to a halt, but there would a be a momentary delay before the system kicked in and turned the engine off, but when lifting my foot off the brake pedal, it would restart the engine immediately.

Gremlin in the ECU? Possibly.

 

Overall the M50d is a vehicle for all reasons and a vehicle for all seasons, and no doubt it will surprise and delight its owners as much as it did for me.

Price: $174,500 drive-away 

Pros:

  • Enormous reserves of power and performance
  • Good fuel economy
  • Great luggage capacity
  • Competent cross country performer

Cons:

  • Interior gets overly warm on a sunny day
  • Slow electric tailgate operation
  • Stop/start system can be annoying in traffic

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