A Different Kind of Vitamin | BMW X5 M50d

BY Azfar Hashim

While there is no denying this is no full-blown M X5, the tri-turbo’d SUV offers the best of both worlds

Photos by Azfar Hashim

BMW’s M division has seemingly lost its plot by tweaking SUVs. Well, that was what most purists thought when the X5M and X6M were first introduced. But it seems after some time, people started to think that the two models worked well; in fact, it outsells Range Rover’s Sports and even gave Porsche’s Cayenne some sleepless nights.

You see, in this modern world, a typical consumer wants everything in one car. The usual demand, especially when you have quite a huge budget to blow, would be one that has space, power and brilliant fuel economy. So, a big, powerful SUV would make sense. Except that such SUV doesn’t exist… Before this.

The M division however has all that covered in one car: meet their diesel-powered X5 M50d. This one, ladies and gentlemen, is the one car you would probably ever need to take over the world (a little ambitious, but bear with me).

Most importantly, however, are these: 381 bhp and 740 Nm maximum torque available from as low as 2,000 rpm. And it needs only 5.3 seconds to bring you to the moon; faster than a diesel equivalent XJ, Panamera and S350L, mind you.

Which, to put things into perspective, are rather respectable figures considering how the X5 M50d weighs in at almost 2.3-tonnes. Even the 2.1-tonne Range Rover Sport Diesel is only able to churn 288 bhp, 600 Nm and needs 7.2 seconds to do the century sprint, while the (also) 2.1-tonne Cayenne Diesel some 242 bhp, 550 Nm and 7.6 seconds.

The trick here? A 3.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel lump fitted with three turbochargers; two small high-pressure units and one large water-cooled turbo that spools up at different engine speeds. The result is strong pulling power with zero turbo lag. It is then mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and also equipped with xDrive four-wheel drive to ensure (a) no power is wasted, and (b) grip is constantly present.

All that potency show itself when you drive it fast out on the road. I had the chance to drive this SUV to Kuala Lumpur and back, and it was a blast pushing it to it’s full potential out on the North-South Highway: Power is constantly available on demand, even when the car is left in default mode. Swap to ‘Sport’ and the accelerator response gets sharper, with the steering wheel increasing in weight and the suspension stiffer; all these are helpful for the enthusiastic driver who enjoys going at a quicker pace confidently.

Here is one major surprise though: in mixed driving over two days (60 percent highway, 40 percent city), the X5 M50d averaged 8.9 km/L. A little far off the official 14.9 km/L, but still a figure you do not normally associate to such a powerful SUV with this weight. Heck, it’s even much, much better than the petrol X5 xDrive50i…

Ride and handling is one aspect of the car that the M division managed to sort it, well, perfectly. In terms of steering, the X5 M50d’s electric system doesn’t feel all that artificial; you get good feedback with positive feel all the time, even when the road turns twisty or while you are taking one of the N-S Highway’s many fast sweeping bends. Also, body control here is respectable by SUV standard; it does not lean or twitch nervously, with sudden steering movement not rattling the driver or passengers.

Surprisingly, when you do feel like wanting to take things at a much slower pace (probably after getting an earful from the significant other), swap it to Comfort and the 110km/h cruise turns rather sedate and sorted. Ok, so it doesn’t turn S-Class soft and the ride still errs on the harsh side no thanks to the wide and low-profiled high-performance Bridgestone tyres, but you do feel the difference as compared to being in Sport mode.

Those set of big brakes on the X5 M50d sure works brilliantly; there were several instances while going way past the highway-legal speeds, where I was cut off by slower traffic on the fastest lane. Without fail, it managed to slow the car down every single time. Plus due to the stiffer suspension system, it does not nosedive rudely to make you look silly like a nervous amateur racer on his debut…

Oh and how could I forget the interior? For a large SUV, you get a cockpit that is driver oriented, with each and every control easily within reach. The steering wheel, although a tad big for my personal liking, feels nice to the touch — all thanks to premium leather and high-quality stitching, of course. The new generation iDrive with touchpad is also present in the X5 M50d. Besides all that, it is business as usual here: top-notch build quality, comfy sport seats that will be able to fit drivers of all sizes and also a myriad of storage spaces.

The rear is able to accommodate up to three average-sized adults without a hitch, providing ample leg, head and shoulder room. The air-con control and blower for rear passengers however does come across as a little intrusive for the person sitting in the middle; I’m sure BMW could have done something else to prevent this…

As a whole, the BMW X5 M50d is one unique package as it provide not only practicality, satisfying performance and outright grip but outstandingly, brilliant fuel economy. To be even frank, this has to be the most perfect SUV if your pocket allows you to; useful for urban use, and even better for long-distance.