YOU can’t knock success. Popularity is no guarantee of quality of course, but when it comes to parting with your hard earned there must be something in it.
BMW’s X5 has been diverting people out of rival 4x4s since 2009, and the third generation model is an impressive step forward in every direction.
But that’s not enough for some people, and BMW’s relentless pursuit of new niches means there’s an X5 with a very different flavour. The M50d gets to wear the coveted ‘M’ badge which in BMW-speak means very high performance, yet it’s also powered by a diesel engine. Surely that can’t be right?
Don’t doubt it for a second. It may only have a 3.0-litre under the bonnet, but the six-cylinder diesel engine has three – yes, three – turbochargers in a world when two is already quite a lot. The result is mind boggling: there’s 381bhp on offer, but more impressive is the 545lb/ft of torque, which is more than the M5 supersaloon. All that power and torque is fed through to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The X5 M50d is not a small car by any means and weighs a fraction over two tonnes, yet when you’re behind the wheel it is seemingly capable of routinely ignoring physics and accelerating as if it’s fleeing the apocalypse. Mash the throttle pedal to the floor and the X5 M50d will blast to 62mph from rest in a scarcely-believable 5.3 seconds.
Even when you’re not trying to rip up the asphalt the X5’s mighty engine is a delight. There is massive torque available from very low revs, and in normal driving only a faint squeeze of the accelerator is required to make rapid progress. The engine is smooth, so long distance cruising is effortless and refined.
Conversely, if you should choose to exploit all the available performance of the M50d then it does a pretty convincing impression of a sports car. Yes, it’s big and tall and other things that sporty cars normally aren’t, but it’s been engineered to handle like a car should. It has enough traction to exploit all of that performance, the steering is quick and accurate and you can hustle it along at a pace that shouldn’t be possible.
The X5 makes the most of its size when accommodating passengers and luggage. Those in the front have a superb view out with the much-loved high driving position, and the seats have a multitude of adjustments and are very comfortable. It’s the same in the back, too, although the central seat is less comfortable than the outer two. The boot is big, with a handy underfloor storage area.
The third generation X5 is a car that knows its audience very well. It has a strong image, and the more sensible diesel versions are easy to live with too. This M50d is not for everyone or every budget, but it is fast, comfortable, fun to drive and luxurious. That’s a collection of abilities that is hard to resist.
Car: BMW X5 xDrive M50d
Engine 3.0-litre diesel 381bhp and 545lb/ft of torque
Performance Top speed 155mph, 0-62mph 5.3s
Economy 42.2mpg combined
CO2 emissions 177g/km