Never has a model that only goes half way been so completely appealing
BMW has decided that there’s room in its ranges for cars that get extra engineering input from the legendary Motorsport division, but aren’t quite fully fledged M-cars.
Just to clarify: we’re not talking about spoilers and stripey badges on the back. We’re talking proper performance-enhancing features.
These cars are called M Performance models and the first to be launched in New Zealand is the X5 M50d. Under the bonnet is a triple-turbocharged version of BMW’s 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine, producing 280kW and a staggering 740Nm of torque: 55kW/140Nm more than the twin-turbo version of the powerplant fitted to the standard X5 40d.
The M50d also benefits from suspension changes and although BMW argues at length that new-generation, fuel-saving electric power steering technology is excellent, when it came to the crunch for its new M Performance model it opted for old-school hydraulic assistance. That’s what we like to hear.
In truth, the M50d does not feel dramatically different from a regular X5. That’s because the X5 is already a very sporty crossover vehicle with an outstanding turbo diesel engine. Any X5 has a great driving position, excellent seats and an ability to flow over fast Kiwi roads with a composure that belies its sheer size and weight. It’s one of the oldest cars in its segment but still arguably the best.
But if you don’t regard yourself as an enthusiast (and there’s nothing wrong with that), I would argue that you might be better off keeping the extra $30,000 it takes to get into this M Performance version of the X5. Especially when it doesn’t look terribly different from the standard car: the visual changes are extremely subtle, stuff like grey mirror housings, black exhaust pipes and a different style of alloy wheel.
That’s the point of a proper performance brand, isn’t it? Those who simply want to show off to the neighbours can do that in other ways; heaven knows BMW offers plenty of options for its cars aimed at achieving just that.
The M Performance X5 is for those who appreciate that extra 20 percent of dynamic ability – although a knowing glance from knowing M enthusiasts probably adds to the appeal as well.
Even at $168,000, I think the X5 M50d is a stunning machine. It has all of the usability and practicality of a standard X5, but also plays a role as purveyor to the performance-discerning.