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BMW X5

 

The triple-turbo diesel BMW X5 from the maker’s M Performance division makes some big numbers and a really big impression.

Base price: $174,500.

Powertrain and performance: 3.0-litre triple-turbo diesel six, 280kW/740Nm, 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 6.7 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 5.3 seconds.

Vital statistics: 4886mm long, 1762mm high, luggage capacity 650-1870 litres, fuel tank 85 litres, 20-inch alloy wheels with 275/40 front and 315/35 rear tyres.

We like: Stunning turbo-diesel engine, nimble chassis, luxury equipment.

We don’t like: Looks bland compared with previous model, light steering.

How it rates: 9/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? It’s true that BMW’s M Performance brand is supposed to be a half-way house between the mainstream models and the highly specialised M division, but that doesn’t mean that the cars are not special in their own right.

The BMW X5 M50d is a prime example. True, there is a full M version of the X5 just announced: it has a monster V8 petrol-turbo engine and circuit credentials. But the M50d is almost as impressive and certainly more useful to real people: it has a turbo-diesel engine (which rules it out for full M-status already) with three turbochargers that makes an astounding 740Nm of torque.

In fact, the M50d’s peak torque figure is just 10Nm shy of the X5 M powerplant. And you can bet that 10Nm has been engineered-in very deliberately.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? BMW is a master of the turbo-diesel engine and this one is as impressive on-road as it is on paper. The mountain of torque on tap from low speed and the car’s slick eight-speed gearbox ensure effortless performance – delivering a deceptive but occasionally alarming turn of speed.

BMW has thrown the book at the M50d’s chassis. It has Adaptive M Suspension with Dynamic Damper Control, Dynamic Drive (which keeps body roll in check under hard cornering) and Dynamic Performance Control, a version of torque vectoring which can shift power side-to-side to improve cornering speed and stability.

The xDrive four-wheel drive system has a bespoke state of tune for the M50d, with more bias towards the rear. To finish things off, there’s a monster set of mixed tyres, with supercar-like 315mm-wide rubber on the back. It all adds up to a 2.1-tonne crossover wagon that feels astonishingly agile. Firmly planted under pressure too, with a wonderfully proactive four-wheel drive system and a surfeit of grip.

Perhaps it’s because the rest of the car is so nimble, but the steering seems disappointingly light. It’s certainly not as substantial as the tiller in the previous model, despite having a special M Servotronic assistance system. Does it impede your progress on winding roads? No, it’s still very precise. Does it take precious involvement away? Yes it does, which is a shame for an M Performance model of any kind. Even a big crossover.

Safety equipment is cutting-edge, including the Driving Assistant Plus package as standard on the M50d: it includes adaptive cruise control that can brake right down to a standstill behind another vehicle and then go ahead when the road is clear. The M50d also has adaptive LED headlights.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? BMW is very much in the groove with its interior design and the X5 fits the corporate template perfectly. The dashboard has a prominent convex curvature, the information screen looks like an expensive tablet and the ergonomically shaped gearlever arches towards the driver like a gaming-console joystick.

M Performance touches abound, such as the multifunction three-spoke steering wheel, sports seating and even quietly classy ceramic surrounds for the switchgear.

You sit high in the X5 of course, but the driving position is also quite reclined – that sporting BMW sedan flavor coming through again. But there are practical touches too, such as the 40/20/40-split rear seat, which allows for a wide range of passenger and load-carrying options.

Third-row seating, a $3600 option on other X5 models, is a no-cost option for the M50d. However, you lose the Dynamic suspension and your spare wheel. Opportunity cost.

Luxury equipment on the M50d includes four-zone air conditioning, keyless entry/start, power lumbar support for the front seats, digital television and a Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? The luxury crossover market is expansive and highly competitive. So much so that it’s hard for a single model to stand out.

But the X5 M50d manages to do so with that unique triple-turbo engine, M Performance credentials and an astonishing blend of sporting character with luxury ambience and equipment.

It’s a pretty special package, all the more so because it’s so understated. The body kit is not obvious, but look for the grey door-mirror caps and oval exhaust pipes.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  • Air conditioning: Four-zone climate
  • Audio: CD, iPod compatible
  • Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
  • Blind spot warning: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Cruise control: Adaptive with stop and go function
  • Driver footrest: Yes
  • Head-up display: Yes
  • Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
  • Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
  • Lane guidance: Yes
  • Leather upholstery: Yes
  • Parking radar: Yes with 360-degree cameras
  • Power boot or tailgate: Yes
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
  • Rear ventilation outlets: Yes
  • Remote audio controls: Yes
  • Satellite navigation: Yes
  • Seat height adjustment: Yes
  • Self-parking technology: No
  • Split/folding rear seats: 40/20/40
  • Steering reach adjustment: Yes
  • Stop-start: Yes
  • Trip computer: Yes

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