REVIEW | 2020 BMW X5 M50i offers near 'M Competition' performance at a keener price
Performance-loving South Africans with the financial wherewithal tend to choose the top-notch models, which is why BMW didn’t bother bringing the standard X5 M to local shores.
Instead BMW offers the full-fat M Competition version as the local X5 flagship, with fire-breathing outputs of 460kW and 750Nm, and a R2,632,258 price tag.
For those who don’t need quite that much power in an SUV, the X5 M50i is a somewhat less powerful derivative priced at R1,690,084. It has the same 4.4l V8 turbo petrol engine as the M Competition but detuned to 390kW and 750Nm.
It doesn’t have the full firepower or M-car aura, but at a nearly R1m price saving the M50i is an appealing proposition for millionaires on a budget, and is hardly less satisfying to drive.
I drove these two fast X5s back to back and my take is that, unless you really want to take on Ferraris at the traffic lights, there are no unsatisfied power cravings in the M50i.
With its launch control function it covers the 0-100km/h sprint in an impressive 4.3 seconds (vs 3.8 secs for the M Competition) and reaches a governed 250km/h top speed. The M Competition’s limiter kicks in at a higher albeit quite academic 290km/h, given we have no speed-unrestricted autobahns to play on in SA.
For such a hefty vehicle the M50i delivers very hearty thrust in a standing start, scampering off more like a hot hatch than a 2.4-ton SUV. With its 750Nm maximum torque on call from just 1,800rpm, it feels punchy right across the rev range and dispatches overtaking moves with easy-going flair.
There’s some sonic venom too in the hoarse sound it makes when you select Sports mode, which also perks up the driving experience with a more sensitive throttle and using lower gears to keep the engine revving higher.
The Comfort and Eco settings dampen the car’s ebullience to a more commuting-appropriate role, though seemingly not the fuel consumption. As much as I tried to drive with a lighter foot, the big X5 quaffed petrol at the voracious rate of 17.8l / 100km in an urban/freeway mix — way higher than the factory-claimed figure.
Those with an eye on fuel economy would be better served by the X5 M50d which pairs outputs of 294kW and 760Nm with a frugal thirst of 7.6l / 100km (as tested by us).
As long as you keep your eyes off the fuel consumption meter, life is peachy aboard good ship M50i. It delivers rear-biased all-wheel drive handling, with an entertainingly playful tail instead of running into dreaded understeer in corners.
This Beemer’s size is always evident, but it masks its mass by not feeling especially spongy in fast-paced corners, and also not pitching and squatting under hard acceleration and braking. This athletic prowess is further enhanced in the Sport mode which firms up the M Suspension. Optional rear-wheel steering is available to make this heffalump turn into corners with even more agility.
It’s a big, executive barge with high-end luxury, including a crystal gear lever which is either glamorous or kitsch — you decide.
At just a snip under 5m in length, the fourth-generation X5 has oodles of interior space even for rugby-sized adults, combined with a boot that gulps heaps of holiday luggage.
Stylistically the M50i gets some M specific design elements including kidney grille and side mirrors finished in exclusive Cerium Grey. Inside, the business-class luxury is perked up with sporting ambience which includes M lettering on the door sills and steering wheel.
Unlike the trend among some of its peers to go mostly digital, BMW has retained a number of physical buttons to instantly access more commonly used onboard systems, thereby limiting distraction from driving. Bavaria’s cars are also getting better at understanding spoken instructions, although there’s still a way to go before your voice can completely take over from your fingers.
I didn’t attempt any off-roading on the optionally-fitted low-profile 22-inch tyres, but fit the right rubber and the X5 does have trail-adventuring capability with its intelligent all-wheel drive and M Sport Differential. The latter ensures torque is directed to the rear wheel with most grip, preventing wheelspin in both road and off road situations.
In addition the X5 can be specced with an optional off-road package which includes adaptive air suspension and four modes (xSand, xRock, xGravel and xSnow) that vary the transmission, ride height and dynamic stability control.
With such sporting road prowess it’s easy to forget the X5 was conceived as an all-terrain vehicle, although the M50i is unlikely to spend much of its time sloshing through muddy trails. Its selling point is its great bang-for-buck compared to less powerful but similarly priced rivals from Mercedes-Benz and Porsche (see list of competitors).
For a similar price as the M50i however, the gutsy X5 M50d comes into play as a contender for the best buy in the range as it throws great fuel economy into the bargain.
Type: Eight-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Eight-speed Steptronic auto
Type: All-wheel drive
Top speed: 250km/h
0-100km/h: 4.3 seconds
Fuel Consumption: 11.5l/100km (claimed); 17.8l /100km (as tested)
Parking assist camera, ABS brakes, adaptive M suspension, M Sports brakes with blue calipers, six airbags, stability control, electric windows, climate control, cruise control, infotainment system with voice control, LED daytime running lights, adaptive LED headlamps, runflat tyres, rain-sensing wipers, panoramic sunroof, head-up display, lane departure warning
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Service plan: Five years/100,000km
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
BMW X5 M50d, 294kW/760Nm — R1,680,148
Mercedes GLE 53 4Matic+, 320kW/520Nm — R1,744,280
Jaguar F-Pace SVR, 405kW/680Nm — R1,655,726
Porsche Cayenne S, 324kW/550Nm — R1,599,000
Porsche Cayenne Turbo, 404kW/770Nm — R2,469,000
BMW X5 M50i
Performance, price competitiveness
A scorching hot SUV for bargain-seeking millionaires
****Value For Money