Elevated numbers. Read the vital stats on the new 2020 BMW X5 M50d and you’ll wonder how they can relate to a two-tonne luxury SUV but, as Shane O’ Donoghue discovers, they certainly do.
ULTIMATE SUV? We finally get to drive the awesome 2020 X5 M50d G05 on UK roads
Six cylinders. Four turbochargers (yes, FOUR). Four hundred horsepower. A 5.2-second 0-62mph (5.0sec 0-60mph) time, and a price tag the wrong side of 70 grand. Present someone – even a hardened petrolhead – with those stats and they’ll guess you’re talking about some exotic sports car before you break it to them gently that you are, in fact, referring to the current range-topper in the G05 X5 SUV range, the mighty M50d.
Many won’t notice that the M50d is just that, especially as there are so many M Sport variants of the regular xDrive30d G05 on the road, plenty of them with up-sized rims and other options. The M50d does, however, come with a choice of 22in alloy wheel designs as standard, which do a great job of filling the considerable wheel arches. They also serve to visually shrink the X5, a car that can look nothing short of gargantuan in certain colours and specifications.
LOUD AND PROUD!
Not that the M50d is a shrinking violet… There’s a simply massive ‘M50d’ badge on the back for starters. That’s finished in the BMW M Performance Vehicle signature colour, Cerium Grey, a hue that extends to the bespoke dual-exit exhaust system (more of which in a moment), side sills, door mirror caps, M badges on the front wings and even to the large kidney grille up front.
Any one of those on their own is subtle, but all together, and especially when paired with a dark paint colour, and they help the M50d stand out from its ‘lesser’ X5 brethren. That front grille is flanked by adaptive LED headlights as standard in the M50d (with High-Beam Assistant, as well) – a £700 extra in the rest of the line-up. But I’d expect many M50d buyers to stump up the extra £895 to upgrade to BMW Laserlights, signified by distinctive, blue inserts that emphasise the technical appearance of the X5’s nose.
Like all variants of the G05 X5, you really have to climb up into the interior of the M50d, where it continues that technological theme, most obviously thanks to the inclusion of the full, BMW Digital Live Cockpit Professional, with pair of 12.3in screens plus the full suite of interface options. That means the driver (and indeed their passengers) can use voice and gesture control to complement the quick-acting touchscreen and the traditional iDrive rotary controller in the middle.
A couple of subtle enhancements mark out the M50d’s cabin, including illuminated ‘M50d’ door sills front and back, and an upgraded sound system by Harman/ Kardon. Otherwise, the specification mirrors that of the M Sport cars, so, along with plenty of M badges and a tactile ‘Aluminium Tetragon’ trim effect, there’s lovely Vernasca leather upholstery as standard. That touch of luxury is complemented by the sporty look of the M leather-trimmed steering wheel, M alloy pedals and even specific velour floor mats. Given the price jump of about 10 grand from the X5 xDrive30d M Sport to the M50d, some might expect more but, let’s face it, this car is all about what’s under the bonnet. Tell someone you have an X5 and they might politely be a little interested; tell them it has quad turbocharging and I’ll bet their ears prick up. BMW takes its core straight-six 3.0-litre block and bolts four turbochargers to it, enabling the headline 400hp and 560lb ft of torque outputs (up from 265hp and 457lb ft in the xDrive30d). That’s simplifying things somewhat, I realise.
While the 2,993cc swept volume, bore and stroke are identical to the engine in the xDrive30d, the M50d’s engine has a slight reduction in compression ratio (down from 16.5:1 to 16.0:1). Both use common rail direct diesel injection with modern, piezo injectors that inject the fuel at pressures of over 2,500 bar at times. But, where the xDrive30d uses a single, variable inlet geometry turbocharger, the M50d’s engine has two low-pressure turbochargers and two high-pressure units. The latter additionally feature variable inlet geometry to widen their ideal range of operation.
By default, the two, low-pressure units and one of the high-pressure turbos are active, and BMW says that there’s already 332lb ft of torque on tap at just 1,000rpm. Once the engine speeds up above 2,500rpm, though, the second high-pressure turbo comes on stream and, if you floor the accelerator pedal, even from a standstill, the low-pressure turbos are bypassed altogether to allow the use of maximum boost as quickly as possible. So what does all this feel like on the move? In short, ridiculously fast!
Leave the car in Comfort mode and use the accelerator ‘softly’, and the M50d makes decent and smooth progress, easily keeping up with fast-moving traffic without having to trouble the top three-quarters of the rev counter. Even so, this engine is louder than that in the xDrive30d, probably because of the standard-fit sports exhaust system. Response to throttle inputs isn’t perhaps as crisp as some would expect from a car bearing the M badge, as it seems the multi-stage turbocharging system takes a fraction of a second to decide what set-up to go with, before you feel any meaningful acceleration. Still, it’ll never be called ‘slow’.
Switch into one of the Sport modes, the sport exhaust clears its throat and you are in no doubt you’re in the M50d, as it bellows like a strong and angry mythical beast chasing its prey. Some will call it loud and uncouth (and they should stick with the smoother and quieter xDrive30d), while others will love the character and personality that shine through. This is a serious performance engine for those who just so happen to need the parsimony of diesel on a daily basis. In the Sport settings, response to throttle inputs is much sharper and forward motion is notably more instantaneous.
One flat-out standing start will be enough to convince you that BMW’s official acceleration figures are realistic and achievable by mere mortals at the wheel, and the way the M50d continues to forcefully accelerate forward well into three-digit speeds will shock the uninitiated. Even so, there’s the sensation of turbo lag at times, but perhaps that’s exacerbated by the longer final drive ratio the M50d gets in comparison to the xDrive30d model.
Otherwise, they share the same eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, which has proven to be a gem in many a BMW. It came in for a round of revisions in time for the launch of the G05, focusing on efficiency and refinement improvements thanks, in the main, to a wider spread of gear ratios and new control electronics, along with new torsion dampers.
BMW claims that it offers smoother changes on the one hand, along with sportier shifts when it’s in one of its Sport modes. I can’t disagree with any of that, although to really enjoy a twisty mountain road, I found myself taking manual control of the gearchange timings – it was the only way to make full use of the considerable torque on tap on the exit of tight corners and put the xDrive four-wheel- drive system to the test.
This has a distinct – and pleasing – rear bias, and the M50d’s agility is further assisted by the standard fitment of the M Sport rear differential. This is an electronically-controlled locking item, regulated by the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system’s brain and sensors.
Most owners will probably benefit from its operation when on loose ground but, those who explore the outer edges of the M50d’s handling envelope, will also enjoy how it helps slingshot the big X5 out of sharp corners. In the dry, there’s little need for the car’s electronic traction control, so immense is the mechanical grip. And yet, it’s no benign operator, either, as it doesn’t isolate the driver from proceedings completely.
Not for a second am I suggesting that the 2020 BMW X5 M50d G05 is a delicate B-road tool that you drive with your fingertips and the seat of your pants. But, together with its devastating cross-country effectiveness, it moves around on the throttle and feels far livelier and more agile than any car of this size deserves to. The way it allows that sensation while still being utterly stable and trustworthy, is testament to BMW’s chassis engineers. And, if you get a chance to take it off the beaten track on to, well, a dirt track, it’s a real hoot. Not that anyone will want to take those gorgeous 22in rims too far away from terra firma, no matter how impressive the off-roading angles BMW quotes.
And actually, fear for your wheels may not be the first thing to slow you down when the going gets rough, as the M50d’s suspension is, shall we say, in keeping with the M image. It’s firm. Like all G05- generation X5s, the M50d gets adaptive air suspension and Dynamic Damper Control, the latter with two maps, all tied in with the Driving Performance Control switch.
The M50d gets its own spring and damper rates, though, along with Adaptive M suspension. The aim of all this is enhanced steering precision, faster cornering and snappier direction changes. It certainly achieves the latter two goals, though the steering is completely bereft of feedback to the driver’s hands, sadly.
For the full tech suite, buyers can add Adaptive M suspension Professional, which features a sophisticated, active anti-roll system using electric motors and Integral Active Steering. Even if you care not a jot how the M50d handles corners, this could potentially be worth the (admittedly considerable) £3,195 extra outlay, as Integral Active Steering is BMW-speak for four-wheel steering. This enhances stability during high-speed turns and lane changes, makes the X5 feel far more agile than it should in tighter bends and, something that’s of use to all owners, considerably reduces the turning circle, making the X5 much easier to park and manoeuvre when space is restricted.
Which brings me neatly to the point where I must consider where most examples of the X5 M50d are likely to spend most of their days. Sure, some of them will be used as tow vehicles. Though the maximum trailer weight of 2,700kg is no different to that of the X5 xDrive30d, the M50d’s extra torque will undeniably make lighter work of hauling heavy loads (think speedboats and horseboxes rather than rusty trailers on the way to the tip), but don’t hold your breath while you wait to see an M50d fitted with a tow bar.
No, the vast majority will be bought because the owner wants the highest-ranking X5 in the BMW canon; the one with the biggest badge, even if it’s to be used mostly for ambling around a salubrious neighbourhood, or for keeping up appearances at the school gates twice a day. After all, the M50d can be had with seven seats, and that’s as important a number as any other associated with this incredible creation.
2020 BMW X5 M50d G05 tech specs
ENGINE: Quad-turbocharged, six-cylinder diesel, longitudinally mounted
MAX POWER: 400hp @ 4,400rpm
MAX TORQUE: 560lb ft @ 2,000-3,000rpm
0-62MPH (secs): 5.2 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155mph
WEIGHT (EU): 12,275kg
PRICE (OTR): £71,475
The M50d’s luxurious interior benefits from the full, BMW Digital Live Cockpit Professional, which includes a pair of 12.3in screens and the full suite of interface options. A decently-sized and well-trimmed boot means the G05 X5 can be a very practical load-lugger.
The M50d is equipped with adaptive LED headlights as standard, but many owners are likely to pay the extra £895 and upgrade to BMW’s Laserlights.
In the dry, there’s little need for the car’s electronic traction control, so immense is the mechanical grip.
Above: The M50d comes with a choice of 22in alloy wheel designs as standard, which do a great job of filling the considerable wheel arches. They can also visually shrink this large vehicle in certain colours and specifications.
The M50d is certainly no shrinking violet. There’s a simply massive ‘M50d’ badge on the back, and the performance and sound to back it up.
The BMW M Performance Vehicle signature colour, Cerium Grey, is used extensively on various features around the new X5 50d, including the large kidney grille up front.