Full Fat – AC Schnitzer has got its hands on the big boy; an BMW F15 X5 M50d – 430hp. If you’re going to tune an X5 you might as well start with the big daddy of the BMW range, the X5 M50d. This resulting creation from AC Schnitzer is pretty special Words: Bob Harper Photography: Max Earey.
You could make a perfectly good case for arguing that trying to tune and extract a little more sporting intent from a Sports Utility Vehicle that weighs more or less the same as two E30s is a little bit perverse. After all, anything that tips the scales at getting on for two and a half tonnes is hardly likely to be your sporting weapon of choice. You could argue, though, that the X5 is no ordinary 4×4 – BMW coined that old SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) chestnut to indicate that this wasn’t just another four-wheel drive truck – and that even in its standard form it’s aimed at the enthusiastic driver, not just someone who wants a luxury load lugger. And if owners want a little bit more from their 4×4 who are we to suggest that they can’t have it?
When the X5 first hit the streets 15 years ago we can remember having conversations with various BMW tuning firms about whether they would be offering any upgrades for the car and the general consensus of opinion seemed to be ‘let’s wait and see.’ Well, it didn’t take long for the wheels, body kits, interior goodies and performance upgrades to come to market as after a scant few months it became obvious that the X5 was going to be a huge hit. And that’s been true of each subsequent generation and as buyers have lapped them up there have been a plethora of possible upgrades available, ranging from the mild to the wild. With the second generation car there were plenty of wild wide-body conversions to choose from but it seems that with this F15 incarnation the tuners have decided to tone down their offerings somewhat as even some of the emerging markets are demanding a slightly more sophisticated look.
And that’s certainly what we’ve got here today with this AC Schnitzer-fettled example. It’s not that Schnitzer hasn’t done very much to the car, more a case of what has been done has been carried out in a pretty stylish way, echoing the OEM styling but with a hint more aggression. This particular machine has been around for quite some time as it graced Schnitzer’s stand at the Geneva Motor Show, but it was almost overshadowed by the announcement and unveiling by Schnitzer of its tuning program for the Range Rover – the first time the company has made a foray into the non-BMW Group market.
|AC Schnitzer X5 M50d|
|ENGINE: N57D30S1 six-cylinder 24-valve triple turbo diesel|
|MAX POWER: 430hp @ 4400rpm|
|MAX TORQUE: 620lb ft @ 2000-2400rpm|
|0-62MPH: 4.9 seconds*|
|0-125MPH: 21.1 seconds*|
|50-75MPH (5th/6th): 4.0/5.2 seconds*|
|TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)|
|WEIGHT (UNLADEN): 2319kg|
|ENGINE: AC Schnitzer performance upgrade engine optics package|
|WHEELS & TYRES: Driver’s side: AC Schnitzer Type V Lightweight Forged alloy wheels 10×22-inch with 295/30 ContiSportContact tyres (front) 11.5×22-inch with 335/25 ContiSportContact tyres (rear). Passenger side: AC Schnitzer Type VIII Racing Forged alloys in the same sizes as above|
|SUSPENSION: AC Schnitzer Spring kit|
|STYLING: AC Schnitzer front skirt rear valance with integrated diffuser bonnet vents|
|EXHAUST: AC Schnitzer sports rear silencer with ‘Racing’ tailpipes|
|INTERIOR: AC Schnitzer pedal set and footrest floor mats and key holder|
|* Figures from Auto Bild Sportscars|
However, while the X5 may have been subtly styled, Schnitzer decided to go the whole hog when it came to which model to fettle, so the example we have here is – until the X5 M that you can read about in our News pages arrives – the top dog, the triple turbo M50d. Quite why anyone should need more than the 381hp and 546lb ft that the M50d serves up is slightly beyond our comprehension, but while you might not need more, you may well want more. And while there’s a market for these upgrades, Schnitzer is more than happy to oblige. The figures for the uprated M50d are pretty impressive with power boosted by 49hp to 430hp at 4400rpm and torque up to a faintly absurd 620lb ft at 2400rpm. In standard form the BMW power and torque curves both have a bit of a plateau at their peaks but in the Schnitzer example there’s simply more of both wherever you might like to look. And a quick gander at the figures reveals the amusing fact that at 1000rpm the Schnitzered X5 is producing approximately 100lb ft more torque than an E92 M3 can muster at its peak!
Crushing the throttle pedal to the floor sees the X5 firing itself up the road with the sort of pace that seems faintly ridiculous.
The impressive figures are achieved with the aid of a Schnitzer tuning box and for those of you not fortunate enough to own an M50d the good news is that the company either has, or has in development, performance upgrades for all X5 models and all of them see very respectable gains. Some tuners might offer more in the way of headline figures but with Schnitzer’s experience and own impressive warranty on its tuned engines, you know that no components will have been pushed too far in extracting the additional power and torque.
With the significant gains that Schnitzer’s achieved though, you’d be expecting that to be reflected in the performance figures and tests by German magazine Auto Bild Sportscars would seem to back this up. It tested this very vehicle in a twin-diesel SUV feature with a Techart Porsche Cayenne diesel and recorded a 0-62mph time of just 4.9 seconds – an improvement over the standard production M50d of 0.4 seconds – while its 0-200km/h (125mph) figure was very nearly four seconds faster than standard which is a very significant improvement.
More or less no matter what you do, the chassis simply follows commands from the steering wheel.
There’s more to a Schnitzer-fettled machine than just a power increase, though, and to ensure that its new-found performance can be transmitted to the road safely, Schnitzer’s equipped its X5 with a spring kit that lowers it by around 30mm at the front and 20mm at the rear. The aim with its setup has been to maintain excellent ride quality yet give a better grip on body roll in the corners. They’ve also been designed to work in conjunction with Schnitzer’s upgraded wheel and tyre combinations for the car. As is often the case with show cars, Schnitzer has equipped its X5 with different wheels on either side of the X5 so as to better reflect the different options available to buyers. Thus on the driver’s side (it’s lefthand drive, remember) we have a set of AC Schnitzer Type V Lightweight Forged alloys while on the passenger side there’s a set of Type VIII Racing Forged alloys. Both designs measure a monster 10×22-inches at the front and 11.5x-22-inches at the rear and are clothed in 295/30 and 335/25 ContiSportContact tyres front and rear respectively. Type VIII and Type IV alloys in 20-inch diameters are also available but we reckon if you’re going to be shelling out a fair chunk of cash for some upgraded alloys then it’s worth going the extra couple of inches in diameter to make them stand out from the crowd. From a personal point of view I’d go for the Type V alloys every time as I do really like their very clean and elegant design.
However, if it doesn’t drive well on the 22s then I’ll stick with the standard setup and it’s with this in mind that we sally forth from Schnitzer’s Aachen HQ. While we’re trundling along on our way to the photo location I have a bit of a glance around the cockpit but truth be told Schnitzer hasn’t really done all that much in here. When an interior is so intrinsically well designed as that of the F15 generation of X5 you do run the risk of spoiling things by trying to do too much by way of changes inside. Thus Schnitzer’s kept it simple with a pedal set and foot rest, a set of floor mats and a natty little key holder that sits in one of the drinks receptacles in the centre console. Town driving seems to suit the X5 well, though, and while we’ve not had a chance to let the X5 off the leash yet the ride doesn’t seem to have been affected by the increase in wheel diameter and the fitting of the springs. All thoughts of the ride quality are briefly put to one side as we dive on to the motorway though and can finally experience what 620lb ft of torque feels like. Crushing the throttle pedal to the floor sees the X5 firing itself up the road with the sort of pace that seems faintly ridiculous for something this size. Maybe because the overall package is so refined but it doesn’t feel quite as fast as I was expecting but a quick glance down at the speedo demonstrates that it’s probably my senses that need recalibrating. And if any further proof was needed our 435i camera car that’s following me does seem to be struggling to maintain this level of acceleration. Once we’re at our photoshoot location I have a proper look at the X5’s new aero parts and I think that it’s done an excellent job of essentially tweaking BMW’s own design here. The front is more aggressive due to larger air intakes within the front lower valance while at the rear the new lower rear bumper finishes things off nicely. It’s almost like Schnitzer has taken its styling cues from the M aero kit and taken it to the max. The result is a more aggressive look whilst retaining a pleasantly reassuring OEM flavour. What spoils it for me personally are the bonnet vents – they just don’t do it for me and I think they cheapen the look of what otherwise looks like a classy product. Fortunately we’re not all the same so I’m sure there are also plenty of potential owners who will love the look. One item we haven’t mentioned is the Schnitzer rear silencer with ‘Racing’ style trims and they do look good and suit the car. As we’ll discover shortly the rear exhaust box also manages to tease a little more noise from the straight-six, too.
Carbon bonnet vents are not completely to our taste; ‘Racing’ exhaust trims look good and the silencer sounds good too; wheels are 22-inches in diameter and are Type VIII or Type V.
Once Earey has finished with his static and detail images it’s time to hit the road again for some moving images and this gives me another chance to sample the car’s performance. The way it steps off the line is hugely amusing as you simply bury the throttle and marvel at the grip and sheer accelerative force that gives the impression that you’ve entered some slightly bizarre fast-forward universe. The exhaust adds a little more drama to the proceedings and while the triple-turbo diesel is never going to sound as cultured and inspiring as a petrol unit it does exhibit its own gravely, bass-rich charm that’s not unpleasant.
The other aspect of the Schnitzer X5 that can’t be ignored is the seemingly unfeasibly high levels of grip it’s capable of generating. More or less no matter what you do, the chassis simply follows commands from the steering wheel and offers exceptional body control for something that’s so heavy and with a relatively high centre of gravity. Oh, and when you’re not on a charge that ride quality is really very decent for a machine with such small tyre sidewalls. Ultimately, the changes Schnitzer has made are relatively minor but add them all together and the X5 M50d has definitely been improved. I was slightly disappointed with the standard machine I drove in the UK, but the Schnitzer example got me significantly more excited. Initially I couldn’t quite get my head around why you would need to upgrade the M50d, but now I’ve experienced the Schnitzer machine it all starts to make a lot more sense.
Schnitzer’s M50d offers huge performance; ‘Engine Optics’ kit looks good and adds a bit of flair to the engine bay.