The demented mystery
A few years ago I tested BMW’s 555 horsepower X5 M and concluded that its ostentatious power and price was only for the super wealthy, utterly demented and rock stars. Sad but true, when nothing else matters and only the memory remains, you too may want to park such a car in your heated garage.
The M5-engined X5M made a silent exit some time ago, accompanied off the scene by quietly whispering nurses clamped on each of its arms. The X5’s range topper is currently this M50d, a 3-litre TwinPower turbo-diesel straight six with maximum outputs of 280kW (381hp) and 740Nm.
It claims 0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds (we clocked 5.9), governed 250km/h top speed, as well as averages of 199g CO2/km and 7.5L/100km. Our average from the 85L tank was closer to 10L/100km but that’s just as astonishing as the 0-100 time considering this car’s 2,090kg dry weight.
The orgy of superlatives continues with the car’s N$983,000 base asking price, tasty options, 315mm rear tyres that cost N$6,100 each and a sound system which can loosen fillings. Never mind the growling brute of an engine, vicious brakes and rapid 8-speed shifter which warrant that M badge.
All of the above and a very firm but sporty suspension relegate this car to tarmac burning speed, superb handling and very light off-roading but our X5 still found many fans and even a potential owner. This globe-trotting BMW fan was sold within the first few yards and almost had to be dragged out of the car again.
Standard items which impressed our international man of mystery were the active steering, Xenon lights, suede M sports seats, panorama glass roof, cruise control with brake function, auto hold, park sensors, iDrive with 8.8-inch display, satnav, Bluetooth and multiple media inputs.
Options in this car included soft-close doors (N$8,300), active cruise control (N$17,900), adaptive headlights (N$4,700), head-up display (N$14,700), high beam assist (N$1,850), double-spoke 20-inch rims (N$14,900), multiple cameras (N$21,500), rear DVD system (N$17,300), voice control (N$3,650) and TV tuner (N$7,400).
…it seems impossible for such a big car to be this quick and nimble.
All of these combine with the car’s sporty handling and performance to produce a wheeled contradiction – it seems impossible for such a big car to be this quick and nimble. Full-time four-wheel-drive with active traction control and advanced stability control also adds to this sensation.
BMW’s Driving Dynamics or start/stop systems aren’t available on this model but we did find a Sport button and thoroughly tested its effect. These include harder steering, better throttle response and a livelier gearbox which will allow the big Diesel to hammer near 5,000rpm.
Not that you have to (or can) do that often, the M50d will happily pin you into the leather without ever breaching 2,500rpm. The only complaint we found during our week of testing was that the climate control didn’t always manage to keep us cool.
While on the subject of cool, driving this X5 highlights some interesting views. To BMW and luxury SUV disciples, the M50d is glacier cool. To petrol heads like me, the brutal and rev-happy Diesel engine is frozen lake cool. To most other road users, this BMW is lukewarm and not deserving of any courtesy.
Perhaps it’s jealousy that someone could squander so much money on such a flashy car but those who can afford it will quickly learn what we did. It may be ostentatious, silly and slightly pointless but it is very versatile, clever, frugal and unbelievably good to drive.
0-100m: 5.8s / 99.0km/h
0-200m: 8.8s / 127.5km/h
0-300m: 11.4s / 148.7km/h
0-400m: 13.7 / 158.7km/h
1/4mile: 13.7s @ 98.8mph (158.9km/h)
Climate Warm, sunny
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/4