The MH Motoring Minute: BMW X5 M50d

Our benchmark SUV is bigger, smarter, and better to drive – on and off road.


Arthur Jones |

Review: 2 day launch driving impression

Engine: 3.0l straight six diesel with 4 turbos

Power: 294kW, 760Nm

Price: R1 502 581 (M50d), R1 194 296 (xDrive30D) (bmw.co.za)

The OG is back. And it’s bigger, longer and smarter; but still with that same pinstriped-suit and blue-light-brigade presence. The 4th generation version bristles with tech, ranging from space-age laser lights and trick axle suspension, through to auto split tailgates, through to cooled and heated cupholders – unfortunately a number of them are extras on the price list.

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The two engines available are both excellent, but we like the beastly M50d for obvious reasons – it’s a straight-six diesel with four (that’s right, four) turbos strapped on, and it climbs, pulls and accelerates through the 8-speed transmission faster than our inflation rate. Granted, the soundtrack is not as deep and bombastic as previous bigger engines, but it is still addictive in its own growly tone. The other engine option is the xDrive30D, but it only has one turbo – there aren’t petrol options (yet). BMW is also deciding on adding a plug-in hybrid option later.

The drive is typical Beemer. The steering is reassuringly heavy, the suspension the right side of stiff, and it offers surprisingly little body roll considering the heft of this machine (it’s over 2 tonnes). This is a sledgehammer of a car, but it’s more agile than it looks, and even though it has increased in dimensions (66mm wider, 36mm longer, 19mm higher) and even though the engine is only a 3 litre diesel version (versus the 4 litre V8 petrol options overseas) – it doesn’t feel unwieldy or sluggish – those turbos and trick axle suspension work wonders in offering acceleration, grip and driving dynamics. And we like diesel – the torque is a force multiplier in our happiness.

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To sum up, we’re fanboys of the new M50d. The interior has been upgraded beautifully, and the tech options are impressive (both as standard and the paid-for extras). It holds the Beemer flag high in a strong pedigree of great SUVs and within a tough category alongside Porsche and Mercedes. However, it is tough choosing between the two diesel X5 options. The added grunt of the M50d is addictive, but the XDrive30d does have everything you need, and will most likely be the bigger seller – and we like the option of choosing the General Grabber AT3 tyres for added off-road punch.

PROS: A better, smarter cabin; More space; Improved drive; Plenty of new tech options; Surprisingly fuel-efficient; Better equipped for off-road.

CONS: Option list is long and steep.

WHAT WE LOVE: Our benchmark SUV is bigger, smarter, and better to drive – on and off road.

RATING: 9 /10

COMPETITORS: Porsche Cayenne (R1 192 000), Volvo XC90 (R968 100), Mercedes GLE (R1 012 303), Volkswagen Toureg (R1 024 800)

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