REVIEWS
9

OVERALL
VERDICT

The Top Gear car review:

BMW X5 M50i

R 1 758 700

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The deputy X5 M-car is perhaps the one to have

9

OVERALL
VERDICT

For:

Over-achieving performance

Against:

Fuel hungry

What is it?

If there is a car that you need to bolster your social status and perhaps your ego, the BMW X5 should be your first consideration. Think about it? It’s been the go-to buy-up mainstay for decades, ever since it first broke cover over 20 years ago. Its commanding ride height, intriguing road presence, ever-powerful engines and technological wherewithal are the vaunts for perceived success in social circles nationwide…and the badge it wears of course, that much praised logo that sits above the decidedly large kidney grilles. 

Now in its 4th  generation, the BMW X5 is larger all round. Its profile is beefed up by the bulges on the bonnet and wheel arches, the dual flares on the flanks and the rear section that houses slim yet pronounced rear taillamps and powerful dual chrome exhaust surrounds especially in this M50i variant with M-Sport details all round. 

The 22-inch wheels here are specific to the M50i and set it apart from any other X5 or even a M-Sport X30d for that matter. It’s all you need for that snooty, nose-in-the-air feeling. It’s a luxury SUV that means business and that is before we even talk about the raucous V8 under the hood. 

The M50i is here to play midfield for the latest X5M Super SUV. It is to the X5M what the GLE53 AMG is to the GLE63 and what the Cayenne GTS is to the Cayenne Turbo. These are all highly rated cars that form the prelude to the absolute flagships, so much so that in some respects, I wonder whether the need to make the eventual jump into the top territory is even necessary. Wait…we’re South Africans. Of course it’s necessary.

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Layout, finish and space

It’s all serious business in here. The X5 boasts a gleaming, tactile and edgy cabin. The chunky Vernasca leather-bound multi-way adjustable sports seats are magically supple and sporty, a combination that plays right into this luxurious sense of occasion that the entire cabin exudes. 

The M50i has its own small tells – door sills and M-Sport Leather steering wheel adorned with that M-lettering. Beyond these, the X5 oozes class and advanced luxury. Optional extras abound for sure, but you’ll want, not need the Panoramic Sky Lounge, the Bowers & Wilkins Sound system, rear seat entertainment and the cupholders that can be heated or cooled. 

As far as vehicle communication and control systems go, the X5 is arguably the leader. The new BMW Live Cockpit Professional system is fast, highly customisable and stunningly presented. There are multiple control options from voice activation to gesture control as well as the touchscreen, iDrive controller and the plethora of steering mounted buttons. I loved the fact that the X5 gives me all of these options. I for one, still love to press physical buttons and turn physical control wheels. Even the climate control and radio control panels are awash with buttons. Heads-Up Display? The best in the business. The BMW HUD is stunningly presented with clear and intuitive design and display, also customisable in terms of information you want available to you. 

The X5’s large dimensions ensure a cavernous interior space. Leg room, head room and luggage capacity is excellent though rear passengers do sit quite high in the back. The 40:20:40 split rear seats ensure flexible load options for the 645 – 1,860 litre boot. The best, class-defining feature about the X5 is its split rear load bin. I’ve always preferred this sort of boot lid design partly because loading is made easier but also because it gives you something to park your buttocks when the situation arises. 

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What is it like on the road?

Let’s just say that at no point in my. time with the X5 M50i did I think, mmm, I could use a bit more power here. Nope. Those 390kW and 750Nm unfurl smiles, tantalising you into exploiting it more and more. The 4.4-litre, twin turbo V8 is mated to an 8-speed torque converter Steptronic and it sends all this power to all 4 wheels, with the ability to send more power rearwards when you’re pressing on a bit. In this M50i variant, the xDrive system has an electronic differential lock too. Top end? 250km/h. 0 – 100km/h? BMW claims 4,3-seconds. 

For a car of this size and weight, the X5 M50i can dole out the performance charm in equal measure as its ability to play daily cruiser. On the trot, it has a very direct front end and even becomes a little tail happy when Sport settings are engaged and the opportunity presents itself. Yet, dial it down into ECO PRO or Comfort Mode settings and the X5 can potter around quietly, comfortably chase the horizon, climb pavements or ‘burbs’ shopping malls and load quite a fair bit of goodies afterwards. 

You’ll visit the pumps more often than not with the M50i. Our fuel figures were above 15l/100km the whole time. We could attribute that to the addictive performance and the V8 soundtrack but it is the most thirsty of all the X5 range, apart from the X5M of course. 


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Next: Owning
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Running costs and reliability

If you’re in the market for a car of this ilk, you have some excellent options beyond the X5 M50i. There’s a strong German component but you could also look into the Volvo XC90 T8 space. Pricing for the BMW X5 M50i however, is quite competitive in this space, particularly considering its power figures and lengthy credentials. It’s the most powerful sub-flagship of the lot. 

Of course, the options-list is lengthy too and can dial that price right up into Benz territory.

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Final thoughts

X5 has all the hallmarks of status-defining excellence. It bristles with technology, luxury, personalised design and in this case, immensely exciting performance. As the penultimate model in the overall X5 hierarchy and at a price point of R1 Million cheaper than the X5M, the M50i makes the most sense. 

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