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Road Test

BMW X5 M50d driven

Driven April 2014

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Say it slowly: BMW X5 M50d. Bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? But those 10 syllables add up to the punchiest X5 you can buy until another full-blown M version inevitably arrives in the regenerated range. But the name, in all its glory, is a slight misnomer. Decoded, it simply means this X5 has a 3.0-litre, straight-six diesel… with a triplet of turbos. Three!

The engine is mighty. There’s a healthy glug of torque whenever you need it – 545lbft, accessed through a slick eight-speed auto. But we’re used to that sort of shove from big diesels. What’s unusual here is the X5’s willingness to keep revving as one turbo tag-teams another, and another. Before you know it, you’ve smashed 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds.

Then you get to a corner and turn the wheel, which is now hooked up through an electrically controlled rack. The concern is that these systems don’t provide as much feel as a good old hydraulic set-up. And, in this case, that’s entirely true. Because no matter how deliberately you turn, you’ll need another bite before you’re fully there. In Sport+ mode, the steering is more immediate, but you’ll need boxer’s wrists to guide it.

Perhaps such fussy steering should be expected when you consider the work going on beneath you. Our car had the Dynamic Adaptive package (£2,495), meaning active anti-roll bars and air suspension at the rear. And while they do help to keep the X5 level, they suffer like a mattress beneath a cumbersome rhino. Despite the ordeal, there’s plenty of grip, as physics receives its customary slap from the giant tyres.

A Porsche Cayenne, the M50’s main rival, feels less awkward. The Diesel S version might be 0.4sec slower to 62mph than the M50d – curious, as it’s lighter and torquier – but it does a better job of fighting the flab than the BMW. Where the Cayenne feels organic, the X5 feels synthetic.

Yet, while there are more sensible alternatives in the range, including a four-cylinder diesel powering only the rear wheels, it’s hard to overlook the M50d’s magnificent engine. Perhaps it’d feel better if you binned the active suspension and went for the standard steel springs. Despite the overly meaty steering, it might just be too hard to ignore…

Dan Read

2993cc, tri-turbo straight six, 4WD, 381bhp, 545lb ft  42.2mpg, 177g/km CO2, 0–62mph in 5.3secs, 155mph  2190kg  £63,175

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