I arrived at BMW Warwick expecting to collect an X5 40e and experience my first hybrid but to my surprise and that of my contact there Jon, the car had been replaced on the fleet with an M50d. Whilst I was intrigued by the hybrid car I would be lying if I said I was disappointed. The M50d is a car I have always wondered if it could be the ultimate daily driver. It looks good, subjective I know; has masses of space, plenty of performance whilst retaining diesel economy and is reported to be excellent to drive for an SUV. These were my expectations so how did the car stack up in reality?
The car for those who don’t know is a £78000 with options luxury large SUV in seven seat form with this car. Under the bonnet is a 3.0 litre straight six diesel engine with three turbo’s no less. The result is a car that has 375 bhp and a massive 575 lb/ft of torque which is enough to propel this 2.3 tonne car from 0-60 in 5.1 seconds and onto a limited top speed of 155mph.
Firstly, I couldn’t have ended up with a more beautiful spring day to test the car and decided to take it to the Vale of Belvoir to make the most of it. This meant I was straight into an hour long motorway drive which is and environment where this car excels. The car powers off of motorway slip roads and roundabouts up to the national limit with no fuss and the lack of sensation of speed on these types of road is alarming at times. The car is so stable and shelters you from noise and vibration so well that you could quite conceivably be travelling at license jeopardising speeds without realising. I made good use of the cruise control and averaged 31 mpg on the journey up which for a car this heavy and with this performance is admirable although this did drop to around 26mpg with more of a mix of driving conditions by the end of the day.
Initially, I felt somewhat underwhelmed by the performance. It wasn’t so much a lack of performance but the lack of sensation particularly on the type of roads travelled to get to my destination. What was not lacking and was without doubt my biggest surprise with this car was the noise it made. I’ve no doubt on the outside it was less impressive but from inside it sounded nothing like any diesel I have heard. It was more akin to a V8 petrol and whether it was synthetic or not I couldn’t tell and as such couldn’t have cared less. I may have had a different view had it obviously been a fake sound but it had me fooled and that was enough for my approval.
Away from the trunk roads and onto more narrow countryside roads and the first thing that hits you is the size of this car. It is enormous! It does however control its bulk remarkably well. In sport mode or sport plus the body is controlled and only really leans in the tightest of slow corners although prepare for some serious lean angles if you approach a roundabout briskly in comfort mode. On moderate or more sweeping corners the car handles excellently for something so large and allows you to press on with real confidence. The grip is unbreakable in the dry helped in no small part by the huge tyres fitted to the car with 285 section fronts and 325, yes 325 section rears wrapped thinly around 21 inch wheels. Mated to a four wheel drive system the car just grips and goes no matter how brutal you are with the throttle pedal.
The car seemed to be most at home however being driven at 8 tenths, driving briskly without really pushing on and beyond this the weight of the car did start to tell. Whilst being a brisk car on these kind of roads it never really felt as fast as the figures would suggest but then this is due to the qualities that make it such a relaxed cruiser which buyers of this type of car would likely prioritise over outright performance. The power delivery is not boosty in the slightest which isn’t what I expected with a tri-turbocharged diesel car and the throttle response was quick and gearshifts quick enough in manual or automatic modes.
The interior was typically BMW with high quality materials and logical layout and it was a comfortable car to spend time in although not massively more luxurious than the likes of the 440i I have tested before. For the ultimate in luxury travel you would likely prefer a 7 series. The cabin was very large and had plenty of space front and back although I never put the furthermost rear two seats up to see if things were as tight as other reviews have described. The boot is large and square and could hold several Labradors without issue. The folding split tailgate which can hold two large people with ease is a nice addition for those who like to let the dog have a run whilst resting your own legs at the same time. Lets face it, we’re two legs down on our canine friends!
So did it live up to my expectations? In part yes, it is a practical large family car with excellent performance credentials. It’s good to drive for a 2.3 tonne car and more economical than a petrol equivalent in a car of this size. Whether it is worthy of the M performance badge I’m not sure, it doesn’t feel focused enough and I would be interested to see how much more performance it has over the significantly cheaper 40d model which looks almost identical. It isn’t the ultimate family wagon that can become a sportscar when you’re on your own that I had hoped it would be but it is a rapid, practical car that is by no means shown up on a windy country road. If you are fortunate enough to have a two car garage this would make an excellent daily driver but I would feel a little disappointed if it were my only car on those days where you want a blast through the countryside. For a one car garage maybe the full X5M would offer you a better package providing you could afford the fuel bills or maybe even one of the slightly smaller SUV’s such as the X3 which has less weight to contend with. An interesting question I will look at more in a couple of days time when I will be spending the day with the new model of that very car.
Huge thanks to Rybrook BMW Warwick for the car. Contact them for your BMW needs.