In the latter part of 2018 Double Apex attended the international launch of the new generation BMW X5 in the USA. This week we spent some time piloting the BMW X5 M50d in and around our home city.

The BMW X5 is a firm South African favourite. Not only are there plenty of examples on our roads but the model also has an aspirational factor for many would-be buyers. If public reaction during our time behind the wheel of the BMW X5 M50d was anything to go by, the latest generation X5 is a sought-after vehicle.

Click here to read about the recently facelifted BMW X1.

Square-jaw good looks

It can’t be easy for designers to create a unique appearance for an SUV with its set stylistic structure. However, the team at BMW have done a great job. The fourth generation X5 is at once fresh and modern, yet still retains the hallmarks of its brand and its predecessors. Even if onlookers didn’t pick it as being the latest model, they still knew what it is.

In M50d guise the new X5 has an added level of style. A model-specific front bumper with sculpted intakes, massive (optional) 22-inch alloys wrapped in sportscar-esque 315/30 tyres on the rear, tinted rear windows and a hunkered down ride height lend it an air of sportiness. BMW owners, in particular, seemed to appreciate the M50d badging.

High-tech interior

Facing the driver is a digital instrument cluster that can be tailored to suit one’s taste. The entire cabin is laden with high-tech gadgets, most of which we are pretty sure owners will never use. We tried to access and test out most, but to get through it all will require a review period of much more than just a week.

When the new X5 was launched it was the very first model to feature the company’s 7.0 operating system, which has been rolled out with each subsequent model since. The touchscreen infotainment display can be configured to show the info you wish to see. Quick access tabs are listed down the edge of the screen for convenience.

Space aplenty

Space inside the cabin is cavernous. The front occupants are cossetted in electrically adjustable chairs, with optional massage function in this test unit – NICE! Thanks to a wheelbase that is nearly three metres and measuring over two metres in width, the X5 can accommodate three adults on the rear bench in comfort. Upholstery is of the soft leather variety on all seats; in our test unit it was a warm shade of mocha.

Serious pace

The M50d badge on its tail means that this X5 packs a mighty punch. An inline six-cylinder engine is fed by no fewer than four turbochargers to produce 294 kW of power. Peak torque is a mammoth 760 N.m and is produced in a plateau from 2 000 – 3 000 r/min. Drive is transferred to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

When we drove this model in the Atlanta we thought that it has more power than anyone should ever need in a vehicle of this size and ilk. We have not changed our thoughts on this having driven it locally. Near-on 300 kW is a LOT of power, and allied to that torque output it instills the BMW X5 M50d with sledgehammer-like performance.

Regardless of the driving situation, there is an abundance of grunt to be unleashed by the driver’s right foot. Mash the throttle and the multi-phased turbo set-up works seamlessly to slingshot you down the road. We found ourselves inadvertently breaching the speed limit more times than we care to admit after just tickling the gas pedal.

Ride and handling

Its straight-line performance is impressive but somehow the way in which it corners is even more eye-widening. This 2,3-ton behemoth grips and goes as though it is a hot hatch. There is oodles of mechanical grip from the Pirelli P-Zero footwear. We probably drove the BMW X5 M50d a little quicker than most drivers would and not once did the electronic safety net intervene.

Check out the new X5 in action on dirt in this video.

The trade-off for having those low profile tyres and good looking alloys is a compromise in ride quality. When we experienced this model last year it was on pristine roads. Back here in SA the adaptive dampers are given plenty to do in an attempt to smooth out road surface blemishes. If you are an enthusiastic driver this will be a small price to pay for the benefit of the extra grip.


When BMW launched its contender for the large SUV class twenty years ago, it introduced the acronym SAV, for sports activity vehicle. The brand was keen to distance its products from the ‘utility’ aspect of these high-riding alternatives to passenger cars. After experiencing the X5 it made sense to adopt this new moniker and this wasn’t a mud-plugger as we knew it.

With over 2,2 million units sold worldwide, before this new generation was launched, proved that the market was hungry for an ‘SAV’. The sporting prowess that we had come to expect of BMW’s sedans had been faithfully transferred into a new type of vehicle. The BMW X5 M50d is a perfect example of this transfer of characteristics. It’s a truly impressive machine that has been created and honed by people who place performance high on their wish list.

Model: BMW X5 M50d

Price: R1 502 581,50

Engine: 3,0-litre quad-turbocharged inline six

Transmission: eight-speed auto, AWD

Max power: 294 kW

Max torque: 760 N.m

Top speed: 250 km/h

0-100 km/h: 5,2 sec

Fuel consumption: 6,8 L/100 km