The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.
The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.

ROAD TEST: BMW X5 M50d proves quite the ensemble

THINK quartet and serene imagery of a harp-led string arrangement surface. Not in BMW's new X5.

Brutish power is generated from four turbochargers force feeding a six-cylinder diesel which generates enough muscle to have gym junkies searching their bum-bags for additional supplements.

There's is nothing small or apologetic about the heavily chiselled large SUV. Not that the Bavarian marque will call their high-riders "sports utility vehicles” - oh no, they're "sports activity vehicles”.

While having off-road prowess these are primarily bitumen-going beasts. They're really too pretty to be bashing around the bush.

Especially the M50d variant, with a retail price just shy of $150,000 it's not something you'd be keen to have charging through saltbush or crossing gorges.

The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.
The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.

VALUE

Technological advancements have sky-rocketed in the prestige world, and the X5 is a beacon of meeting the rapidly changing market.

You can say "Hey BMW” to start voice activation, wave your hands, use the touch screen, twirl the central rotary dial or operate steering wheel controls to engage with the various on-board functions. Talk about options.

Just getting inside is as easy as tap and go. There's the BMW Connected app, which enables owners to unlock and start the car via their phone once in the charging tray.

BMW has maintained a similar style with all releases over the past decade, but the X5 has take a slightly new direction with an evolution of design.

Coming complimentary are 22-inch alloys, sports exhaust, four-zone aircon, laser headlights, panoramic sunroof, soft-close door function and a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo system. Wireless Apple CarPlay is free for the first year, but you can get a yearly subscription or pay $639 for the life of the car.

Servicing can be covered in a "basic” package for five years or 80,000km, the $2050 covers engine oil, filters, spark plugs and brake fluid - but doesn't include brake pads, discs or clutch...you have to upgrade to "plus” for the latter.

The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.
The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.

SAFETY

Awarded five-star safety, BMW was lauded for its autonomous emergency braking system which "scored close to full points across all test scenarios for the avoidance of pedestrians and cyclists in both daylight and night-time conditions”. It's ability comes courtesy of three windscreen mounted cameras which improve the depth of view for traffic signs, pedestrians and cyclists, aided by 12 ultrasonic sensors and five radar sensors.

Among the basic equipment is active cruise control with traffic sign recognition, head-up display and 360-degree view for parking.

It's also armed with Reversing Assistant which can take over steering to manoeuvre the vehicle along a path recently negotiated forward for a distance of up to 80 metres.

The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.
The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.

DRIVING

Bigger in all directions compared to its predecessor, the X5 still feels fleet-footed.

The in-line six-cylinder diesel effortlessly hauls the big wagon from standstill to 100km/h in just over five seconds. Quick for a big fella.

Not only fast in a straight line, but it also possesses cornering prowess with four-wheel steering. The diesel flexes its muscle with ease as it nonchalantly pushes through the eight gears - but for fun it's best to make use to the steering wheel paddles and engage sport mode for exploring its ample ability.

Riding on 22-inch alloys and with stiff suspension, the trade-off for the twisty prowess are jolts over speed bumps and potholes.

The active lane assist and steering controls can often feel too intrusive and we turned them off for daily driving.

Average fuel consumption returned 8.9 litres for every 100km, which is reasonable given the X5's size and weight.

The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.
The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.

Some internal operations have become more cohesive and simpler to use, like the brilliant toggles for the aircon and fans, but central systems can be cumbersome. One colleague reported issues doing basic functions like changing radio stations...we just thought he was being old and grumpy, but it often requires serious analysis to find the functionality you're after.

One area where BMW has excelled is the cargo capacity and its simplicity.

Loading items into the back of SUVs can be a frustrating chore. This is one of the best systems: there is a two piece tailgate which comes in handy if you are loading on an incline, while the back seats fold with ease using the boot handles.

The retractable parcel shelf is easily removed and we managed to load an adult size bike in the back within seconds.

The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.
The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.

HEAD SAYS

While I like the idea of heading off-road, the only stars I want to sleep under are five. This is a refined road-goer with ample room, plus its an SUV (sorry, SAV) which drives like a car.

HEART SAYS

Real estate agents may have started the trend, but the big new grille and the propeller badge take me one rung above the Joneses.

The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.
The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.

ALTERNATIVES

MERCEDES GLE

Arriving mid-year, it boasts impressive dynamics and whisper-quiet ability to match its S-Class brethren. Pricing to be announced, with the M50d rival to be a 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo diesel 243kW/700Nm.

AUDI Q7 3.0 TDI FROM $106,900

Some optional boxes need to be ticked to come close to the BMW's specification list although the tech is starting to age. Powered by a 200kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 diesel with impressive straight-line performance and solid cornering ability.

The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.
The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.

AT A GLANCE

BMW X5 M50d

PRICE $149,900 plus on-roads (exclusive territory)

WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 years/unlim km, $2050 for 5 years/80,000km (reasonable)

ENGINE 3.0-litre 6-cyl quad-turbo diesel; 294kW/760Nm (pure muscle)

SAFETY 5 stars, AEB, adaptive cruise, active blind spot and lane keep assist, 360 degree cameras, reversing assistant (excellent)

THIRST 7.5 L/100km (8.9 on test, OK)

SPARE Space-saver (not great)

CARGO 645-1860 litres (excellent)

The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.
The range-topping BMW X5 M50d.