2014 BMW X5 50i M Sport Review

Watch your back Cayenne, the new X5’s coming for you
By Imthishan Giado

2014 BMW X5 50i M Sport

Drive past the BMW showroom on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road and you’ll see a big sign declaring with unreserved bombast, “The Boss Is Back,” referring to this all-new X5.

A bold statement, but not without truth. Released all the way back in 1999, the first X5 was one of the very first mid-size luxury SUVs, BMW smartly realising that customers didn’t actually care about offroading. Taking the Range Rover ethos, Munich ditched all that heavy separate-chassis hardware in favour of a car-like monocoque and stuffing in big V8 engines which gave the X5 both great handling and power enough to sweep to the top of the field.

The second gen-car improved upon the styling but didn’t move the goalposts on enough. And the less said about the wallowy overpowered walrus that was the X5M, the better.  Perhaps that sign should read “Redemption?”

2014 BMW X5 50i M Sport

First impressions of the reborn F15 X5? From a styling standpoint you can see the old car, but one’s that had a filter marked ‘2013 Styling Trends’ applied to its flanks. Big wheels? Check. Creases? Check.  Long flat hood for pedestrian safety that very slightly upsets the looks? Check. But let me refuse cynicism. It’s a handsome piece of design, one that conveys that classical BMW sense of effortless solidity and fits in well with the current range. Slightly anonymous in the vein of current Beemers but premium? Absolutely.

2014 BMW X5 50i M Sport

Once you get inside, you’ll see where the majority of development dollars went. The X5’s new interior rivals the best in the class with excellent materials throughout, tactile switches and ultra-comfy seats. Take note, aspiring Japanese and Korean premium-car makers; this is what a premium cabin feels like. The most visible M Sport touch is the deliciously delicate three-spoke wheel and it’s one of the very best I’ve ever held; perfect size, ideal button placement and a pair of weighty paddles just a finger’s reach away. Oh, and the M-branded key fob is a thing of beauty: weight, beautifully built and a pleasure to hold. You won’t be able to stop fondling it…

If you’re looking for an X5 with all the toys, this is the one – and indeed, at AED440,000 for this 50i M Sport Adaptive Suspension model, you’d bloody well expect it be kitted out nicely. Of course there is all the electronics you’d expect like memory seats and the like, but there’s plenty of high end toys too like the excellent heads-up display. And can we take a moment to commend the latest version of iDrive? A cinch to operate one-handed, the latest version on this car features fully redrawn graphics and fully-animated transitions between screens; it’s a pleasure to operate (even though it never properly played Bluetooth audio from my phone…) When it starts up, it even shows a silhouette of Dubai with the Burj in the background! The kind of deft touch that shows how well BMW understands its customers and this region.

2014 BMW X5 50i M Sport

Shahzad raved about the X5 in his review. Drive this new X5 and you’ll understand why instantly; it’s a great steer. You want power? How about 444bhp from the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 and once those blowers spool up, you’re looking at 479lb ft of torque to punch you down the road like you’ve been shunted by a locomotive.

You really can drive this like a proper BMW – which is to say, punchily, aggressively and like a bit of a rascal! (No wonder Shahzad likes it). The steering is nicely weighted but like all electric setups, the feedback is as empty as the view from Sandra Bullock’s helmet in Gravity. Thanks to those phat 20-inch M wheels, the ride is a little on the stiff side and you’ll feel the weight of this 2-tonne SUV over every speed bump. Not unpleasant mind, just noticeable and at speed it settles down.

2014 BMW X5 50i M Sport

Grip is very good for something so voluminous and you quickly forget just how big this car is as you throw it around like a rally car into the bends where it hangs on really well. This particular X5 features Adaptive Suspension with the usual litany modes – Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, Sport Burj Al Arab etc. Honestly speaking, it’s more useful to spec that brilliant heads-up system and the big engine because this is a toy you won’t use more than once. In Sport Plus the ride is designed for a track that this car shouldn’t be on, while the engine locks out the top three gears to keep it in the powerband. Frantic, but not fun and not conceivably better than the base car pedalled by a good driver, one suspects.

2014 BMW X5 50i M Sport

Verdict
The original X5 was one of the first really expensive cars to catch my eye – it was such a tasteful design. They say BMW has lost their way of late with too many cars in too many niches but this X5 shows Bavaria’s brightest are back on track. I won’t say that it is to all tastes, but this car drives exactly how a BMW should, with practiced poise and sporty pretensions. I daresay it even surpasses the previous gen X5 M, though that isn’t very hard really.

Is it good enough to surpass the Range Rover Sport? No, that’s practically in a desirability class by itself. But this X5 can certainly put the frighteners on the new Cayenne, a car which until this moment had the ‘sporty SUV’ segment all to itself. No more, Stuttgart; BMW’s coming for you, and fast.

2014 BMW X5 50i M Sport Adaptive Suspension

Specs
Price: AED440,000 ($119k) Est
Engine: 4.4-litre V8 twin-turbo, 444bhp @ 5500rpm, 479lb ft @ 2000-4500pm
Performance: 0-100kph 5.0s, top speed 250kph, 10.5L/100km
Transmission: Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Weight: 2250kg

Note: Pictures of X5 50i, not M Sport Edition mentioned in text

 

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