BMW’s new-for-2020 X5 M50i model is nearly $23K cheaper and down 77 horsepower versus the full-bore X5 M, but we’re fine with settling for less in this case.
Explaining to your neighbor that the 2020 BMW X5 M50i you just bought isn’t the full-tilt X5 M SUV could be difficult. As BMW’s half-tilt M Performance model, it scores above the regular V-8–powered X5 xDrive50i, yet it’s not quite the fire-breathing range topper. But the X5 M50i’s V-8 still roars, its interior is sumptuous, and its buttoned-down chassis will satisfy the indulgent performance and luxury urges of all but the most discerning buyers. So, really, you don’t have anything to explain to your neighbor at all.
BMW‘s twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 comes in several states of tune in the X5. The M50i‘s version has 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, which is slightly more than in the lesser xDrive50i but well short of the X5 M, which for 2020 flexes up to 617 horses in Competition trim. We can’t really say the M50i left us wanting more power. Its scant 3.9-second zero-to-60-mph run and a quarter-mile pass in 12.4 seconds at 112 mph are impressive numbers for any 5336-pound behemoth. And they’re just a touch slower than those of the outgoing X5 M. (We’ve yet to test the new 2020 X5 M.)
The sensory experience of this V-8, however, is even better than its prodigious output. Throttle tip-in is progressive, and the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission executes smooth and perfectly timed upshifts as you dip into the seemingly endless supply of power. A throaty exhaust note provides just enough auditory excitement without going overboard with extraneous crackling and popping. Just don’t expect it to be that thrifty at the pump. The M50i averaged a mere 15 mpg while in our care and posted 20 mpg in our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test—2 mpg less than its EPA estimate.
A tall, upright seating position has been one of the X5’s traits since its first generation. That setup initially makes it a little disconcerting to hustle the M50i through a set of corners. But once you get used to the feeling of sitting on a barstool, the X5’s handling inspires confidence. There’s little body roll, and the steering is direct and precise—if a little heavy in its sportier drive settings. This Bimmer’s ride-and-handling balance is commendable in any of its available driving modes, which is a testament to its supple damper tuning and inherently good body control.
Riding on a staggered set of massive 22-inch Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires—sized 275/35R-22 in front and 315/30R-22 in back—our M50i test vehicle stopped and gripped impressively well for something this tall and hulking. While its solid 155-foot stop from 70 mph is comparable to the last X5 M we tested, its 0.90 g of grip around the skidpad trails that full-M model’s 0.98-g result by a considerable amount.
But combine the M50i’s performance and driving excellence with the X5’s practical and posh interior, and the $83,145 starting price tag can seem pretty reasonable. Our test vehicle featured several thousand dollars in option packages—including a $2600 handling package and a $4550 Executive package with comfort and convenience features—that resulted in an as-tested price of $97,445. While not cheap, that’s still nearly $10K less than what the new X5 M costs to start. Even your neighbor will understand that.