The M50i is the middle child of the BMW X5 range. Below it are the xDrive40i and xDrive50i, and above it you'll find the higher-performance X5 M and X5 M Competition. Does that make this M-tuned, V8-powered X5 the sweet spot of the range? Yes and no.
As a whole, the new X5 is a big improvement over its predecessor. It's longer, wider and taller than its forebear, meaning there's a lot more space inside. The kidney grille isn't obnoxiously big like it is on some of BMW's other products, and overall, the X5 looks muscular and rugged.
The M50i adds larger front air intakes for better cooling, different rocker panels, new bumpers and a rear spoiler. The standard wheels are 20 inches, but you can opt for 21s or even the 22s seen here, wrapped in staggered 275/35 front and 315/30 rear tires.
The sporty theme continues inside, with a thick-rimmed M steering wheel and special pedals. The brown-on-black color scheme of this test car isn't really my favorite, but the leather is soft, the fit and finish is great and the silver accent trim looks pretty cool.
Because of the new X5's wider stance, there's plenty of space for passengers in the first and second rows. BMW does offer the X5 with a small third row of seats, but you can't get that on the M50i -- it's only available on the I6-powered models. Without the third row, the X5 is plenty spacious, with 33.9 cubic feet of space behind the second row or 72.3 when all the seats are folded. Those numbers are competitive with the X5's key rival, the Mercedes-Benz GLE. That said, I wish the X5 had better storage solutions for smaller items inside the cabin -- even the center armrest bin is pretty tiny.
The star of the interior is BMW's infotainment system. A 12.3-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster is right in front of the driver, with a second 12.3-inch screen in the middle of the dash. The iDrive 7 software can be controlled by touch, but I find myself using the dial and buttons on the center console more. I think iDrive has too many menus and submenus, resulting in way too much driver distraction, but thankfully there are eight programmable hard buttons right below the screen, which can be set to your favorite or most-used features.
This M50i tester has the optional $4,550 Executive Package, which comes with both useful and frivolous tech. On the upside, the sweet surround-view camera give me a crisp, clear, 360-degree view of the car, and the Parking Assistant Plus tech allows for stress-free parallel parking. The downside to this package is BMW's gesture control tech, which is way more trouble than it's worth. Why spin my finger in front of the screen to turn up the volume when I could, you know, just turn up the volume?
A Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless charging are both standard on the M50i. Other charging methods include one USB-A port and a 12-volt outlet up front, a USB-C connection in the center console, and two more USB-C ports on the back of each front seat. Rear-seat passengers get another 12-volt outlet, and there's a third one in the cargo area, too.
There are plenty of standard driver-assistance aids, including blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, front and rear collision warning and cross-traffic alert. However, if you want the big guns, you'll have to shell out an extra $1,700 for the Driving Assistant Professional package, which adds Traffic Jam Assist tech that takes care of the braking, acceleration and most of the steering while you're on the highway. The system brings me to a complete stop and can wait for 30 seconds before the resume button needs a tap. This tech can also detect speed zone changes and keep the car within the legal limit. Automatic lane changing makes sure I'm not cutting anyone off and the X5 even applies a bit of steering force if the coast is clear.
A big reason to get the X5 M50i is its added power. A 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 puts out 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, and the M50i comes with M Sport brakes and an M Sport differential to get power to the right wheels for maximum performance. The Adaptive M suspension means this SUV can go from super stiff to totally cushy with the touch of a button.
The quick steering is precise and has a nice, hefty feel, and the eight-speed automatic transmission is a dream. The brakes are great, too, scrubbing off speed with ease and composure. And while there isn't a ton of body roll, this thing feels every one of its 5,260 pounds from behind the wheel. Yes, BMW says the X5 M50i will sprint to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, but on winding roads, it's not all that fun to drive aggressively.
It's expensive, too -- the M50i tested here costs roughly $97,000. Considering the M50i doesn't really move the performance needle all that much, you could save $6,000 and go with the xDrive50i, which has the same 4.4-liter V8, detuned to a still-respectable 456 hp and 479 lb-ft. But really, I still maintain the best X5 is the xDrive40i with its 3.0-liter turbo I6. It's more efficient, just as luxurious and doesn't try so hard to be the sports car it isn't.
The X5 M50i is a neat option for folks who might like a little more pep in their step. But since the X5's best attributes are actually its excellent luxury and tech, it doesn't really matter what's under the hood to get a fantastic BMW SUV.