In the grand scheme of anti-SUVism, it’s always the Land Rover Discoverys and Mercedes MLs that get all the stick. BMW’s equally sports-ute X5 seems to escape the hysteria – and that can’t just be because BMW insists it’s an ‘SAV’. It’s not an ‘SUV’:‘Activity’ plants ‘Utility’…
It’s almost as if the campaigners are secretly respectful of how the German maker has been able to build a vehicle that can both climb Kilimanjaro and clone a sports saloon’s sensations around a balls-out country road in Clydesdale. Even if you really, really dislike SUVs, driving an X5 would do more to help change your mind than anything else on the market could.
What a vehicle to replace, then. Which is why, on the launch, it was no surprise to see a very familiar-looking X5 in the car park. It is indeed allnew, but the profile is very much that of the current model. Walk closer, however, and a trick that BMW has recently learnt emerges: exquisite detailing. Yes, it’s still an X5, but it’s a successfully-modernised one. Previously dumpy features have been sharpened, the front end given bite, the profile is considerably more cohesive, and those previously ‘add-on’ wheelarches now blend more successfully with the rest of it. ‘Diode rod’ rear lights look fantastic, too.
The interior is a masterpiece. Who says cars built in the USA, no matter how expensive the brand, have to look plasticky? This interior is superblybuilt, brilliantly-detailed and instantly becomes the most luxurious and decadent in the sector. It looks good too, and details like the ‘touch sensitive’ buttons, for the ever-improving i-Drive, handling. The new model continues this trend. It’s perhaps a bit less involving, but more secure and composed in compensation – and the ride quality is a damn sight better to boot. It’s better-rounded than the old car, more able on the city streets where it will spend most of its time, rather than the country roads where it would like to be. It remains a vehicle about dynamics, though.
Drive it hard, and it proves taut, chuckable, accurate, crisp; it’s larger all-round, but still feels not unlike a sporty hatch through the bends. For a large SUV that can also off-road with much of the best of them, this is remarkable. Choose Adaptive Drive, with trick suspension and ‘active’ anti-roll bars, and it becomes even more impressive, with zero roll yet, amazingly, an even better ride on the straight bits. BMW has taken an already stodgefree vehicle and made it yet more reactive and linear. When you look at the tricks that its xDrive all-wheeldrive underpinnings can also pull when the going gets steep or slippy, as we have, you’ll understand what an achievement this is.
If you’ve been staring at the pictures, you’ll think that’s about it. Well, it isn’t. Look more closely, and you may just see an extra trick the new X5 pulls…seven seats. Yes, despite (intentionally) boasting a profile very similar to the old model, BMW has also been able to pack in two optional fold-flat rear seats into the boot as well. Fine for kids, manageable for adults on shortish journeys, they’re accessed via clever folding middle seats that can be folded even with a child seat in situ. Choose them, and you get selflevelling rear suspension too. They’re just an extra trick that this remarkable new model boasts in order to worry rivals. It’s more expensive, by around six per cent. But, as BMW points out, adjust this for spec (including the now-standard auto ’box), and this drops to a more manageable 2 per cent in directly comparable terms.
Despite being at the top end of mid-ranking SUV prices, that’s more than worth it for the improvements this new X5 boasts, though it’s worth noting that those extra folding rear seats are expected to cost around £1,000 more. But you can be sure retained values will be secure. Even the current model is still worth over half its list price after three years – pretty impressive for a seven-year-old vehicle on runout. It’s simply yet another area in which the new X5 will excel. It’s exactly the car we hoped for. It’s bigger, more practical and comfortable than the old model, with more luxury, innovation and seats, yet it’s just as good to drive. When it arrives in April, prepare to be impressed by the SUV that feels anything but utilitarian. This certainly will form the aspirational SUV that all the image-conscious want, but not everyone can afford!
Main rivals: Mercedes ML,Volkswagen Touareg,Volvo XC90
On sale: April 2007 // Price from: £40,085 //
- Price: £40,085
- Engine: 2,993cc, six-cylinder common-rail turbodiesel
- Max Power: 235PS at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 520Nm at 2,000-2,750rpm
- Combined Consumption:32.4mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 231g/km (G)
- 0-62mph: 8.3secs
- Max speed: 137mph
18-inch alloy wheels
Run-flat tyres with Tyre Puncture Warning System
Four electric windows
Six-speed automatic gearbox
Remote central locking
i-Drive with ‘favourite’ buttons
MP3-compatible CD player
Takes old X5’s driving dynamics, refines them, and improves the ride. Excellent diesel/auto combo, seven-seat option, bigger and more luxurious interior
Doesn’t look cheap on paper, loses the hot hatch interactivity of before, Adaptive Drive that gives it zero roll and a truly magnificent ride set to cost a lot extra