ROAD TEST: BMW X5 xDrive50i
Johannesburg - At a recent car launch on the Garden Route, we were informed by a car company executive that the company sells more than just cars.
What it does sell I’ll reveal when we get to test the car, but he did say that when you buy a German vehicle, you get precise Teutonic engineering. He was German and had worked for Mercedes-Benz, but was no longer in their employ.
What we have in the BMW X5 xDrive50i V8 twin turbo, then, is a case of extremely good German engineering – some of the best you could hope to find.
Although it’s now in its third generation, this is the first time I’ve spent some time with it on the road, and I can understand fully why more than a million of these cars have been sold.
When they were first introduced, I judged them not by looks or capability but by – how shall I put this diplomatically – the age-old “BMW drivers are prats” attitude.
Lest you lynch me for my predisposition towards BMW drivers and for talking from an ignorant point of view, let me say that I also owned one, a 325i Cabriolet – and it’s one of the best and most enjoyable cars I have driven.
That was a long time ago, but one thing that BMW has always been is a driver’s car. It’s no different in this twin turbo behemoth, which impressed the daylights out of two teenage boys when I stopped to visit a friend.
All they wanted to see was the hardware under the bonnet, but alas, as with most modern cars, it’s covered by a plastic shield that makes seeing all the good bits virtually impossible.
Still, the unseen numbers make for some pretty impressive reading. It pushes out 330kW, 650Nm of torque, gets to 100km/h in five seconds, is limited to 250km/h and is an absolute pleasure to drive.
Weighing in at almost 2.3 tons it’s no lightweight, but steering is responsive and light enough to get you through the twisties with ease. BMW claims a 0-100km/h time of five seconds, but it’s probably a bit more up at Reef altitudes. It isn’t exactly sluggish on pull-off, but it won’t drag the skin off your face either.
Once it gets going, the eight-speed gearbox gets the car up to speed so smoothly you would be forgiven for thinking that it was electric.
The meaty roar from the tail pipes ends those thoughts, although I would have liked a bit more thunder and disturbance from them, considering the size of the vehicle. It’s touted as using 10.4l/100km on a combined cycle, but in real-world driving it’s closer to 14.
This vehicle is as comfortable as a Donald Trump Manhattan penthouse, but with classy German finishes and every luxury a car can offer.
The comfort-adaptive suspension package means it glides over everything, and it’s made even better by BM’s xDrive, which manages the power split between the front and rear wheels constantly so you have as much power as possible on the road.
Typically, safety features abound. The collision warning system with braking function, which detects preceding vehicles and at speeds up to 60km/h also “sees” pedestrians, is a handy function.
It has lane departure warning, active cruise control with stop and go function, park assist, and traffic jam assist that at up to 40km/h controls the following distance and keeps the vehicle on track by providing active steering input.
The infotainment system is easy enough to use once you get the hang of it, but be mindful not to get too distracted when you climb in and try to wrap your head around the enormous amount of technology and many options at your fingertips.
Not everyone likes a big SUV, and that’s fine, but don’t be like me and jump too quickly to conclusions.
The X5 is a fine car in the best BMW tradition.
ROAD TEST: BMW X5 xDrive50i
Engine: 4.4-litre V8 turbopetrol
Gearbox: xxx-speed manual/automatic
Power: 330kW @ 5500-6000rpm
Torque: 650Nm @ 2000-4500rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 4.9 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 250km/h
Consumption (claimed): 9.6 litres per 100km
Price: R1 098 517
Maintenance plan: Five-year/100 000km
Infiniti QX70 5.0S Premium (287kW/500Nm) - R877 130
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 (344kW/624Nm) - R999 990
Range Rover Sport SCV6 (250kW/450Nm) - R1 141 974
Mercedes-Benz ML500 (300kW/600Nm) - R1 089 247
Porsche Cayenne GTS (309kW/515Nm) - R1 140 000