New X5 is the same only different
By: Denis Droppa in Vancouver, Canada
BMW’s new third-generation X5, which is set to arrive in South Africa early next year, looks similar enough to its predecessor that one might be tempted to call it merely a facelift. But there’s been a lot of tweaking and polishing under the bodyshell of the popular German Sports Activity Vehicle, which in its first two generations has sold over 1.3 million units.
The X5’s been an evolutionary process since the generation-one vehicle was launched in 1999, and again the implied message is that X5 customers don’t require a styling revolution to appreciate version three’s improved refinement, increased space, and enhanced power and fuel consumption.
Outside, the minor makeover includes a more vertical kidney grille and curvier L-shaped tail lights, for what Beemer describes as a more powerful and “alert” look. To make it more slippery through the air the vehicle has drag-reducing “air curtains” – a first on a BMW X model. These apertures guide inflowing air around the wheel arches, creating a curtain of air over the wheels before making a controlled escape through air breathers in the side panels.
Inside, the cabin’s grown in size and boot space has been upped to 650 litres, expandable to a huge 1870 litres with the three-way split-folding rear backrests lowered – respectively 30 litres and 120 litres more than the previous X5. As before an optional third row of seats turns the vehicle into a seven-seater.
Like the outside, the inner styling also hasn’t strayed from the familiar and existing X5 customers will find most of the controls right where they’re used to having them, all presented with the brand’s typically upmarket flair. A new feature is a large 10.25” multimedia display with optional navigation, linked to the iDrive operating system. Like Audi, the navigation now has handwriting recognition, and you can enter an address by scrawling it on the iDrive knob.
The new X5 features a new split two-part tailgate, the top section being electronically operated. For the first time, the tailgate can be opened and closed using the remote control and, at the touch of a button, from the driver’s seat.
The new X5 offers more individualisation options for the exterior and interior than before, including an M Sport package. Driving dynamics can also be personalised to taste thanks to a selection of active suspension packages. All except one version will come standard with the xDrive all-wheel-drive system, and in most derivatives this can be complemented by Dynamic, Comfort and Professional suspension packages. The Dynamic package includes active roll stabilisation for sportier handling, Comfort features air suspension at the rear axle and Dynamic Damper Control, while Professional combines the best of the two.
The standard-fitted Driving Experience Control offers Comfort, Sport, Sport + and Eco Pro modes, which affects the responses of the throttle, steering, transmission, and adaptive suspension (if fitted) to suit either fuel-saving or high-adrenalin driving.
Power comes from a range of familiar BMW engines, all of them paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a consumption-improving stop-start feature. At launch the X5 is offered with two existing BMW engines that have been tweaked to produce extra power: the 4.4-litre V8 petrol wielding 330kW/650Nm (badged the xDrive50i) and a 190kW/560Nm six-cylinder in-line diesel (X5 xDrive30d). There’s also a triple-turbo 3-litre turbodiesel X5 M50d producing an unchanged 280kW/740Nm.
The xDrive50i has a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of just 5 seconds with the X5 M50d not far behind on 5.3 secs, with top speeds in both models governed to 250km/h.
The line up will later expand to include the X5 xDrive35i, X5 xDrive40d, X5 xDrive25d, and the four-cylinder X5 sDrive25d which will be the first two-wheel-drive model in the nameplate’s 14-year history (although this version’s unlikely to make it to SA).
The X5’s always been in touch with its sporty side and this was as apparent as ever when I drove the new one through the mountain passes near Vancouver at the world media launch last week. Though I dislike the over-used term “car-like” handling when discussing SUVs, the big Beemer really does slice through curves with a light-footed agility that defies its size.
Both the xDrive50i and xDrive 30d had more than enough power to punch past the numerous motorhomes cruising this scenic part of Canada, and traction aplenty when scrabbling through tight turns. The list of safety features available in the X5 is longer than ever, and apart from the standard stability control and ABS brakes, also available are driver-assist systems that maintain a safe following distance, keep from wandering out of your lane, and Night Vision with human and animal detection.
The X5 isn’t intended for hardcore offroading but its elevated 209mm ground clearance and xDrive provide the means to tackle not-too-serious dirt. XDrive is an intelligent all-wheel-drive system which actively manages the drive power split between the front and rear wheels at all times.
Prices will be announced when the new third-generation X5 is launched here early next year. -Star Motoring