BMW’S gone very incognito with its all-new X5, and that’s an understatement.
At the launch in Mozambique this week I very nearly boarded one of the crew’s smaller X3s, so anonymous is the new SUV’s styling.
Only when parked side-by-side with the outgoing model is it possible to really appreciate the newness here, and thankfully there was one on hand to make the comparison. The new one’s bigger in every measurement, though optical illusions make it seem smaller in the same way that vertical stripes will make a fat person seem skinnier.
The front end is more squinty and mean-looking with headlights that resemble those in other current BMW models such as the 3 Series, and the kidney grilles are now upright and aggressive instead of round and bulbous. Dead giveaways however, are the functional front wheel-arch gills, which BMW says create a drag-reducing curtain of air above the tyres before exiting through the side panels.
But the most noticeable changes have happened inside, where things are more sophisticated, more hi-tech, and more colourful. There’s a new three-colour ambient lighting system, the console-mounted iDrive controller has grown and now features an optional touchpad, and the instrument cluster gets a partial colour readout just as in the luxurious 7 Series.
A new 260mm display is perched atop a curvier dashboard and dominates the room like an oversized plasma unit in a small lounge. Here familiar controls for media, navigation and systems settings happen, but it now also gets a night-vision function and a 360 degree surround view parking aid among a long list of other snazzy new features.
BMW has updated the chassis with some handling enhancers.
These include an optional air-suspension system and a slew of abbreviated electronic physics cheats such as dynamic traction control (DTC), cornering brake control (CBC), dynamic brake control (DBC) and an automatic differential brake (ADB-X).
All this alphabet soup adds up to a sensational, but somewhat synthetic driving experience. The X5 is big by any standard and weighs in at more than two tons, but it hides its weight well when getting tossed around in corners.
It seems blasé about dramatic direction changes, and I’d like to give its fat 18 and 19” tyres (depending on model) credit, but I think its clever traction-finding computers are mostly in charge here.
Either way, it’s worthy of its nicely-balanced BMW heritage and is quite fun to drive with enthusiasm.
Our test route involved some mildly deep sand roads, which the X5 traversed without fuss, but in all fairness it’s never going to be an off-road enthusiast’s first pick, with far more capable rivals out there. I would tip it for faster laps around a racetrack than equivalent Range Rovers, though, if that counts for anything.
With the new X5 BMW has introduced two long-winded new model lines called Design Pure Experience and Design Pure Excellence. Experience gets flashes of stainless steel decor, mostly visible in the front end where it’s applied to grille surrounds and underbody skid plates, while the interior is finished in warm mocha and nut brown colours.
Excellence is the cooler, more modern option with more shiny black and chrome embellishers, and interior bits are done in white and grays.
For performance enthusiasts there are still plenty of Msport options and a dedicated model line to give the X5 a more aggro look.
Available now is a choice of three engines, all carried over from the previous X5 range but with more power and less thirst.
The 30d gets a three-litre straight-six turbodiesel with 190kW/560Nm and a claimed average consumption of 6.2 litres per 100km.
The 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 50i is rated at 330kW/650Nm, and drinks 10.5 litres per 100km.
The range-topping M50d with three turbos feeding a three-litre straight-six is credited with an incredible-for-its-size 280kW/740Nm. This model sips just 6.7 litres per 100km, says BMW, but not if driven with any enthusiasm.
BMW SA will also launch 35i and 40d models in April 2014, but says the more entry-level sDrive derivatives with new two-wheel-drive chassis won’t be sold in our market; X5s available locally will be equipped with xDrive all-wheel drive.
There’s also no word on a replacement for the bonkers X5M, but we’d guess there is one in the works. - Star Motoring
X5 35i – R769 900
X5 30d – R781 309
X5 40d – R886 014
X5 50i – R984 517
X5 M50d – R1 031 0848