The German giant’s incarnation of the X5 series proves to be the closest you’ll get to a perfect SUV.
The recipe for an SUV is fairly simple: you throw in between five or seven seats into a tall-body platform with a boxy frame, and cram in a frugal motor somewhere.
While there’s a plethora of manufacturers that put in that level of insipid engineering to keep up with the ever-growing demand, the BMW X5 sits as anything but that – no, really!
In fact, the X5 has stuck by as the embodiment of the long-lost term SUV, thereby fighting a lonesome battle to honour the full-form of the acronym that goes: ‘sports utility vehicle’.
There’s little wonder then that it has always stood as the benchmark in its segment – one that offers luxury credentials with supreme levels of engineering and oodles of driving feel to keep things more in line with the brand’s vision.
This means that for the most part, the all-new factory-fresh X5 dons an attire akin to its predecessor. But, look closely and you’ll realise that the subtle changes give way to more perceptible ones – some that are so well disguised that you’ll need to be a bit pedantic to notice them, if at all.
The most obvious change lies in the fascia with the large kidney grilles, which are without a doubt the most adventurous we’ve seen Bimmer designers get of late. It all paves way for functionality, though, as the grille houses vents open and close to aid cooling, shutting away to keep the aerodynamic quotient high when hypermiling.
Aside from that, the ‘BMW Laser’ laden lights are housed in the traditional but relatively refined X5 headlamps and a completely-redesigned front bumper that has outrageously large intakes – unique to our xDrive50i tester – which we love. Still, with an approach angle of 25.2-degrees and ground clearance of 8.425 inches, it remains a respectable off-roader.
Then there’s the side profile, which may be reminiscent of the outgoing model but there are changes afoot. The most obvious of these is the beltline, which now sits flush with the rear door thereby giving the rear section a whole new look. There’s also a sharp character line that now kicks up from the rear door and runs through to the C-pillars to render the mirage of a shorter SUV.
Meanwhile, the posterior is where all the changes take shape. So, you now get new sets of tail lamps and a tall tailgate to complement the dual chrome-tipped exhausts that hide the loud quad bangers. On the upside, BMW still maintains the power-operated split-folding tailgate that provides added functionality; posing as anything from a seat to a bumper protector when loading heavy goods.
As upscale and well-built the interior of its predecessor was, the new X5 takes up that winning formula and improves it. This means you now get a plush cabin that’s dressed from head to toe in high-quality leather and soft-touch fabrics and similar plastics.
It’s also a tech fiesta with enough gizmos to make even a millennial feel outdated. And taking the centrestage from the tech front are the 12.3-inch screens – the largest screens ever fitted to a Bimmer.
The primary one is a touchscreen unit that takes care of the entertainment functions, navigation, owner’s manual and the performance apps for when you’re in the mood for some corner bashing on a racetrack. The latter displays the instrument cluster with integrated maps and a handful of other functions.
What we did test, though, was the BMW Gesture Controls, which allows users to control the volume and track functions by simply making hand gestures in front of the screen. It’s a gimmick, yes, but also a conversation starter when you’re out with your friends.
Other features include a Bowers and Wilkins Diamond 3D Audio system with 20 speakers and 1,500 Watts of thumping power, an ambient air system with eight scents, heated and cooled cup holders, wireless phone charging, and a six-colour ambient lighting system with welcome lighting. Cabin space is up there with the best in the class, with plenty of leg and head room for five passengers and just enough power outlets to keep each passenger’s smartphone charged.
There’s not much talk about passenger volume but it’s clear that the X5 has grown, with nearly an inch of leg room upfront and double that in the rear. Even cargo space is impressive with its 646 litres capacity that can hold four full-size suitcases and six smaller bags at a go.Functionality, check. Technology, check. Design, check. With all that out of the way, let’s delve into the heart and soul of the X5 – the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 motor that’s coupled with an eight-speed ‘Steptronic’ transmission that then channels all the 462 ponies and 650Nms of torque to all four wheels.
In true BMW fashion, the engine redlines past the 6,000rpm mark, with just about enough power kept in the high ranges to keep the transmission enthused to hold gears. It’s a phenomenal (and truly tried-and-tested) engine with a good decade or so of life in it with BMW.
The results speak for itself too: nought to 100kph flirts between the 4.5 and 5 seconds’ mark and it’ll continue to roar on – albeit, with an almost gentle V8 burble when pitted against the ‘Muricans or even competitors from the German pool – to an eye-watering 250kph (or more if the limiter is taken away).
All this savagery can be put down to the sheer torque that kicks in at just a smidgen past the 2,000rpm mark.
It’s hard to pin down what makes the BMW X5 a machine that exudes sheer driving pleasure – but it certainly has something to do with the forgiving chassis and how the air shocks can adapt to road undulations in (nearly) physics bending ways… at least in ‘Dynamic’ mode, when all the systems are at its sharpest.
This also allows the SUV to attack corners with ease. It’s not as precise as, say, its more athletic variant – the X5M – but we found it outdid everything else from the German stables that compete with this ‘M-Sport’ variant.
Perhaps it’s the staggered 275/30 and 315/30 rubber the 22-inch rims wear – but the grip on offer is beyond belief. It’s almost like a child holding on to their mother in a crowded mall; the grip never seems to run out.
Steering feel from the electric system is virtually non-existent but there’s an eagerness to the way it corners. Meanwhile, the large brakes inspire confidence even in the meekest of drivers, and the force applied is linear when compared with an SUV offering from Asia or the USA.
Like a greatest hits cassette waiting to unfold before you, the all-new BMW X5 pays homage to its past as it leaves behind its shortcomings from yesteryear and brings forth a fusion of what has always made this SUV a leader in its class: the drive and refinement.
The X5 always been the market leader – and this fourth-generation version of the SUV only asserts this further. It’s the closest we’ll ever get to a perfect SUV.
• Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8
• Transmission: eight-speed automatic
• Power: 462hp
• Torque: 650Nms
• Top Speed: 250kph
• Four-wheel drive
• 12.3-inch touchscreen and instrument cluster
• BMW Gesture Controls
• 20-speaker Bowers and Wilkins Audio system
• Lane-Keeping Assist
• Electric power steering
• 22-inch alloy wheels
• Panoramic sunroof
• Ambient mood lighting
• Swarovski crystals
• BMW Laserlight
• Semi-autonomous driving