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BMW’s X5: Bigger and better

As athletic as ever – but with better focused off-road ability – BMW’s new X5 tends to represent the most compelling embodiment yet of the company’s familiar Sports Activity Vehicle blueprint. Wynter Murdoch reports

 

 

 

In keeping with its reputation for setting high standards in the upscale sector of the sports utility market, BMW’s fourth generation X5 impresses as a responsive, efficient and comfortable family tourer – a vehicle that makes journeying to a destination part of an extended adventure.

 

Whether traversing tar, gravel or off-road trails, the latest version rewards for its ability to convince as a luxuriously appointed jack of all trades – a solid, dependable, performance-styled vehicle that is agile and quick on tarmac or dirt roads, yet robust enough to tackle serious obstacles in the bush. 

 

 

 

Longer by 36mm than its predecessor, 66mm wider and 19mm taller – with its wheelbase stretched by 42mm – for the moment the model retains its status as flagship in BMW’s X line-up. However, the title is scheduled to pass later this year (2019) to the upcoming X7, which is bigger still.

 

In terms of design, the X5’s shape remains similar to that of previous generation models, though the larger proportions – emphasised by bigger wheels; new character lines that run along the flanks; and, at the front, horizontally configured, laser-light headlamps and a vast kidney grille – help to set it apart. In the eyes of chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk, the fourth generation model sends out the X5’s most powerful message yet in terms of presence and modernity.

 

 

 

Under the skin, the car has been significantly altered – not least through adoption of BMW’s new modular CLAR platform, which it shares with the 5-Series sedan – which has allowed more technology to be introduced to the vehicle’s make-up, including a range of semi-autonomous drive functions.

 

Underpinnings retain a double-wishbone set-up at the front and a five-link system at the rear, with Dynamic Damper Control using the car’s electronic brain to alter ride stiffness depending on drive mode.

 

Adaptive M suspension – which incorporates active roll stabilisers – or self-levelling air suspension are optional; along with rear-wheel steering that turns the back wheels in the opposite direction to those at the front at low speeds to tighten the turning circle, and in the same direction at higher speeds to improve cornering stability. 

 

All versions are equipped with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drivetrain which, as you would expect for a performance-orientated car, is rear wheel biased. However, the system feels slicker than before when splitting propulsion forces between axles and, to save fuel, it operates in two-wheel drive when the vehicle is coasting.

 

 

 

 

You can also get an electronically activated rear diff lock as part of an M Sport or Off Road package, the latter option providing special information displays as well as an exterior view camera; separate throttle, gearbox and ESC mapping; underbody protection plates and rugged Grabber tyres – made in South Africa by General Tire, part of the Continental family – which BMW recommends for off-road use. 

 

 

 

 

 

In terms of engine, two choices are available, each of them 3,0-litre, six-cylinder, turbocharged, diesel-fed plants. The xDrive30d utilises a variant that produces 195kW and 620Nm – the figures representing an additional 5kW and 60Nm over the previous generation’s equivalent.

 

According to BMW’s figures, the unit is capable of propelling the car – which weighs in the region of 2,2 tons – from zero to 100km/h in 6,5 seconds.  Fuel consumption is rated at 6,0 litres/100km in the combined cycle, thanks in part to an update to the company’s familiar, eight-speed Steptronic gearbox, which now features a revised set of gear ratios. The model’s top speed is listed as 230km/h.

 

The engine in the xDrive M50d features a new intake system that boasts four turbochargers – two of the blowers operating at high pressure and two at low, meaning there’s virtually no lag anywhere in the rev range. The plant produces 294kW and 760Nm – with nearly two thirds of the twist effort available from around 1 000 rpm, just slightly above idle speed.

 

The engine is said to be capable of moving the X5 from zero to 100km/h in 5,2 seconds – three tenths of a second faster than the time claimed for the xDrive40i, the 3,0-litre, petrol-driven model South Africa is likely to get later this year – yet return fuel consumption figures of 6,8 litres/100km in the combined cycle. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.

 

 

 

 

 

In terms of driver assistance systems, the each of the models offer a wide selection of standard features that use an array of sensors, cameras and radar systems – with inputs processed by BMW’s latest electronic brain – designed to enhance safety, among them forward-collision warning; low-speed automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Optional upgrades include autonomous drive features that allow the vehicle to steer itself through corners, change lanes, maintain a set following distance, operate independently in traffic jams and even park itself. 

 

Also, there’s a digital key that uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology that allows the car to be locked and unlocked from a smartphone. Once inside, the engine can be started if the ’phone is placed in the in-built, wireless charging tray. 

 

As far as the interior goes, the dashboard is dominated by two large screens, one mounted on the centre fascia and the other replacing traditional instruments behind the steering wheel. Dubbed Live Cockpit Professional, the screens can be programmed to display various information configurations – including navigation maps – according to driver needs, and can be supplemented by an optional head-up display.

 

 

 

 

The fascia-mounted screen can be accessed via BMW’s familiar iDrive rotary dial or by shortcut buttons, voice control or hand gestures. The system features latest connectivity technology and is reasonably easy to manage, with a virtual personal assistant available to respond to requests or queries. Another notable feature is a cluster of buttons that surround the iDrive dial to control driving modes as well as air suspension height and off-road settings.

 

 

 

Quality of materials throughout the cabin appears to be in the premium class, with leather and soft touch plastics dominating look and feel. Neat trim embellishments include a gear knob that looks to have been crafted from crystal. 

 

 

Front seats are comfortable and well bolstered, and can be had with a selection of massage functions. Ambient cabin lighting is also slick. Legroom at the rear is adequate even for long-limbed adults, though the back seats lack recline or slide functions. 

 

As before, the model is equipped with a two-piece, electrically powered tailgate, with the bottom section designed to fold down to create a table or bench when the vehicle is parked. Luggage capacity measures 645 litres with the rear seats in place – and 1 860 litres if they are folded flat.

 

For readers interested in the X5’s off-road credentials, BMW offers the following: Approach angle, 25,2°; departure angle 22,3°; break-over angle 20,2°; ground clearance 214mm; wading depth 500mm.

 

 

Though still perceived as a performance-based, road-biased adventure wagon, in my view the X5 is under rated as an off-roader. Equipped with Grabber rubber, its ability to get through thick sand or mud, or up or down slippery inclines, has been improved considerably.

 

Overall, the new engines appear quieter and punchier than the predecessors, yet more frugal, while the interior has higher quality surfaces and new infotainment technology interfaces, with driving aids more advanced. As athletic as ever, in my view the latest model tends to represent the most compelling embodiment yet of BMW’s familiar Sports Activity Vehicle blueprint.

 

PRICES

xDrive 30d        R1 186 200 

xDrive M Sport 30d    R1 245 100 

xDrive Off-Road 30d    R1 245 450

xDrive M50d        R1 493 600

 

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