The new BMW X5 is here, and this is why you should care
Now in its fifth generation, the X5 proves once again why it is the best premium SUV on the market.
Here's a little history lesson on the X5. Not interested? Skip to the next page. If you're still here then this is how history served it. The story of the X5 begins in 1994, when BMW acquired Land Rover. Yes, that actually did happen. This took place in 1994 and was crucial to the development of the X5. BMW were able to borrow and repurpose Range Rover technology and parts in the development of the X5, in fact most of the X5 was influenced by the Range Rover. Not convinced? Next time you see the back of an E53, pictured above, the two-piece tailgate in the back was taken straight from the Range Rover. Besides this and typical of a new car being developed, many parts and electronics were borrowed from the E39 5 Series. In its development, BMW made it clear that this was not a SUV like the Range Rover, but an SAV and because of Sheer Driving Pleasure, even though the X5 was an all-wheel drive vehicle, BMW chose from the get go to send 62% of the engine's torque to the rear wheels, making it feel as close as possible to the company's rear-wheel drive sedans. You have to love German precision, not 60% but 62. The E53 went on sale in 1999.
After an incredible 7 years on market, the X5 received its second generation form called the E70. An interesting year for BMW as this car was made with the then controversial X6. With a whole list of upgrades received including becoming bigger, wider and longer, the second generation X5 was introduced with BMW's iDrive system, LED taillamps, head-up display HUD, active steering, active damping, and Dynamic Drive which uses the active anti-roll bars which actively counteracts body roll. With this the X5 has a rollover risk of 17.4%. The X5 was also introduced with third row seating. Interestingly enough, during the Volkswagen emissions violations and so called "Diesel Gate" scandal, an X5 diesel was used as an example of a compliant vehicle with regard to emissions and CO2 compliance.
Arriving in 2013, the X5 had a good formula going. It predecessor did well and heading into new form the car only grew by 5 mm wider, 26 mm longer and only lower by 14 mm. Most improvements came in the form of technology. The F15 dropped 90kg, became more powerful and economical in its engine variants and and for the first time introduced a plug-in hybrid version along with the i8 which shared similar technologies with it.
The All New X5 (G05)
So why is this car so important? Well it has become one of BMW's best selling vehicles to date. The first generation sold 617, 029 units, the E70 sold 728, 640 units and the last model, the F15 sold 759, 894 units. Now why am I telling you this and why does it matter? Well if you build a car and it has sold 2.1 million times since inception, chances are it is not rubbish at all and in modern times, popularity is good. So then, the new one, whats new? We can start with the elephant in the room, the front grill. It is massive and the only thing you will notice first. Straight from the X7 this gives the car a whole lot of attitude but also helps the car in more ways than you think. First seen in the 7 Series, those are active kidney grills. When the car is hot and needs cooling they open and fresh air is sent to the radiators and engine, but for efficiency and fuel save they close so that airflow is streamlined over the body of the car. Clever.
Traditional Looks, Subtle Changes.
Following suit of the X3, X4 and various other BMW models sharing the same G platform, the X5 like generations past has been subtly upgraded. At a glance the changes are not as dramatic. The front receives cleaner and sportier air-dams to support the new grill. The side profile becomes tapered and leaner while the rear of the car receives the biggest change. Now boasting rectangular shaped LED brake lights that wrap all the way to the side of the car, the rear too has become less clustered and classier. Paired with polished exhaust boxes to hide the exhaust pipes, the package becomes well received as the rear boot is now a split tail gate. It's also worth noting now that X5 is a big car, compared to its predecessor, it is now 4.9 metres long, 2 metres wide and 1.75 metres tall.
In South Africa only two engine variants will be on offer and rightly so. The 30d and M50d only. The petrol variants in the from of a 40i and 50i aren't useful in todays time at all. While providing a great soundtrack and incredible power, I somehow feel it would be useless in a car like this and saved rather for the future X5M model. My reasoning? Beside eating fuel, it's a cruiser and will most likely be used on school runs, family trips and light off roading where torque, economy and minimal effort is required. The M50d is a 3 litre quad turbo straight six diesel which is sublime but overkill, I feel it's BMW telling us that a diesel car should not be boring and slow. It delivers 294kW and 760Nm of torque and will sprint to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds. Don't forget this car weighs in total 2, 286kg. Yikes. My pick of the bunch is the buttery smooth and amply powered 30d, which uses the same engine as the 50d but has 195kW and 620Nm of torque. In my honest opinion, these cars thrive on torque so the 30d is more than enough.
The Money Question, What Is Standard?
Standard equipment includes LED headlights, electronically controlled dampers, electric and heated sports seats, and two 12.3-inch displays for the instrument panel and iDrive system. The new X5 models is also available with laser headlights, heated and cooled cupholders, a panoramic sunroof with LED patterns and a new Digital Key system. xLine and M Sport packages are also offered alongside the standard trim and feature different body styling and exclusive exterior paint colours and interiors. xLine models feature 19-inch alloy wheels with aluminium exterior trim, while M Sport models feature 20-inch alloy wheels with high-gloss trim. xLine and M Sport packages are also offered alongside the standard trim and feature different body styling and exclusive exterior paint colours and upholstery choices. xLine models feature 19-inch alloy wheels with aluminium exterior trim, while M Sport models feature 20-inch alloy wheels with high-gloss trim.
I'll Spend Most of My Time Inside, Show Me That Instead...
Clean, subtle and pretty. These are the words I found people using when seeing the inside. The much improved and classier interior of the new X5 brings it back up to par if not better to its rivals. The instrument displays are digital and flow nicely to the centre console touch screen. The thick and much loved steering in M-Sport adds a slimmer touch than standard form the seats are great and provide an ideal driving position and there is a great feel to the way the usual controls work around you. This coupled with ambient light features and brushed aluminium finishes provide a much needed upgrade from the dying interiors of BMW past. The controversial and instagram friendly crystal gear knob is a nice touch but wont be a choice for many. As for the third row of seats, don't tick them if you are over 6 feet tall. For a medium size person or children it may be perfect, but for a family, it may well be a nice to have.
What's It Like To Drive?
The new X5 always seems to impress upon each new model. As the competition gap has become smaller and smaller, the X5 has a lot to live up to considering its rich and successful history. On the road and thanks to new technologies the quality of ride is smooth, the tyre noise is minimal even with 20 inch rubber and low profile tyres, and the well insulated cabin keeps rattles and shakes at bay. This is all partly thanks to a five-link rear suspension which is also available with four-wheel steering and adjustable air suspension that can be raised or lowered by 40 mm. This translates turning, overtaking, city driving and long distances into a dream. The car glides through with acceleration and the entire body control is fantastic for a car over two tonnes and surprisingly entertaining in sport mode when rear seems to subtly come alive on the limit.
It is worth mentioning the amount of technology and driver aids now featured in the new X5. The new X5 is safer than ever helping you become a better driver to others. The stand feature by far is the steering assist. When activated in cruise control, radar systems in the car and out analyse the road and painted road lines and steer the car in the middle. Great for long distances to help with fatigue and concentration. The steering then moves gently left and right helping you drive better. While in cruise control it will brake if the car slows down in front of you and speed up again according to your set speed. You can take you hands off the steering, but only for a few seconds as it detects and works only when your hands are at 9 and 3. If you continue to not touch it, the car beeps with interval warnings then brings the car down to a standstill safely. Pretty neat and a great feature if owning the vehicle.
Can It Get Down And Dirty?
For the first time I can actually say yes, it can. SUV or SAV's these days have a bad reputation for not being that capable when the tarmac runs out. Can you blame them? If roughly 75% of your market never go off-roading then what is the point. It seems to make more sense if you think of it that way, but BMW have a rather great solution for the new model. Opting for the off-road pack includes a set of unique and customised settings for powertrain and dynamic stability control for various conditions, underbody protection so that parts underneath the car are protected from hard hits, scrapes and serious water, a different set of camera views that let you see all around the car for obstacles, rocks, ditches as well as. The cherry on top? The off-road pack paired with specially made General Grabber AT3 off-road tyres that were fitted to my 30d made the lesser road traveled a breeze. This can be ordered by customers via any BMW dealership.
Should You Buy One?
For 19 years BMW has built a strong and sturdy relationship with its X model and customers. It has had plenty of time to iron out the kinks and to get the foundations right, which it has. The X5 is now a desirable SUV and in standard form you wont need to spend a ton of money to get it looking the way you want it to. My pick and recommended buy is the xDrive30d M Sport. The powertrain on that paired to the silky smooth 8-speed ZF is all you need, and the interior is plush and comfortable and very acceptable even by todays internet standards. With it being brand new you can also be assured that this will age well and will be in your fleet for a long time until replacement. Pricing will be R1 194 296 for the xDrive30d, and R1 502 582 for the xDrive M50d.