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BMW X5 M50d

Click to view picture gallery“A new BMW is always something
  to savour, more so when it comes
  with the ‘X
factor as does the
  third-generation X5...


THE LATEST BMW X5 SUV or SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) as BMW calls it goes on sale in the UK from 16 November priced from 42,590 to 63,920. However, due to must-have options and equipment packs, in reality the on-the-road prices will be far higher.

Desirable add-on packs include the 2,760 Design Pure Experience, the 2,160 Design Pure Excellence and the 2,995 Dynamic Package, plus a very long list of single items such as adaptive dynamic suspension (2,495), Head-Up Display (995), Surround View (530) and a 7-seat option at 990. Options will on average add at least 10% to the price of the vehicle.

The X5 had been with us since 1999 with over 1.3 million sold worldwide — the UK averages about 5,500 a year. But at least 6,000 annual sales are forecast for this new generation model due to the introduction, for the first time, of new lower starter price versions with two- or four-wheel drive powered by a 218bhp four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel unit.

“At 63,715 plus options
(a whopping 13,115-
worth of them on my test
car), only around 5% of
UK buyers will go for this
381bhp 3.0-litre with its
three-stage single
turbo diesel V6.
..”
The xDrive all-wheel drive system used in the X5 is also now an option in some of BMW's saloon car ranges as well as their X1, X3 and X6 SAV models. One in five of all new BMW cars sold this year in the UK have been equipped with xDrive.

All X5s, apart from the least expensive 2WD version, have xDrive as standard; and all versions come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The 258bhp 30d version will remain the best-selling X5, accounting for over half of UK sales.

The niche-selling models will be the 381bhp M50d (just 5% of sales) and the only petrol version in the range, the 448bhp 50i V8 that will appeal to just 2% of customers. The remaining version, the 313bhp 40d will pick up around 23% of sales.

The prices for the new X5 come out at around 2,500 more than the outgoing model. However, the value of the added equipment, performance and technologies varies from just under 3,000 to over 4,400.

Because the more popular engined models don't arrive until close to the mid-November on-sale date, at the UK media launch (based at Goodwood House but covering the winding roads of Hampshire and West Sussex plus some Goodwood estate tracks and woodland) BMW dished up the X5 M50d flagship models to test.

At 63,715 plus options (a whopping 13,115-worth of them on my test car), only around 5% of UK buyers will go for this 381bhp 3.0-litre with its three-stage single turbocharger diesel V6 engine. Nonetheless, it's a good example of how BMW has increased power, improved fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions for all units in the third-generation range.

This engine is now 12% more efficient with fuel consumption improved by 4.5mpg to 42.2mpg in the Combined Cycle; CO2 emissions are down by 22g/km, to 177g/km. The lower emissions also knock down the road tax, which is reduced by 40, so now costs 335 in the first year and then 220 for the second year onwards.

“Power output is 381bhp
and that comes with
a massive 545lb ft
of torque from 2,000rpm.
The top speed
is restricted to 155mph
but from standstill it
takes just 5.3 seconds to
hit 62mph —
impressive for a vehicle
still weighing
almost 2.2-tonnes.
..”
Power output is, as stated, 381bhp and that comes with a massive 545lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm. The top speed is restricted to 155mph but from standstill it takes just 5.3 seconds to hit 62mph. Impressive for a vehicle still weighing almost 2.2-tonnes.

However, there are weight reductions and that's down to BMW's EfficientDynamics steel-aluminium-composite materials bodyshell construction, the new lightweight xDrive system, and aluminium suspension components.

For the record, my 100-mile road test drive returned a 29.4mpg fuel consumption figure, and this only reduced slightly after an hour's off-road test session. Not bad for 381bhp and four-wheel drive.

All new X5 models have an eight-speed auto 'box so the closely spaced ratios are engaged seamlessly and quickly. Drive to all wheels is through the new xDrive system — it's the only system, say BMW, that can deliver almost 100% of its driving torque to front or rear wheels as required to meet driving conditions both on- or off-road.

The X5 has always been a sharp handling 'executive' large SUV/SAV but with limited off-road capability. It doesn't, for example, come close to the off-road abilities of the new lightweight Range Rover or its Sport derivative. However, on-road it just about remains ahead of the agile new Range Rover Sport and easily out-performs the 'lofty' Range Rover, the big Audi Q7, as well as the 'also-rans' in this sector — the Mercedes M-Class and Porsche Cayenne.

The new X5's off-road capabilities have in fact improved over the years, and the new one is better again, but it's still no mud-plugger and, to be fair, it's not really aimed at that market.

Driving over the rough-stuff and forest/rally tracks around the Goodwood Estate it was sure-footed enough — the xDrive system with traction control is backed-up by descent control. This, more than anything, kept the X5 safely under control going up and down wet and muddy tracks at the low controlled speeds which produce most grip for the tyres.

Off-road, the X5's ground clearance and suspension travel are its most limiting features. On-road, the new X5 delivers sharp handling, improved steering responses, and is more or less free of body-roll. Given the size, weight and bulk of this vehicle, it still remains a very capable and easy to drive Sports Activity Vehicle.

“An ECO PRO function
allows the driver
to set the driving
response and
suspension settings,
ranging from Eco to
Sport+ modes.
..”
The most improvements are to be found inside the X5 where there's more specification and quality — it's now close to limousine standards and beautifully put together.

There are still lots of controls and switches to master, and these include a new all-round vision facility which not only gives front, rear and side pictures on the screen for off-road driving and on-road parking, but also an overhead parking view as well. This facility uses clever computer software to generate an overhead view using actual side/front/rear images merged with the vehicle's dimensions to get the bird's-eye view.

An ECO PRO function allows the driver to set the driving response and suspension settings, ranging from Eco to Sport+ modes. Comfort was, I found, the best mode overall as the ride can be very firm and choppy on poorer road surfaces, especially with the optional 20-inch alloy wheels fitted. Wind and road noise intrusion was also significant.

Rear seat legroom has not increased greatly so the X5 could not be called roomy — the optional sixth and seventh seats are for occasional use only. However, the load area remains large (650 to 1,870 litres) and the split rear tailgate does make the loading of heavy items easy.

No doubt then that the new X5 is better in all ways than its class-leading predecessors, but the competition, in terms of the new Range Rover Sport, has got closer in areas of on-road handling performance, quality, refinement and driver support technologies. Throw in off-road abilities and it's the Range Rover Sport that's the sector's most 'rounded' vehicle. —
David Miles

BMW X5 M50d | 63,715
Top speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.3 seconds | Average Test MPG: 29.4mpg
Power: 318bhp | Torque: 545lb ft | CO2 177g/km