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THE CAR INDUSTRY HAS NEVER BEEN SLOW in introducing new designs and technologies to keep one step ahead of the competition. But now the race is really on to bring to market even more fuel efficient vehicles.

High taxation levels on gas-guzzling vehicles, and proposed — and quite draconian — future changes in emissions legislation that manufacturers will have to meet, together with pressure from the 'green' anti-car lobbyists, has forced the development and introduction of 'lean 'n' green' technology.

Take for instance BMW's large 4x4, the X5. The all-new X5 sports activity range was only introduced three months ago in April this year with 3.0-litre petrol and diesel and 4.8i petrol engine options.

But already BMW has announced that the best-selling 3.0d diesel unit will be changed in October this year — just seven months after the launch. The reason? There's now an even better one. This revised version of the 3.0-litre diesel engine has lower emissions, improved
fuel economy and better performance — all developed under BMW's EfficientDynamics programme. The X5's petrol engines are also uprated and another, even-more-powerful sports diesel engine has been intro-duced which is virtually as clean as the lesser power unit.

EfficientDynamics is the name given to BMW's programme for develop-ing more fuel efficient and cleaner engines but without any loss in performance. Their programme also includes fuel saving technologies for transmissions, lightweight composite bodypanels, lightweight alu-minium suspension systems and brake energy regeneration.

This technology is already in place with some models in their 1, 3 and
5 Series. Other manufacturers, such as DaimlerChrysler and VW/Audi, have similar programmes. For the Mercedes and smart brands it is BlueTec; at Volkswagen and Audi it is BlueMotion.

BMW says the revised six-cylinder 3.0d engine produces 214g/km of CO2 emissions — a drop of 17g/km. This puts it in firmly in Band F, saving owners 95 a year in Vehicle Excise Duty. More importantly,
the combined cycle fuel economy improves from 32.5mpg to 34.9mpg and acceleration is also improved, with zero to 62mph taking 8.1 seconds rather than 8.3. Power and torque outputs are unchanged. Similarly, the 3.0i and 4.8-litre petrol engines for the X5 are also improved for fuel economy and produce lower emissions.

Never standing still, BMW has also now introduced the world's most powerful 3.0-litre sd diesel engine option for the X5 in SE and M Sport specification. In this state of tune, the twin-turbocharged engine
has 286bhp with peak torque of 427lb ft from just 1,750rpm. Zero to 62mph is covered in 7.0 seconds and the top speed is 146mph.

This new engine has been introduced because BMW has been asked
by some X5 owners for an even greater level of performance. Fuel economy is still good — at a quoted 34.4mpg, with CO2 levels at 216g/km, which also gives a VED rating in Band F: the same as the new 3.0d. The price of the X5 3.0sd SE is 42,630, and 47,675 for the M Sport version.

It is very difficult to review a model which you know is going to have
a revised engine in a few months time, but my UK road test of the
all-new BMW X5 3.0d SE has been in my diary since the vehicle was launched in April. Priced at 40,120, this is the best selling model in
the line-up. The current X5 range starts at 39,540 and tops out at 53,440.

BMW sell around 8,000 X5s in the UK each year. First introduced in 1999, the refined 4x4 was not intended to be an out-and-out con-ventional executive specification off-roader — more a sports vehicle with impeccable on-road driving qualities, but with enough off-road performance to cope with light duties such as driving over fields and rough tracks.

Over 90 per cent of X5s sold are diesel models and mainly they are bought by independent business people or companies for use by their executives. It is not surprising, then, that 86 per cent of owners are male and aged 41-50 years old. Business use during the week and family recreational use at weekends tends to be the role of the X5. Contrary to public perception, only a third of X5s are used as school run cars says BMW.

Many of today's large 4x4s have seven seats. The original X5 didn't,
so one of the main improvements to the second generation vehicle was the introduction of optional (1,320) third row seating. BMW says this has brought more family buyers to the marque and is specified by one in four of all buyers.

Whilst on the subject of options, my test vehicle came with several more. These included adaptive drive, aluminium running boards, the Dynamics Package of 19-inch sports wheels, sports suspension, sports steering wheel, leather upholstery and so on; a Media Package con-sisting of a navigation system, Bluetooth and uprated CD changer and the third row seating option — all adding up to an extra 9,190.

The X5 is a technology masterpiece, hence its price. It has all the integrated driving systems you expect from a high-performance and expensive BMW saloon or estate. The permanent four-wheel xDrive system provides a variable torque split with a bias to the rear wheels and a 50:50 weight distribution for optimum on-road handling. Off
road, the system provides power to the wheel, or wheels, with the most grip. But bear in mind the X5 comes with high-performance, run-flat road-pattern tyres so serious mud-plugging — at least on these
— is out of the question.

All new X5s have a faster shifting six-speed automatic transmission as standard, operated by a small gear lever with top and side buttons and with illuminated indicators as to which mode is selected — clever stuff, once you get used to it. The vehicle also employs an electronic switch to operate the handbrake.

The dreaded BMW iDrive — the marque's integrated control system that operates everything from the sound system to the navigation system and covers a host of operating functions — is fitted to the X5 for the first time. The iDrive is now, thankfully, simpler. But it does
take a while to get used to it.

Inside, in addition to the third row seating option, the centre row is split 60:40 and can be folded down to provide a huge load area. With all second and third row seats folded, there is a massive 1,750 litres
of luggage or carrying space. With five seats in use, luggage space
is 620 litres and with seven seats in use the load area is 200 litres.

The X5 is big. But it is also nimble. This is definitely no 'Yank Tank'. Compared to the original X5, the new model is 187mm longer, 17mm wider, the wheelbase has been increased by 113mm and to lower the centre of gravity the front and rear tracks have been increased by 68mm and 74mm respectively.

Exterior styling changes include a larger kidney-shaped grille for im-proved cooling, sharper styling lines and L-shaped rear LED lights.
The load area is accessed through a lift-up tailgate, but with a lower drop-down section for ease of loading heavy items.

There as been a noticeable upgrading of the interior. The quality is much higher, the workmanship better and the overall ambience has been vastly improved. It now looks and feels every inch the executive car or 4x4.

The on-road ride and handling is superb. The ride is a little hard with the sports suspension, and this also makes the vehicle fidgety on poorer road surfaces. There is very little of the body roll normally found with virtually all large 4x4s. And the grip is immense, thanks to the four-wheel traction. The steering, too, is precise, and gives quality feedback to the driver.

The straight-six 3.0-litre common-rail diesel engine is a refined unit: quiet, smooth and, in its current form, still pretty fuel efficient. My test car returned an overall 29.7mpg — the official figure is 32.5mpg. Power output is 235bhp with 383lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm. Top speed is 134mph and 0-62mph is covered in 8.3 seconds.

What's not to like? As already mentioned, the ride can be firm over some surfaces. I personally found the protruding running boards made it difficult to get in and out of the vehicle, and the optional equipment is highly-priced — but then that's pretty much par for the course for
all the prestige brands.

However, there's much to like. Above all else, the X5 is without doubt the best handling large 4x4 on-road. You also get excellent build quality and refinement, on-going evolution (for example, the intro-duction of low-emission engines and other fuel saving technology). Plus you can have seven seats. It will, should you require it to, also tow
a braked 2,700kg load. So, in its second generation the X5 is a much better vehicle and with the additional changes coming on a regular basis it will — you can bank on it — just keep getting better still, albeit at stiffer prices. Cutting-edge technology does not come cheap. But then does anything ever that's really worthwhile? — David Miles

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BMW X5 3.0d SE | 40,120
Maximum speed: 134mph | 0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 29.7mpg | Power: 235bhp | Torque: 383lb ft

CO2 231g/km | VED Band G 300 | Insurance group 17
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