New BMW X5 first drive


BMW X5The third generation 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 and rising to £63,920. But in reality the on-the-road prices will be much higher due to must-have options and packs.



There is the £2,760 Design Pure Experience pack, the £2,160 Design Pure Excellence and £2,995 Dynamic Package add-ons, plus loads of single items such as adaptive dynamic suspension at £2,495, head-up display £995, surround view at £530 and a 7-seat option at £990. Options will on average add at least 10% to the price of the vehicle.


The X5 was first introduced in 1999 and over 1.3 million have been sold worldwide with the UK averaging around 5,500 units a year. But at least 6,000 annual sales are forecast for the new generation models due to the introduction for the first time of new lower starter price versions with two or four wheel drive and both powered by a 2.0-litre, four cylinder, 218hp diesel engine.


The UK is expected to be the fifth largest worldwide market but the second largest behind Germany for the new generation X5 which is still built in South Carolina, USA.


The BMW xDrive all wheel drive system used in the X5 is also now an option in some of their saloon car ranges and their X1, X3 and X6 SAV models. 20% of all new BMW cars sold this year in the UK have been equipped with xDrive.


Phil Winders, BMW UK’s product manager for large cars said at the UK motoring media press launch, the new X5 is more about evolution than a revolution. It’s bigger, bolder, and lighter with a much improved cabin. Other improvements include higher specification, significantly more fuel efficient Euro VI engines with lower CO2 emissions which reduce tax costs. Of course the lower priced additional 2.0-litre models will now put the X5 in the reach of more potential customers. He estimates that the new 2.0-litre 25d, 218hp turbodiesel 2/4WD models will account for 20% of all X5 UK sales but the 2WD variant will only appeal to 2% of buyers.


BMW X5All models apart from the least expensive 2WD version have xDrive as standard and all versions have an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. The 30d, 258hp version will remain the best selling X5 accounting for over half of UK sales. The niche selling versions will be the M50d 381hp model with 5% of sales and the only petrol version in the range, the 50i V8 448hp model, will appeal to just 2% of customers. The remaining version, the 40d, 313hp model will pick up around 23% of sales.


When it comes to levels of specification Winders said that in the UK the X5 is being offered with SE or M Sport specification plus the M50d M Performance model. Historically 80% of X5 customers choose the M Sport level and then add an average 10% to that price by including some of the huge range of options. Around 50% of customers will take up the additional two occasional seat option which costs £990.


On the subject of price Winders said that in reality the price increase for mainstream versions reflected the new technologies, new safety features and higher specification the latest X5s offered. The prices are around £2,500 more than the outgoing model but the value of the added equipment, performance and technologies varies from just under £3,000 to over £4,400. He added that traditionally 65% of X5 sales go to retail customers and the remainder to business users. Overall 80 to 90% of X5s are bought using some form of finance option such as a PCP, HP or leasing.


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 for us all drive as the more popular engined models arrive close to the mid November on-sale date. At £63,715 plus options, £13,115 worth of them in my test car’s case, only around 5% of UK buyers will go for this 3.0-litre, V6, 381hp, three stage single turbocharger diesel version. But it is 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 with CO2 emissions down by 22g/km, to 177g/km. With the lower emissions VED road tax is reduced by £40, costing £335 in the First Year rate and then £220 for the second year onwards. Company car drivers will see a 4% improvement in their Benefit-in-Kind tax which will be 30%. Power output is 381hp with a massive 545lb ft (740Nm) of torque from 2,000rpm boosted by a new three-phase turbocharger. The top speed is restricted to 155mph but the zero to 62mph acceleration time takes just 5.3 seconds. How impressive is that for a vehicle still weighing almost 2.2-tonnes? The weight reduction is 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.


As standard all new X5 models have an eight-speed automatic transmission so the closely space ratios are engaged seamlessly and quickly. Drive to all wheels is through the new xDrive system and it is the only system says BMW that can deliver almost 100% of its driving torque to front or rear wheels as required meeting driving conditions, 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 come close to the off-road abilities of the new lightweight Range Rover or its Sport derivative. But on-road it just about remains ahead of the agile new Range Rover Sport but easily out-performs the ‘lofty’ Range Rover, the bulbous Audi Q7 and 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 no mud-plugger and in fairness it’s not really aimed at that market.


Driving over the rough-stuff, hills, mounds and forest/rally tracks around the Goodwood Estate it was sure-footed enough with the xDrive system with traction control being backed-up by the descent control which is operated by the speed limiter within the cruise control function. This more than anything kept the BMW X5BMW X5vehicle safely under control going up and down wet/muddy tracks at a low controlled speed which produces most grip for the tyres. The ground clearance and suspension travel are the X5’s limiting features off-road. On-road the new X5 has sharp handling, improved steering response and is more or less body-roll free. Given the size, weight and bulk of this vehicle it still remains a very capable and easy to drive Sports Activity Vehicle.


Inside the X5 there are the most improvements in terms of more specification and quality. It is now close to limousine standards and beautifully put together. There are still lots of controls and switches to master. 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 an overhead parking view as well. This uses clever software in the computer to generate an overhead view using actual side/front/rear images merged with the vehicle’s dimensions to get the overhead view.


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


Rear seat legroom has not increased greatly so it could not be called roomy and the optional sixth/seven seats are only for occasional use. The load area remains large though and the split rear tailgate makes loading of heavy items easy.


In conclusion the new BMW 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. But throw in off-road abilities and the Range Rover Sport has become the sector’s most ‘rounded’ vehicle.


MILESTONES: BMW X5 M50d Sports Activity Vehicle. Price: £63,715. (As tested £76,830).
Engine/transmission: 3.0-litre, in-line, 6-cylinder, diesel with triple phase turbocharger, 8-speed auto with xDrive all wheel variable torque drive-train, 381hp, 545lb ft (740Nm) of torque from 2,000rpm. Performance: 155mph (restricted top speed) 0-62mph 5.3 seconds, 42.2mpg (29.4mpg on test), CO2 177g/km, VED road tax £335 First Year rate then £220 year two onwards, BIK company car tax 30%. Insurance group: tbc. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,886mm, W 1,938mm, H 1,762mm, boot/load space 650 to 1,870-litres, braked towing weight 3,500kg, 5-seats as standard with a 7-seat option. For: Improved in all ways, lower emissions and taxes, better fuel economy, even more performance, pricier but offset by the added standard specification, great interior design and quality, huge array of driver support technologies. 2.0-litre and 2WD models added. Against: Road and wind noise intrusion, firm and choppy ride, huge array of expensive options.  Miles Better News Agency

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