BMW breaks through
Until the X5, not many thought it could be done, writesGRAHAMSMITH
THE surge in popularity of the sports utility vehicle meant that every maker was eventually going to get involved in the fast-growing market segment.
It’s been the sales phenomenon of the new century, and the momentum does not look like slowing.
Four-wheel-drive wagons have long been popular for bush driving, but the development of electronics meant they can be refined for city use.
The BMW X5 was one of the first of the new-breed luxury SUVs and was received with rave reviews, even by those who doubted any manufacturer could build a heavy car with road manners.
THE SUV has been an attempt to blend bush freedom with town rules — taming of the old bush-basher and giving it the refinement to cope with town traffic.
BMW got close with the X5, not surprising given the sporting nature of the brand.
There’s no escaping the body roll and sway that came with the territory, but the 3.0-litre V6 model set a standard with a balance and responsiveness belying its mass and physical dimensions.
The X5 began life as a 4.4-litre V8 in 2000. It had double overhead camshafts and 32 valves and put out 210kW and 440Nm. It was joined a few months later by a 3.0-litre double-overhead-camshaft V6 that produced 170kW and 300Nm.
Finally, in 2002 they were joined by a 4.6-litre V8 that delivered 255kW and 480Nm.
All of that was directed through a five-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels as required.
The X5 handled slippery roads with ease, and stood up beyond the bitumen provided the going wasn’t too tough.
The X5 was equipped with everything that opened and shut, so you wouldn’t be left wanting for anything.
ON THE LOT
THE X5 doesn’t come cheap. It’s got a blue-and-white spinner badge on the bonnet, so it’s always going to have a high price on the sticker. Pay $ 38,000-$ 48,000 for a V6, $44,000-$62,000 for a small V8 and $68,000-$78,000 for a big-bore V8.
IN THE SHOP
EVEN BMWs break down on occasion, so don’t buy an X5 thinking you’ve got something that’s bulletproof. That said, they’re good with few flaws. If you need to do repairs, be prepared for a big bill for parts because they are expensive. Ensure your car has a good service record.
MASS will always win out when it comes to the crunch and the X5 is well endowed in that area. But it handles, steers and stops well, so it has good dynamic safety.
It also has all of the safety items you would expect. Look for an array of airbags on all sides.
AT THE PUMP
PUSHING a vehicle weighing about two tonnes around town isn’t cheap, so don’t expect miracles from the X5. The 3.0-litre V6 should return 11-13 litres for 100km, the V8s one or two more if you can control your right foot.
THE BOTTOM LINE
IF YOUR budget allows, the X5 sets the standard for luxury SUVs.
Bouncing the opposition: the BMW X5 broke all the SUV rules when it was released, and it’s still in a class of its own.