Power that sticks

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

THE X5 was first in­tro­duced in 1999, a year af­ter the Mercedes M-se­ries and be­came the first sports ac­tiv­ity ve­hi­cle or SAV.

This brand­ing was used rather than sports util­ity ve­hi­cle or SUV, to em­pha­sise the car’s on-road abil­ity, de­spite its size. The X5 also her­alded the ar­rival of the cross­over from light, truck-based body-on-frame SUVs to a uni­body chas­sis, which the X5 shares with the BMW 5-Se­ries.

The sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion X5 ar­rived in 2006 and had a torque-split X-Drive mated to an auto trans­mis­sion. In 2009, the X5M per­for­mance model joined the range and was launched in 2010. The cur­rent model is the third gen­er­a­tion, in­tro­duced in 2013. The ve­hi­cle is due for an up­grade next year but, since its in­tro­duc­tion in 1999, it has been a best­seller and in South Africa — the SAV to beat.

To date some 169 000 X5s have been sold in­ter­na­tion­ally, of which about 55 000 have been sold in the USA and we thank Alan Neave at SMG for lend­ing us a test model.


The South African mar­ket is one driven by badge sta­tus and de­sign, and the third-gen­er­a­tion X5 meets these cri­te­ria.

At the front, the car is butch with its typ­i­cal BMW split kid­ney grille flanked by wrap-around head­light pods and two fog lights po­si­tioned lower down, with fur­ther lower grille and side grilles below the num­ber plate.

The X5 is a great deal more svelte than the pre­vi­ous model, with a smooth de­sign pro­file and side rib­bing at door han­dle level, which un­der­lines its de­sign pro­file.

The rear split tail­gate al­lows for easy load­ing and is au­to­mat­i­cally op­er­ated, while the wrap-around tail lights con­tain two high-per­for­mance LED el­e­ments, which add to the dis­tinc­tive na­ture of the rear end, as well as pro­mot­ing safety.

The ve­hi­cle is fin­ished off with light al­loy V-spoke wheels with se­ri­ous 20-inch rub­ber.


Thomas Alva Edi­son, the in­ven­tor of the light bulb, once said that “… even­tu­ally ev­ery­thing will be elec­tric”.

That is cer­tainly true of the X5 in­te­rior. Just about ev­ery­thing is elec­tri­cally ad­justable — the seats, steer­ing, air con­di­tion­ing, ex­ter­nal mir­rors, au­dio and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem, as well as con­nected drive.

The only thing left to the driver is to raise the two rear seats, which turns this lux­u­ri­ous limou­sine into a seven seater.

Should you have a lit­tle money left over af­ter pay­ing for the X5, you can add tele­vi­sion screens for rear-seat passengers to watch in case they get bored with your con­ver­sa­tion.

The in­te­rior qual­ity is su­perb and the feel­ing of spa­cious­ness and com­fort pro­jected by the soft leather and wood fin­ishes in­te­grated in terms of ex­cel­lent de­sign into a quite re­mark­able tech­ni­cal pack­age, re­minded me once again why this car is still the bench­mark in its class.

The dash is in­tel­li­gently de­signed and eas­ily use­able, with dig­i­tal speed dial and rev counter. On com­mand the rev counter be­comes the op­er­a­tional base for a range of tech­ni­cal as­pects of the ve­hi­cle’s con­nec­tiv­ity base.

This gives you In­ter­net ac­cess, Blue­tooth Of­fice and the abil­ity to cre­ate your own ra­dio pro­gramme. Of course, the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is also com­fort­able and en­joy­able, as well as be­ing ad­justable to your needs.

The rear seats can be folded in 40:20:40 fashion and when folded down you have 1 870 litres of pack­ing space. If this is in­suf­fi­cient, the chromed roof rails will take a spe­cially de­signed box for the re­main­der of your fam­ily’s hol­i­day clob­ber.

Safety and se­cu­rity

The X5 has all of the ba­sic safety re­quire­ments, like a five-star Euro NCap rat­ing and a great deal more be­sides. The usual ABS with EBD is com­bined with the likes of park as­sist, sur­round-view rear-view cam­era, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, cam­er­abased ap­proach warn­ing and lane change warn­ing.

Ad­di­tions like dy­namic sta­bil­ity con­trol, hill de­scent con­trol and the con­nected drive sys­tem pro­vides a range of ac­tive pro­tec­tion for the driver and passengers. Adap­tive head­lights are also very use­ful in the Hil­ton mist and for night driv­ing on poor road sur­faces. It goes al­most with­out say­ing that the car has cen­tral lock­ing and an alarm.

Per­for­mance and han­dling

The best foun­da­tion for su­pe­rior driv­ing dy­nam­ics is an out­stand­ing sus­pen­sion and the X5, with its in­tel­li­gent xDrive four-wheel drive sys­tem, adapts to the na­ture of road con­di­tions and causes the steer­ing to do like­wise. The adap­tive sus­pen­sion pack­ages, avail­able as an op­tional ex­tra also as­sist in as­sur­ing max­i­mum ground contact at all times, as well as the re­quired trac­tion, direc­tional sta­bil­ity and safety, with typ­i­cal BMW agility.

The three-litre, six-cylin­der, Twin Power, in-line diesel en­gine pro­vides 190 kWs/560 Nm of torque and will take the car from zero to 100 km/h in around 6,8 sec­onds.

Power is ex­pressed on road by an eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box, which takes the car to its top speed of 230 km/h with­out any trou­ble. While fuel con­sump­tion is dif­fi­cult to es­ti­mate on a ve­hi­cle like this, ex­pect around 6,8 litres to the 100 km in the com­bined cy­cle.

We drove the car on the Hes­keth Race Track courtesy of the track manager and placed it in the ca­pa­ble hands of Si­bonelo Myeni, pre­sen­ter of Ukozi’s Vuka mo­tor­ing pro­gramme. Af­ter sev­eral laps, he emerged ec­static about the X5’s han­dling qual­i­ties. It is a sober­ing thought that this splen­did car will mostly be used to trans­port the kids and col­lect the gro­ceries.

Costs and com­pe­ti­tion

The X5 xDrive 30 litre will cost you around R1,1 mil­lion and the list of ex­tras is long.

The car comes with the ex­tend­able five-year/100 000 km BMW mo­tor plan and a man­u­fac­turer’s guar­an­tee. Also look at the Audi Q7, Mercedes GLE, Lexus RX, Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport.

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