X5 AIMS FOR EVEN FIRMER FAVOURITISM

BMW’s top-sell­ing SUV gets plenty of op­tions, ex­tra power and a stiffer ride

The Chronicle - - Motoring - CRAIG DUFF

Ex­po­nen­tially bet­ter is the catchcry for BMW’s new X5. It’s a bet­ter drive, has much bet­ter kit and is se­ri­ously bet­ter value. The vol­ume-sell­ing ver­sion, the xDrive 30d, holds steady on price at $112,990 be­fore on-road costs and adds the likes of adap­tive LED head­lamps, ad­vanced park­ing and driv­ing aids, sports front seats and ges­ture con­trol as stan­dard.

The quad-turbo M50d climbs by $5000 to $149,900 and adds laser head­lamps, ges­ture con­trol, more soft­ware aids, adap­tive dampers and ac­tive cruise con­trol with traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion, which BMW says adds more than $11,000 to the value.

A handy fea­ture stan­dard across the range is a new mem­ory re­vers­ing func­tion. The car mem­o­rises the fi­nal 50m of for­ward travel and at the push of a but­ton will back it­self out of tight laneways and drive­ways, with the driver re­spon­si­ble for brake and ac­cel­er­a­tor con­trol.

The X5 has been the best-sell­ing large pres­tige SUV in Aus­tralia for more than a decade, with 55,000 ex­am­ples find­ing homes since the 2001 launch. It has also over­taken the 3 Series as the brand’s sin­gle most im­por­tant model, which makes the launch of the fourth­gen­er­a­tion car a big deal.

BMW Aus­tralia CEO Vikram Pawah says the X5 is a key model but far from the only model.

“Our en­tire prod­uct line-up is go­ing to change over the next two years … that is go­ing to give us a re­ally good thrust. No mat­ter how soft the in­dus­try is, new mod­els cre­ate trac­tion,” Pawah says.

This new X5 is also a big­ger propo­si­tion: length is up by 36mm, width by 66mm and it rides 19mm higher. Most of that space has im­proved rear seat com­fort — there’s rea­son­able leg room and the stan­dard panoramic sun­roof doesn’t im­pinge on head­room.

The cargo area is un­changed at 650L and all X5 vari­ants will still tow up to 2700kg.

There is no short­age of op­tions to per­son­alise your X5. The 30d comes stan­dard with an x-Line style pack but his­tory shows more than 80 per cent of buy­ers will in­vest in the M Sport look, which up­grades the stan­dard dampers to adap­tive items, adding beefier brakes, re­vised steer­ing wheel and al­loy ped­als for $4000.

A seven-seat op­tion will be on sale next year for the 30d. Avail­able only in com­bi­na­tion with air sus­pen­sion, it will cost $7600 for x-Line vari­ants and $6000 for M Sport-equipped cars. Next year it will bring the 40i, a 3.0-litre twin­turbo (250kW/450Nm) priced from $115,990.

M50d own­ers will find their stock ve­hi­cle rolls on steel springs and spe­cially tuned adap­tive dampers as stan­dard, though air sus­pen­sion is a no-cost op­tion. De­fault items in­clude sports diff, anti-roll bars, four-wheel steer­ing and mas­sive brakes.

ON THE ROAD

BMW’s in­sis­tence on call­ing its soft-road­ers “sports ac­tiv­ity ve­hi­cles” is re­flected in the firm ride on the 30d M Sport’s steel springs and adap­tive dampers.

Don’t ex­pect to be sip­ping tea in the rear seats when mo­bile, even with the drive mode set to com­fort. The ride isn’t in­tru­sive but will rip­ple rather than roll over small im­per­fec­tions on the road.

In con­trast, the M50d amps up the stiff­ness to the point it jolts over those same bumps, though it com­pen­sates by be­ing all-but im­mune to body pitch and roll. It will tire as a daily driver, mak­ing the air sus­pen­sion a log­i­cal choice — there wasn’t an air-equipped M50d at launch to ex­plore that logic.

In both, the en­gine is the most en­joy­able fea­ture, ex­hibit­ing only a touch of lag be­fore the tacho climbs to­wards peak torque at 2000rpm.

Steer­ing re­sponse has been sharp­ened and the eight-speed auto in­vari­ably finds the right gear at the right time. The com­bi­na­tion makes the X5 an en­ter­tain­ing car to drive on Tas­ma­nia’s twist­ing tar­mac.

The clar­ity of the dig­i­tal dash and head-up dis­play is good and the over­all drive ex­pe­ri­ence is hugely com­pe­tent, if not cos­set­ing.

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