BMW X5 Deˆinitely big­ger. Is it bet­ter?

The fourth-gen­er­a­tion BMW X5 is more in­no­va­tive than it looks – but it’s also big­ger and heav­ier. By Adam Bin­nie

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HIP HOP LEG­END DMX may not have writ­ten the lyrics ‘X gon’ give it to ya, X gon’ de­liver to ya’ specif­i­cally about BMW’s bur­geon­ing range of SUVs, but it does seem to have acted as a spur to BMW to keep adding more mod­els to its X line-up, and to keep mak­ing those ve­hi­cles big­ger and more com­plex, all in the cause of feed­ing the kayak and moun­tain bike fan­tasies of the world’s wealth­ier cit­i­zens.

When the first X5 ar­rived nearly 20 years ago it was an out­lier, a Range Rover ri­val from a com­pany more used to bat­tling the E-Class. Now it sits tem­po­rar­ily at the top of a range that doesn’t miss a digit from 1 to 6, with the even larger X7 just months away. The fourth-gen­er­a­tion X5 is all about more. More eye-catch­ing tech, more power, more lux­ury and more space: although still not as big as its key ri­val, the Audi Q7, the new X5 is longer, wider and taller than its pre­de­ces­sor, as well as now com­ing with air sus­pen­sion, all­wheel steer­ing and a techier cabin.

There are four en­gines in the USbuilt X5, although only three of them are com­ing to Eu­rope; we don’t get the 4.4-litre petrol V8. Our en­gines are all straight-sixes: a 3.0-litre petrol in the xDrive 40i, a quad-turbo 3.0-litre diesel in the M50d and the more mod­est 3.0litre diesel in the xDrive 30d, which is likely to be the best seller.

Trim choice is sim­ple – if you can af­ford to step up from xLine then pick M Sport (as 80 per cent of driv­ers will do) and you get 20-inch al­loys and an M Sport bodykit and badges. But xLine is well equipped as stan­dard: eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box, all-wheel drive, air sus­pen­sion and BMW’s lat­est cock­pit. This in­volves two 12.3-inch screens and is highly ef­fec­tive, if not quite as spaceage as the two-screen sys­tem you’ll find in a Mer­cedes-Benz.

The old cli­mate con­trol panel of many but­tons has been stripped right back, of­fer­ing a much more mod­ern and de­clut­tered cen­tre con­sole, plus knurled switches (like a Bent­ley!) and a crys­talline gearshift (like a Volvo!). Audi’s co­he­sive and sim­ple Q7 in­te­rior is still the bench­mark here, but it’s fair to as­sume the newer two-screen set-up from the Q8 will find its way into the Q7 soon, at which point the com­par­a­tively cleaner X5 will look all the more at­trac­tive.

There’s plenty of space in the sec­ond row for adults thanks to a low trans­mis­sion tun­nel, and the

650-litre boot is use­fully square, with min­i­mal in­tru­sion. It ex­pands to 1860 litres with the sec­ond row down; a third row is op­tional. You get a split tail­gate as stan­dard, which is handy for perch­ing on while you lace up your walk­ing boots, or as a pic­nic ta­ble. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less.

Cool tech in­cludes a host of semi­au­tonomous and con­nec­tiv­ity gad­gets – you can now pro­gramme the sat-nav from your smart­phone and have it send you mes­sages warn­ing about traf­fic and other de­lays en route to your next ap­point­ment, even when you’re not ac­tu­ally in the car.

You can also use your phone as the car key, which BMW says is harder to hack than the stan­dard key. Plus you can send ac­cess codes to up to four friends, and be­cause their BMW pro­file

can be stored in the cloud, your X5 will au­to­mat­i­cally set it­self up for them when they drive it, ter­ri­ble ra­dio sta­tion choices and all.

But it’s the way it drives that sep­a­rates the X5 from the bulk of its ri­vals. It’s un­likely you’d se­lect any SUV as your first choice for tack­ling a chal­leng­ing stretch of black­top, but the heart­en­ing thing about the X5 is that it does all the muddy stuff you could ever need while still be­ing highly en­ter­tain­ing on the road, even with the most mod­est of the three en­gines.

The 30d is ruth­lessly ef­fec­tive: smooth and quiet un­til you stretch it, with a de­cent enough whoosh of torque so you shouldn’t need to ex­pe­ri­ence its more vo­cal up­per reaches. The petrol 40i is faster and much more hushed, yet spicier sound­ing when you wring it out. The trade-off for this in a two-tonne car is, of course, fuel econ­omy, but given the 40i is barely a hand­ful of tenths slower than the M50d and sub­stan­tially cheaper to buy, it could make sense.

Stan­dard air sus­pen­sion works well to iso­late pot­holes and on our route didn’t demon­strate any of the pit­ter­pat­ter wob­bli­ness of­ten as­so­ci­ated with such a set-up. We found it to be very com­fort­able in­deed, but the roads we drove on were pretty smooth so it’ll be in­ter­est­ing to test it fully in the UK.

Ac­tive anti-roll bars help to keep the body move­ment neat and tidy and there’s very lit­tle slosh­ing weight trans­fer to worry about in a se­ries of cor­ners, al­low­ing you to re­ally lean on the all-wheel-drive sys­tem. This sub­tly shuf­fles power around in com­bi­na­tion with rear-wheel steer­ing to give the X5 a con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing na­ture – it al­ways feels like there’s a bit more grip and a bit more lock to use if you bowl into a cor­ner with aban­don.

It’s a re­laxed, so­phis­ti­cated car that can pro­vide un­canny thrills as long as you don’t ask too much of it. And, un­like more fo­cused per­for­mance cars, you can also pack it full of peo­ple and scuba tanks and neo­prene and go and have a fab­u­lous day out some­where ad­ven­tur­ous. Or at least give your neigh­bours the im­pres­sion that you do.

New X5 is the big­gest yet – and the even big­ger X7 is on its way

Mk4 gets new grille and kink. Big­ger changesare in­side

X5 is irst to get BMW’s sim­pli ied new iDrive 7.0 in­stru­ments. Nice

Four-mode oƒ-road pack­age is a new op­tion

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