For better and for worse, the X5 has shaped our world


I’m about halfway through my 72-mile journey home when I realise what it is that’s been nagging away in the back of my mind ever since I left the o ce. I get it now: I left my wallet in my jacket, and my jacket is on the back of my chair in the o ce. This wouldn’t be much of a worry, except the BMW I’m driving is nearly out of fuel.

This is 2007 and the X5 is a 4.8-litre V8. However gentle you are on the throttle pedal, it’s going to get through a lot of petrol. So I go full eco: cruise control at 56mph, slipstream­ing trucks, heater off, stomach tucked in.

Twenty minutes later it’s showing empty and zero miles of range, but hasn’t missed a beat. I’m off the motorway now, six miles from home. If I can make it four and a half miles, I can roll into the forecourt of my nearest BP, jog home and get some money. Nearly there. But between me and the BP is a big, complicate­d, multi-lane roundabout. One degree too much of lean and the microscopi­c amount of fuel still in the tank will not make it to the engine.

And I’m all too well aware that if I grind to a halt in the middle of this busy roundabout, nobody will want to help me push it to safety. Nobody. An X5 driver is not someone who other people will want to help. Rather, I am someone they will want to laugh at and mock for my big, heavy, Chelsea tractor.

But I get away with it. No stranding. No need for help. I get some money, get some fuel, get on with my life… after saying a small prayer for the margin for error built into the fuel gauge.

Over the years I’ve repeatedly experience­d the good and the bad of the X5, the prime automotive example of the mixed blessing. It’s the most important, most influentia­l car of the last 25 years, I believe. It’s brilliant. It’s also fundamenta­l to so much that’s gone wrong in the car world over the last quarter of a century.

I’m very conscious of the problem, but can’t be down on a car that has given me some fine moments. Like the time I had a blast in the dunes in a stripped-out X5 while following the Paris-Dakar. Or when I was able to deliver Christmas presents in the snow because I was in an X5. Or when I first drove the Ineos Grenadier and got a reminder of how mighty fine that six-cylinder X5 engine is.

But there are problems. The X5 perfected the template, followed by so many since, for SUVs that are like cars but taller (and, in some cases, a bit more all-surface capable). That’s upped the average weight of cars, with all the environmen­tal and pedestrian safety issues that follow. It’s also central to the Russian-doll approach to model lineups that has given us a lot of very ordinary cars that exist just because they’re a bigger or smaller variant of something good. And with its X6 spin-off, it’s given us a whole load of silly coupe-SUVs.

None of which should distract us from how good the X5 is to drive, to live with, to be carried around in. It’s an exceptiona­l car. Manufactur­ers never admit to this, but BMW’s clearly always had the A team working on the X5. For better and worse, it’s shaped our world. And is still winning Giant Tests, 25 years on, as you’ll see in this issue.


 ?? ?? Production Editor
Production Editor

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