Take family motoring seriously
- Pics by Matt Brogan & Brendan Nish
Although it might have become a little familiar, the much lauded X5's revised shape lends it an almighty on-road presence thanks to its wider proportions, bold stance, subtle creases and unmistakable family face.
It's a rather serious looking SUV, almost ominous, but after one drive you'll very quickly discover that the X5 isn't all show and no go.
Yet while it does indeed look imposing externally, the X5's innards are light, spacious and well plotted with a practical and comfortable feel to all facets of the cabin's utility.
Seating is both generously proportioned and supportive, an unusual but welcomed trait for an SUV, while the driver's vantage is commanding and panoramic offering great all round visibility.
Similarly all controls and ancillaries fall readily to hand and are quite simple of function with the possible exception of the now superseded version of the iDrive system.
The only real bother of any note came from the low beams headlamps, which were a little too weak for my liking, and from the rear view camera which is virtually useless in wet weather and at night, combine the two and it's a compete waste of time.
On the options front the X5 packs a wallop, featuring Cruise Control (with brake function), Brake Hold, Front & Rear Parking Sensors, Fog Lamps, Alloy Wheels, Rain Sensing Wipers, Automatic Headlamps, Roof Rails, Automated (optional) Split Fold Tailgate, Six CD Tuner, Dual Zone Climate Control, Satellite Navigation and TV with Voice Control, Auto-Dimming Rear View Mirror, Bluetooth Connectivity (that didn't work with my phone), iPod (USB) Interface, Trip Computer and Electrically Adjustable Seats and Steering Wheel (with Memory), just to name a few.
Our test vehicle was also optioned with the Panoramic Glass Roof which, if you can afford the extra coin, is a highly worthwhile option in my opinion. It can operate purely as a glass roof, as a twin-tilt louvre or as a retractable sunroof meaning maximum enjoyment no matter the weather. It also lends the cabin a light and airy ambiance that makes long drives exceptionally pleasant.
Up the back a split-fold tailgate, in this case automated, opens to reveal a cavernous cargo compartment offering 670 litres with seats up (to window height) or mammoth 1750 litres all told. A pair of seriously heavy-duty tie-down rails, a retractable cargo cover with vertical net and an underfloor storage space that also houses the spare wheel round out the deal.
If that's not enough, the X5 comes standard with (matt black) roof rails and can be configured to tow up to 2700kg (braked).
The drive on offer, as we've come to expect from most of the BMW range, is quite rewarding, and the constant all-wheel drive coupled with a taut chassis and self-levelling suspension provide the X5 with astounding grip levels, well beyond that expected of a family SUV.
Cornering therefore is capable and confident, seemingly no matter what the elements throw at you, with steering that offers very good feel and feedback even if the level of assistance could be slightly more amenable.
Braking is strong and balanced with a progressive pedal allowing the 2110kg wagon to be brought to a stop in a smooth, confident and comfortable fashion. Applying the stoppers at 80km/h saw a distance of 23.9 metres covered before we came to a standstill - not bad!
Under the bonnet a 3.0-litre, in-line, common-rail, twin turbo-diesel, six cylinder engine provides more than ample motivation for a car of such proportions developing 210kW of power at 4400rpm and a solid 580Nm of torque from just 1750rpm.
There is no turbo lag to speak of, only a delightful six-speed automatic that is smooth, decisive and amiably calibrated to throttle input propelling the X5 from 0-100km/h in 7.0 seconds flat and on to a top speed of 235km/h.
Fuel economy too is a strong point for the diesel X5 and although our results didn't prove quite as optimistic as the manufacturer's claim, we did achieve a respectable 10.9 litres per 100km average combining a 50:50 split of city and highway driving.
Considering the X5's family orientation, safety is of course a paramount concern with our xDrive35d model featuring front, side and curtain airbags; ABS braking with CBC (cornering brake control), EBA and EBD; HDC (hill descent control); and ESP with Traction Control to tally an impressive five-star European NCAP rating and five-star Australian ANCAP rating.
So while a few of the features may be beginning to date, the X5 remains an imposing and accomplished SUV with both the substance and the panache to be considered a worthy investment for any family who takes its motoring seriously.
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