The BMW X5 is the best selling large luxury SUV in Australia. Globally BMW has managed 1.5 million X5 sales since 1999, making the model one of the most important to the German brand.
The current second-generation X5 model, which was launched in 2007, has continued to grow in sales despite nearing the end of its life cycle. This is why the third-generation BMW X5 remains a vastly evolutionary update more than anything else.
From the outside there’s no question the new vehicle is a BMW X5. Design wise BMW has kept it very familiar but with a more focused front-end look, enhanced by twin circular headlight units connecting to the BMW kidney grille.
The rear-end look has an X1-like resemblance, with sharper taillights and a cleaner and more modern design. Although hard to tell on individual points, the new X5 actually looks smaller on the road than the previous car, even if it isn’t. The flowing silhouette shows off a more dynamic SUV rather than the previous generation's bulky size.
Speaking of SUVs, BMW claims the X5 is actually an SAV (Sport Activity Vehicle). The reason being that despite its size and practicality, the X5 is designed for those that love to drive and don’t mind a bit of fun along the way.
To find out if this was just a marketing ploy, we came all the way to Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, to drive the 2014 BMW X5. Around what are probably the most beautiful winding roads in the world, the X5 proved to be a spectacular driver’s car but before we get into the practicalities of it, it’s important to know what’s on offer.
At 4886mm long, 1938mm wide, 1762mm tall, the new BMW X5 is 29mm longer, 5mm wider and has a 4mm-lower roofline than its predecessor. As part of carrying over the model's DNA, the 2933mm wheelbase has been retained.
BMW Australia will launch the X5 in late November with three different variants and engines to start with. The initial entry model will be the $99,990 BMW X5 xDrive30d, which is powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine that develops 190kW of power and 560Nm of torque. That’s enough to get you from 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds while sipping just 6.2L of diesel per 100km – a figure we came close to matching in the real world.
Behind the wheel the six-cylinder diesel was not only capable of climbing through Vancouver’s mountainous terrain, but to excite us in the process. The X5’s eight-speed transmission worked harmoniously to deliver a crisp and lag-free driving experience with power and torque always just a moment away.
In the real world, there’s simply no reason this amount of grunt should leave you unsatisfied, but if you must have more, BMW has more answers.
The BMW X5 xDrive50i, which is powered by a 4.4-litre twin-power turbo V8 develops 330kW of power and 650Nm of torque. That’s a lot. Far more than you’ll need for a family SUV. So much in fact, that it goes from 0-100km/h in just five seconds flat. So if the kids are running late to school, you can make up a few seconds.
In saying that, the xDrive50i is a remarkable machine. The engine note, the acceleration feel, the whole experience of piloting it through twisty roads shames many purpose-built sports cars. The catch, apart from the price increase ($34,000 more than xDrive30d), is that you’ll pay for it through fuel consumption, which BMW says is around 10.5L/100km but is much more likely to be in the 14L/100km range if you actually use your right foot.
The third model, which we were unable to test, is the $147,900 BMW X5 M50d, not to be mistaken with the BMW X5 M, which will arrive at a later date. The M50d uses the same six-cylinder diesel engine as the 30d but employs not one, but three turbochargers to bring power up to 280kW with a monstrous 740Nm of torque. It will go from a standstill to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds with a fuel economy of 6.7L of diesel per 100km.
Using the now standard driving experience control button allows switching between comfort, sport, sport+ and eco pro modes. This changes the X5’s behaviour considerably with alterations to the response time of the accelerator, power steering and automatic transmission. If you’ve got adaptive suspension, it will also modify the dampers for a sportier or more comfortable ride.
For those that are wanting even more from their X5, BMW offers active steering on the X5 xDrive50i and X5 xDrive30d as an option, allowing further variation in power assist, but also adjusting the steering input required to turn the wheels in relation to vehicle speed.
We found the new X5, in all variants, to go and steer with absolute precision. One can be a little cynical about the old-school purist feel of BMW’s steering, which is not present in the new X5, but so far as sporty SUVs go, this nails it. Ride comfort and bump-absorption is also exceptional both in inner-city and off-road conditions.
All three models are four-wheel drive, with power going to the front and rear wheels as required. Although from the outside the X5 appears to have limited off-roading ability, we did get a chance to drive it off-road and it’s fair to say that it will more than handle itself for the basic stuff and if you intend to do proper off-roading, you’re looking at the wrong car.
BMW Australia will bring a base model X5 sDrive25d to Australia in 2014, which will be the first rear-wheel drive X5 on offer and sets to capture buyers looking for an affordable luxury SUV without the need for a four-wheel drivetrain. Other models, including xDrive35i, xDrive40d may also make an appearance at a later date.
Step inside the new BMW X5 and the DNA of the company is instantly present. There’s that well known BMW feel throughout the cabin with the iDrive control and the sporty steering wheel setting the mood. BMW has added a third trim layer for the interior, bringing a little more attention to detail and luxury-feel.
Despite its smaller appearance from the outside, the new X5 is more spacious than ever inside. The front and rear seats are plush and very accommodating, with enough room to carry five adults in comfort. A new 40:20:40 split/folding rear seat backrest allows for more versatility while the boot capacity measures 650L with the rear seats up or up 1,870 litres with them folded away.
On the technology front, BMW leads the pack with a 10.25-inch iDrive controlled screen presenting a crystal clear display that is very intuitive to use. The regulars, such as satellite navigation, full Bluetooth capability and so on are there, but tick a few boxes and you'll have internet connectivity and the ability to browse the web through your car.
The level of active safety technology available on the new X5 is also vast. Standard on the base model is head-up display, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, pedestrian warning with light city braking function, rear-view camera, and a 360-degree surround view camera system. Other options include adaptive headlights with turning lights (standard on 50i and M50d), anti-dazzle high beam assistant (automatically blocks a portion of the headlight beam for oncoming vehicles), auto parking and BMW night vision with human and animal detection and light spot. A full breakdown of specification levels per model is available here.
Overall, it's hard to fault the BMW X5 for what it is, the world's best sport activity vehicle. The 2014 BMW X5 presents the best combination of practicality, comfort and sporty dynamics for an SUV in its class.
2014 BMW X5 manufacturer’s list prices:
- xDrive 30d – $99,900
- xDrive 50i – $133,900
- xDrive M50d – $147,900