When looking for a new car, particularly if you have had a positive ownership experience, the first place many of us turn is the new version of the car we already have.
In our latest ‘old vs new’ twin test, we put both X5s side by side to see what will be familiar, what has improved, and what BMW still needs to put its attention to.
The BMW X5 helped pioneer the luxury SUV charge in Australia, with the company selling close to 40,000 units since the introduction of the first-generation E53 in 2000.
The second-generation car launched in 2007 and cemented the X5 on top of the luxury SUV sales charts. With a facelift in 2011, the E70 X5 became the benchmark for the large SUV segment, providing a solid mix of driver engagement and family practicality.
The all-new third-generation F15 X5 was released in 2014, and brought with it the first-ever two-wheel-drive and four-cylinder variants.
In all, there are now eight variants in the revised X5 line up, including the ballistic new X5 M – and in typical BMW fashion, there is a staggering array of options to allow buyers to configure the car just how they want to.
Both cars tested here are the top-selling xDrive 30D models, combining a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel and an eight-speed transmission with all-wheel drive.
When new, the E70 xDrive 30D was $92,600 plus on-road costs – and currently the F15 xDrive 30D starts from $100,900. While the 30D was the entry point to the E70 range, you can now purchase an sDrive 25D (160kW/450Nm 2-litre diesel and RWD) for $84,200.
The E70 – with its flared wheel arches and subtle curves – is still a very good looking car, particularly considering its age. But when shown next to the newer model, can look a bit dated.
Worth noting too is that our F15 is fitted with the aggressive looking M-Performance body kit and 21-inch wheels (a rather steep $17,869) – which looks fantastic, but isn’t particularly useful or cheap.
The two cars share the same wheelbase but the F15 is 30mm longer and 5mm wider than the second-generation E70. The new car also has a 13mm lower roofline and is 5kg lighter, thanks to increased use of lightweight materials.
Behind the kidney grille on the F15 is a 190kW/560Nm 3.0-litre turbo diesel, up marginally from the 180kW/540Nm powerplant in the E70.
With the rise in power comes a reduction in fuel consumption, with the new car improving on the already impressive 7.4L/100km combined cycle in the E70 by cutting it to just 6.2L/100km.
Inside, the new car feels very familiar. The quality has improved and it looks decidedly more modern – helped by the enormous 10.25-inch screen in the centre of the dash controlled by an iDrive dial.
It’s not as clean as the integrated screen in the E70, but the clarity is excellent. And the surround-view camera now shows the front of the car, plus engages automatically when driving through tight spaces.
Otherwise, the cabin is more of an evolution of the previous generation. Some buttons have moved around a bit (it took me a while to find the boot release – gone from under the air-conditioning controls, now on the driver’s door panel), but it doesn’t take long to feel at home.
It’s still roomy and comfy in the back seat too – in fact, I’d wager rear-seat passengers may not even notice they’re in a different car. The centre arm rest and cup-holders are retained, as are rear vents and map pockets.
A power boot is now standard across the X5 range and the split tailgate is carried over from the E70.
The rear seats now fold on 40/20/40 – a more convenient improvement from the 60/40 in the older car – and there are now three car-seat anchor points, something that always annoyed me about the E70.
Cargo volume has increased by 30 litres to 650-litres but if you’re on the move and need to remove the cargo blind, there’s still nowhere to store it, a concept many more affordable SUVs (such as the Hyundai SantaFe and Nissan X-Trail) have already addressed.
Annoying too: the cargo blind still rattles around if you don’t have it extended out.
My car is three-years-old and has about 35,000km on the clock, but the steering feedback and overall feel of the car is still very sporting.
Because I’m me, it’s fitted with an optional 20-inch wheel package with run-flat tyres which looks great, but does makes the ride pretty firm and occasionally crashy over bigger bumps.
Fair to note too that the tyres on wide wheel package are expensive and are now in need of replacement – something to keep in mind if you’re considering the big wheels for the new car.
Performance has always been more than adequate considering the car’s role as family transport, and the X5 has proved itself to be both an enjoyable and comfortable car to drive – both around town and on longer country trips.
The F15 sounds and feels the same as the E70 off the line, but does (obviously) feel newer and tighter.
Our test car is fitted with the optional M-Sport package ($5,600), which among other equipment, includes adaptive suspension. That means you feel an obvious difference when changing driving modes.
In the standard COMFORT setting, while the ride might not be referred to as plush, it certainly feels much smoother than the E70 – even though it’s actually riding on bigger 21-inch wheels.
The steering isn’t as direct as the older car, but it is much lighter – particularly at urban speeds. And considering most X5s spend more time at the shops than at the racetrack, it makes low-speed tasks such as parking much easier.
My ownership experience has been good. I am still impressed with the fuel economy and the only issue I have had outside the regular annual service has been the handle on the rear-seat air vents snapping off due to wayward feet from my ‘excitable’ rear seat passenger.
The new F15 is a terrific package and a most worthy successor to the hugely popular E70.
There is still plenty of optional equipment that should be standard on a car of this caliber (‘Comfort Access’ keyless entry an extra $1,800?), but for E70 owners looking for their next new car, moving from X5 to X5 is an upgrade every way you look at it.
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