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BMW X5 (2006): first official pictures

Published: 08 August 2006

The lowdown

This is the face of the all-new X5, a car that redefines the sports SUV claims BMW. More power and performance, a slippery shape, a new chassis honed for dynamic driving and gadgets galore make up the recipe. Seven seats are now optional, as BMW seeks to match the layouts of the Mercedes GL, Volvo XC90 and Land Rover Discovery. The new car is due on sale in the UK in April 2007, having hit the USA first before the end of 2006. Launch engines are 3.0-litre petrol and diesel sixes, and a 4.8-litre V8. Prices will start at £39,505, rising to £50k for the V8.

Design: handsome shape, edgy details

Armchair critics tend to laud the original X5 as the last great looking BMW, before the 2001 7-series controversially ushered in a new era of Munich designs. They tend to overlook the fact that design boss Chris Bangle led the teams that styled BOTH cars. And the X5 MkII looks to have successfully fused both eras. It retains the original's handsome simplicity and hewn from rock-robustness. But the details are funkier. Scalpel blade headlamps, supercar-style aero vents in the front valance, more crisply creased wheelarches leap out from the front. A word of warning, though. The X5 is the first SUV to be equipped with unyielding run-flat rubber, on those 18- to 20-inch rims. Run-flats may offer a 90-mile range with a puncture, but tend to have a negative impact on ride quality.

Design: muscular but aerodynamic rear

It's a similar story at the rear – instantly recognisable as an X5, but with fresh dynamism. Those wide, oval pipes mark out the 4.8i; six-cylinder cars have a round exhaust on each side. There's a pronounced lip beneath the rear screen, flowing into L-shaped lamps. The roof spoiler and flat undertray are designed to smooth air flow over the car: indeed, BMW is claiming the slipperiest SUV on sale, with a 0.33 drag factor. Naturally this improves top speed, and cuts fuel consumption.

Under the bonnet

BMW is delivering the Holy Grail with the new X5 engines: more power, but reduced fuel consumption and fewer emissions. The 3.0-litre diesel uses the latest common rail fuel injection system to squirt precise amounts of fuel directly into the cylinders. A new development is an all-alumnimium crankcase, which saves a handy 25kg. Meanwhile, both petrol engines are equipped with variable valve timing and lift, helping them to maximise performance or economy depending on how you are driving. How does this translate into performance figures? The 272bhp 3.0-litre petrol six despatches 0-62mph in 8.1sec. The 4.8-litre V8 cuts that benchmark sprint to 6.5sec, with the 3.0-litre diesel taking 8.3sec. Top speed is restricted to 130mph across the board, although this is pushed up to a 150mph maximum if the dynamic suspension pack is fitted. Transmission to all four wheels is via a six-speed automatic 'box, claimed to cut shift times in half compared with the outgoing slusher. For full details – including MPG and CO2 figures – check out the table on page 10 of this story.

Chassis: the ultimate driving SUV?

That cornering shot should speak volumes: BMW is pretty confident about the new X5's dynamic ability. The computer-controlled xDrive system shifts torque between axles and individual wheels, to boost traction and dial out understeer. The customary split is 38:62 for a rear-drive bias on road, but up to 100 percent of torque can be sent to either axle, in the event of slip. The big new development is adpative drive, part of the optional dynamic pack. Hydraulic anti-roll bars are engaged during hard driving to reduce lean. Don't expect a ramrod straight ride, though: the system is designed to allow progressive lean, to ensure drivers don't feel they are invincible and take on a corner even faster than the X5 – and physics – will permit. Electronic damper control is also fitted, to optimise the damping for a comfy or taut ride depending on conditions. Active steering – introduced on the 5-series – makes its debut on an X-model, and surely this is its raison d'etre. While the jury has been out on saloon car applications, active steering makes perfect sense on a big SUV. With an extra set of gears around the steering column to add to or reduce your inputs, active steering can wind on opposite lock in a motorway crosswind or cut the handshuffle during low speed manoeuvring. Although the MkII is around 165mm longer than the original, its turning circle has not made a commensurate increase, so long as Active Steering is fitted. The X5 is also fitted with dynamic stability control-plus, with active brake features. They are primed to bite harder if the driver comes off the throttle early, indicating an emergency, which reduces stopping distances. In the wet, the pads are periodically applied to stop moisture building up. And if the sensors detect fade, extra effort is applied to ensure optimum performance is maintained. Finally, hill start assist holds the X5 on a gradient, as your foot travels from brake to accelerator. Like most passenger cars, the X5 has a monocoque chassis, to ensure sharp handling and decent refinement on road. Conversely, BMW is making no claims whatsoever about the X5's off-road potential. That's Jeep or Land Rover territory.

The cockpit

Here's the sleek dashboard, which looks like a super-sized version of the Z4's. The architecture – with its high-set iDrive screen nicely in the line of vision, central air vents and controls within a handspan of the wheel – is remiscent of the roadster's dash. The screen shows the navigation map, or images from the optional rear view camera. Front and rear parking sensors are standard. One other option is head-up display. This projects a digital speedo, navigation arrows and warning messages onto the screen, just above the steering wheel. All very jet age. If you're playing spot the handbrake, wave the white flag now. It's activated by an electronic toggle, just south of the gear lever. The iDrive rotary dial, for scrolling through menus on the screen, also makes its X5 debut. It's complemented by eight buttons to control key functions such as the stereo and climate control, helping you keep your eyes on the road. And check out that beautiful, swan neck gearlever, crowned by a 'P' button which engages the automatic's park mode.

X5 + 2 seating

The X5 comes as standard with five seats, although those wishing to protect their resale values should stump up around £1000 for the third row of perches. BMW hesitates to call it a seven seater: it's a five-seater with two occasional seats for adults, although small children won't find the back benches too torturous. The middle row of seats slides fore and aft to boost access and legroom as and when necessary. To accommodate the three rows, the X5 grows in size. Wheelbase stretches from 2820mm to around 2930mm, while overall length is 4830mm. It's the same height as the MkI but a little wider at 1930mm. The fuel tank also grows from 75 to 93 litres, so you may not be on first name terms at the BP garage anymore.

The ultimate load-lugging BMW

The new X5 is the most practical BMW in history. With all seven seats in place, the 200-litre cargo bay is shamed by a Ford Fiesta's. But fold the rear pair and you create 620 litres – up 155 on today's capacity. Drop both rows and there's a whopping 1750 litre load bay.

X5 + 2 seating

The X5 comes as standard with five seats, although those wishing to protect their resale values should stump up around £1000 for the third row of perches. BMW hesitates to call it a seven seater: it's a five-seater with two occasional seats for adults, although small children won't find the back benches too torturous. The middle row of seats slides fore and aft to boost access and legroom as and when necessary. To accommodate the three rows, the X5 grows in size. Wheelbase stretches from 2820mm to around 2930mm, while overall length is 4830mm. It's the same height as the MkI but a little wider at 1930mm. The fuel tank also grows from 75 to 93 litres, so you may not be on first name terms at the BP garage anymore.

The ultimate load-lugging BMW

The new X5 is the most practical BMW in history. With all seven seats in place, the 200-litre cargo bay is shamed by a Ford Fiesta's. But fold the rear pair and you create 620 litres – up 155 on today's capacity. Drop both rows and there's a whopping 1750 litre load bay.

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

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