The definitive love-it-or-loathe-it SUV is back for its third generation: the BMW X5. For the new model, BMW has chopped weight and fuel consumption, but turned up the luxury. It'll go on UK sale on 16 November 2013, with SE and M Sport versions available in rear- or four-wheel drive, and a choice of four diesels or one petrol engine.
Are you sure this isn't just a facelift of the current X5?
Granted, the rear looks very similar to the current car, while the car's sides are only really distinguished by the new side repeater vent. The X5's nose keeps the second-gen's round foglights and XXL kidney grilles, stretching the nostrils right up to the headlight clusters, like the current F30-gen 3-series.
However, the revised shape and active aerodynamic flaps in the front grilles make the new X5 the slipperiest SUV you can buy, with a drag coefficient of 0.31Cd. The low-drag setup and standard features like Eco Mode, regenerative braking, electric power steering, and stop-start all help economy too. Despite the larger dimensions and extra on-board kit, the new X5 weighs 5kg less than before (in xDrive30d guise) thanks to an aluminium bonnet and plastic side panels.
Is the new X5 noticeably more frugal than before?
Yes, right across the range. The 3.0-litre six-cylinder xDrive30d is 19% more fuel efficient (economy up 7.4mpg, CO2 down by 33g/km) despite more power: an extra 13bhp and 14lb ft. The brawnier M50d six-pot diesel has cut its fuel appetite by 12%.
Petrol will only serve a tiny fraction of UK X5 sales, but BMW's still gone to work on the xDrive50i. The bi-turbo 4.4-litre V8 engine with variable valve timing good for 443bhp and 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds, yet it's 20% less thirsty than the old V8.
At the end of 2013 there'll be a raft of new engines in the X5 range, including four-cylinder power for the first time, in the rear-drive sDrive25d and all-wheel drive xDrive25d (both good for 50.4mpg) An xDrive40d model (44.1mpg/169g/km will also arrive for 2014).
What's new inside the latest BMW X5?
Improved cabin trim, a 30-litre bigger boot (now up to 650 litres) and an even larger central display for the iDrive infotainment system. The head-up display can project telephone contact lists onto the windscreen, and you'll be able to spec a fully autonomous parking and traffic-creep function.
How much does the new BMW X5 cost?
The entry-level four-cylinder two-wheel drive sDrive25d model starts from £42,950, while adding four-wheel drive to the same engine costs an extra £2305, In due course there'll be a tyre-shredding 565bhp X5 M, using an uprated bi-turbo petrol V8 engine to deliver near-M5 levels of performance.
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