This mid-range BMW X5 is the model that will make up the lion’s share of sales. We check out what the average UK-based X5 buyer has to look forward to – or otherwise…
The new BMW X5 bowled over Ben Oliver when he drove it on the SUV’s launch in 2013, but he was at the wheel of the triple-turbocharged X5 M50d, which can out-accelerate a Porsche Cayman and sip the same fuel at the same rate (officially, anyway) as a Fiat 500 Abarth. So it should for £63,175, though…
This is the more sanitised X5 30d that’s priced at a more palatable £47,895 to tackle the Mercedes ML350 BlueTEC and Range Rover Sport TDV6. While it costs less than the M-tweaked version, there’s still a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder common-rail diesel under the bonnet with a pair of variable geometry turbos, developing 255bhp (up 33bhp over its predecessor) and 413lb ft (up 30lb ft) from a lower 1500-3000rpm.
What are the BMW X5 xDrive30d’s performance stats?
As well as more power and torque, the third-generation X5 is lighter than its predecessor, thanks to greater use of high-strength steel. This means the new X5 will reach 62mph from rest in a claimed 6.9sec – a massive 0.7sec better than the old diesel X5 – and doesn’t run out of puff until 142mph. BMW claims up to a 17% improvement in the X5’s efficiency range-wide, with the 30d’s official economy of 45.6mpg easily outperforming the old version’s 34.4mpg. Its CO2 emissions are significantly lower, too: 162g/km plays the previous 195g/km.
A willing accomplice in the engine’s fine performance is the sublime eight-speed automatic gearbox. Standard on all X5s, it slips between cogs all but imperceptibly unless you’re eyeing the rev needle like a hawk, and keeps up its obedient act even if your foot’s planted into the carpet, jumping down several gears if necessary to make the most of all that torque.
Enough numbers: what’s the X5 30d like on the road?
Given it’ll account for 60% of UK sales, this one has to be a decent steer for discerning British tastes, or else the new Range Rover Sport will have a field day. Unfortunately for JLR, while BMW’s styling department fell asleep on the job with the new X5, its chassis engineers didn’t.
Much as we love to drive a car at ten-tenths, the X5 is best sampled in a more relaxed style, in Comfort mode. The ride is compliant, and yet this 2145kg leviathan resists body roll superbly. New tech like torque vectoring, which actively splits the twisting force across the rear axle through fast turns for better traction, works with responsive steering to create a confidence inspiring and stable driving experience. So while it looks more like a bus from the outside, it certainly doesn’t drive like one, making it a tough call between the X5 and rival Porsche Cayenne as the SUV class’s handling benchmark.
Push on harder and that two-tonne ghost in the machine comes back to haunt the new X5. All of a sudden, there’s a nose-heavy anchor dictating the handling, pushing the bluff front end into predictable, safe understeer that no amount of torque vectoring or Adaptive Dynamic Ride Control can sort out. If you really must have a BMW SUV that drives like a sports saloon, wait for the new BMW X5 M, coming with its twin-turbo V8 in 2014.
Can it do the other side of the SUV thing?
Take your X5 off road? You must be joking! Well, in fact, the X5 can get its 18in feet dirty. A mud-and-snow-tyre-shod Range Rover will walk away from it down (or up) a slippery dirt track, but the BMW still acquits itself rather well for a car that’s likely to never see more off-roading than parking on a grass verge.
Hill-descent control and the ability to transfer up to 100% of available torque to an individual wheel means the X5 will get you out of the woods if the sat-nav directs its hapless owners into them. Not that it should – iDrive infotainment is standard on all X5s, and has evolved into arguably the best all-round in-car system on the market today.
What about space?
Despite the success of the BMW X5, the new version can’t quite match its rivals for luggage space. The split tailgate opens to more useful 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat as well as 120-litres more than the previous X5. Still, the 1870-litre load area is still less than the Mercedes M-Class’s 2010 litres, the Range Rover’s 2030 litres and the Audi Q7’s 2035 litres.
The BMW X5 is no looker, but it’s certainly a more complete car than its predecessor – it’s still a sharp drive, but couples more maturity and refinement with a much more premium-feeling cabin. While there’s a smaller load area than its rivals, there’s more power, better economy and more space than its predecessor, which means that our first impression of the X5 xDrive30d is that it’s even more practical, drivable and desirable.