Fifteen years ago, when the German auto giant BMW showcased their SUV X5, the company’s design DNA was very obvious in the form and shape of the car. It was built to be the first among its rivals with a monocoque construction. The first generation X5 was very popular in India as well and also became, for a brief period, the best selling SUV. In the third generation avatar, the X5 assures us the same visual ideology only better, meaner and more refined. It also promises to be considerably cheaper.
BMW plans on assembling the X5 in India instead of importing it as a complete body unit, saving on a huge amount of taxes in the process. Sadly, its 4.4 litre V8 petrol has been completely dropped from the SUV’s production range since fuel guzzling SUVs are now a no-no even for the most enthusiastic owners and seekers alike.
Beefed up new version
On a closer look, the X5 isn’t really that far ahead of its predecessor in terms of design and build, and looks like a beefed up version of the old model. The nose has been accentuated and headlights that stretch upto the grille have been added. The BMW signature kidney grill looks bolder, and with the tougher looking new bumper and well defined character line, looks much more premium. On the rear, the tail lamps are the only element that exudes that new design feeling, and the rest of the body might as well be from the old one, with a few surface tweaks here and there.
The real changes are visible under the skin and inside the cabin. The hydraulic steering gets replaced by an electric power assisted one. The body weight has been reduced by a great 110 kg margin, and where the car is now lighter, it is also built to be stiffer and stronger than the previous version owing to the use of ultra-high tensile steel in the monocoque shell. An aluminum hood and thermoplastic side panels further help in weight reduction.
In addition to the weight reduction and added luxury, the drive quality has also been area of extensive development. Despite its height and build, the car is confident as it leaps forward well in response to the pressure on the accelerator pedal, the steering is quick in response and the big X5 effortlessly manoeuvres into the sharpest of corners.
The body roll is well controlled both by SUV and even sedan standards, owing to the tight body control. The xDrive setup sends a minimum of sixty percent power to the rear wheels, which eventually goes upto one hundred percent and the car distinctly feels like its being powered from the rear. The suspension unit is again one of the key features and USPs of the SUV, with adjustable dampers, self-levelling rear suspension and electronic damper control and plays a major part in the X5’s dynamic response on varying terrain types.
Fresh and exciting gadgetry
The new cabin feels fresh and luxurious as ever, and a truckload of new gadgetry is sure to excite the ‘switches and buttons’ type. There has also been extensive sound reduction and the X5 gets new seats that further reduce vibration and other noise. It comes with an option of colossal 21inch wheels with tyres that hold the road for supercars. The wheels wear wide and low 30 size profile Pirelli P zeros that although provide for road holding brilliance, would still be quite a mismatch for Indian roads. There’s a fair chance that the Indian version will not wear Pirelli rubber on its shoes.
The 3.0 litre diesel powerplant throws you into the backrest of the seat the moment you floor the pedal. The gear selector is sligthly stubby and once in manual mode, the engine roars and shoots to the 5,500 rpm redline as if it were fueled by petrol. The only complaint one might have with the whole experience with the engine is the mild droning noise on mid range revs, and at idling the vibrations can be slightly felt through the floor.
All in all, the new BMW X5 is every bit the brilliant driving experience that the first one was, and can consistently provide for the most spirited driving fantasies and only a few from the competition dare to come close to the levels of balance, poise, grip and handling that the German SUV has to offer. At 70.9 lakh ex – showroom, there isn’t a better choice than the X5.
Sweet and Sporty
Despite the changes over the years and the increasing bulk of the current car, the new BMW X5 is still the sweet-handling sporty SUV that it was back in 1999, and that’s really commendable. If you like to indulge in some spirited driving every now and then, few other cars of this size can match the X5 for sheer balance, poise, grip and playful handling. Also outstanding is the 3.0 straight-six. It’s not the most refined of diesels around, but it is incredibly punchy, surprisingly linear and loves to be revved. And what also helps tremendously is the silky-smooth and quick eight-speed gearbox, which is the best in the business. BMW has also polished up the insides. The new cabin feels fresh and modern, and an overload of tech is also bound to please the geek in you. Yes, comfort levels on the important second row could have been better, the third row is only useful for children and the engine should have been a bit more refined. But that apart, we don’t think you can get a better luxury SUV for the money. It really is as simple as that.