The full sized SUV X5 by BMW has entered its third generation and by adding some new features, the German carmaker has tried to give it a little extra over the qualities it inherits from its predecessors. To begin with, it is powered by the 2995 cc 6 cylinder diesel engine which is now tuned for 255 bhp at 4000 rpm and builds torque of 57.1 kgm at 1500-3000 rpm. And while its wheelbase remains the same, has become slightly longer and wider. It has also lost 110 kg of flab.
Even when the first generation of X5 came to India, it became one of the top selling German luxury SUVs here. Over the years competition grew and this Bimmer kept getting updates to stay competent. Its chief rivals are Audi’s Q7 3.0 TDi and Mercedes ML 350 CDI that have diesel engines with comparable power and torque. The three German competitors are also placed in similar price brackets.
And how does the new X5 look and perform now? Here’s Ecardlr’s road test report on the updated SUV:
Image Courtesy: BMW
Design and Engineering
The X5 has always been a big SUV and in its newest avatar it has grown up by 29 mm in length and 5 mm in width. With a careful look you will also start identifying the changes in features. Those twin barrel headlamps have extended closer towards the kidney grille and touch its edges. For the Expedition variant there are bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running light rings and for the plusher Design Pure Experience, BMW uses adaptive LED headlamps with 4 LED daytime running light rings and accent lights including cornering lights. The split bumper design is also new and its lower end is moulded in titanium for the Design Pure Experience edition. Chrome highlights for the side air intakes have also updated the front look. Prominent creases on the bonnet add to the muscular appearance of the X5.
In profile view, the X5 looks imposing thanks to its length measuring 4886 mm and it has large wheel arches to take in 20 inch alloys with 275/40 R20 runflat tyres for front 315/35 R20 for the rear. But the standard fitment is 18 inch size with 255/55 R18 runflats. The distinctive BMW design cues can be seen in the Hofmeister kink, the chrome lining on the outer edges of windows, and the swage line running on door panels through the handles. More detailing comes with scuff plates and aluminium satinated roof rails. The body coloured ORVMs have integrated LED side-turn indicators. They are electrically foldable, heated, memory-optimised and have anti-dazzle function.
At the rear you will spot the new design for tail lamps. Like the headlamps, they are longer and stretch more towards the centre of the tailgate. Rest of the styling is pretty much the same with the rear overhang, high mount stop lamp, and the reflector strips on the upper part of the bumper. The exhaust pipes have round outlets again instead of getting the hexagonal shape that was seen on some of the older models of X5.
The design changes on the new X5 may not be very pronounced but the upgrades under the hood and tweaking of some other aspects has made this Bimmer an improved vehicle. Instead of a hydraulic steering unit, the X5 comes with an electrically assisted one. The reduction in kerb weight by 110 kg will help in improving the performance and fuel efficiency. What’s more, despite being lighter the updated X5 is stronger with ultra-high tensile steel used for its monocoque body case. Use of aluminium for hood and the thermoplastic side panels also make it lightweight. Nevertheless, at over 2000 kg on scales it is still a hefty SUV.
Body colour range comprises Alpine White, Black Sapphire, Glacier Silver, Imperial Blue Brilliant Effect, Space Grey, and Sparkling Brown.
A buyer who is spending more than Rs 65 lakhs on an SUV will expect it to have ample refinement and loads of creature comforts. The X5 meets such expectations quite well. Although the dashboard design is similar to that in other BMW cars, it looks more upmarket than in the older X5. A premium feature is the polished and glossy wooden inlays running across the dashboard, on the door panes and the edges of the centre console platform. The finesse of the layered dashboard is pleasing. And it has the 10.25 inch iDrive high resolution screen that also displays very clear images projected by the reversing camera.
The iDrive screen is pretty non-reflective which adds to its clarity. It is also customisable for the content to be displayed – the screen can be split into two for ease of navigating through the menu functions. You can choose to see your music information and navigation maps (that display 3D images of the buildings on map) together. It also gives you real-time bhp and torque information which is interesting to check on a drive. Bluetooth with handsfree, CD/DVD drive and USB port together provide you different options to choose your music source and the 600 watts Harmon Kardon Surround System with 16 loudspeakers (in Design Pure Experience) or even the 205 watts Hi-fi Loudspeaker system with 9 loudspeakers makes for a good audio experience. The iDrive has handwriting recognition pad for the upper end variant. So you can scribble letters or numbers with fingers to access the phone book and music playlists.
X5 has four-zone automatic climate control with rear AC vents and control knobs for the second row of seats. The electrically adjustable front seats are large, well-bolstered and comfortable while also offering plenty of legroom. Driver’s seat has memory function. Steering column is also power adjustable for rake and reach. The front centre armrest has storage space for knick-knacks.
The second row has 40:20:20 splitting seats and these can be reclined for more comfort. Although the seats are well cushioned the under-thigh support could have been better. The legroom is good and a third passenger can sit more comfortably than in smaller BMW SUVs like X3 and X1. The centre armrest has two cup holders.
Moving back to the third row, you may not find them comfortable for adults but they are good enough for children. What’s good is that this row can be folded down fully to create some extra space for luggage and this is what it will be used for, most of the time. With the seats down, the cove volume increases from 570 to 650 litres. And it is 1450 litres with the second row folded. Dakota leather upholstery for seats has multiple colour options. The X5 again gets a split tailgate the top half of which is power operated.
There is a range of safety features apt for a luxury SUV in this segment. Anti lock braking system with brake assist, cornering brake control, dynamic stability & traction control, hill descent control, and run-flat indicators are the standard attributes. There are 3-point seatbelts on all seats and pyrotechnic belt tensioners and force limiters for front. Besides dual front and side air bags for driver and passenger, head airbags are provided for both front and rear. BMW Attentiveness Assist is another usual safety feature.
In terms of cabin design, quality of materials, ergonomics and safety the X5 scores well. It’s just the limited use of third row to seat people that makes it more of a 5 seater than a 7 seater that it referred to as.
Engine, Transmission and Performance
A grouse on the 3.0 litre diesel engine in previous X5s was its noisy nature and this oil burner still does not sound very refined. At idling it is audible and you do feel the vibrations through the floorboard. But this engine has good grunt and the turbo kicks in from as low as 1700 rpm giving you the shove back in your seat. With punchy low end torque and linear delivery of power it’s enjoyable to drive the X5 in the city – just keep a light foot on the pedal and the 8 speed auto ‘box does its job diligently. It judges your throttle inputs to downshift or to stay in a gear as required.
These German luxury cars are loaded with technology but too much of something can get annoying at times. What we are referring to is the hyper-sensitivity of X5’s parking sensors. If anything gets too close to the car it begins to beeps in a hysterical manner and even when turned off, it starts again automatically.
Coming back to its performance traits, the X5 is fun-to-drive on the highways too. The mid range is very strong and with ready downshifts by the ZF gearbox, overtaking is always simple. It is also slick to slip between cogs and you won’t even know the change unless you are checking the instrument panel frequently.
When you get into the manual mode, the engine even after the unleash of full 255 bhp at 4000 rpm, can spin up to 5500 rpm and can also hold it there. And the gear box does not hesitate to downshift when you use the paddle shifters. The agility of this updated SUV comes not only because of more power and torque but also on account of the weight it has lost as compared to its predecessors. It does the 0-100 km/hour in 7.05 seconds.
So the powerful 3.0 litre diesel engine does make the X5 very entertaining to drive. It is the refinement factor that BMW needs to seriously work upon.
Ride and Handling
The third generation X5 has gone plusher but there is not a significant improvement in ride characteristics of this car. Instead of opting for 21 or even 20 inchers, it is wise to stick with the 18 inch alloy wheels draped in 255/55 R18 tyres. The wider and low profile tyres actually feel out of place on Indian roads and their thin side walls can ruin the ride quality.
The ride in X5 is on the firm side and at slow speeds it can deal effectively with the small bumps and undulations. On switching over the Sport mode however there is a little clatter on sharp ridges and potholes. So it does spoil the cabin comfort on some of the poor roads of India. It is good that the 7 Series sourced seats of X5 filter out quite a few disturbances and the revised suspension helps in levelling out small bumps.
Air suspension is now standard for this SUV and it has electronic damper control. With a permanent four-wheel-drive, 60% of engine power is apportioned to the rear wheels that have good traction. X5 has its road grip balanced more towards the rear axle.
In the Sport and Sport Plus mode the handling gets better – its throttle responses are quicker and steering feels heavier. After the changes under the skin, the X5 is indeed feels better to drive. It is sure footed and if pushed hard it can contradict its tall stance. There is good control and this among other things implies that the body-roll is very limited. And the steering wheel responds well helping to turn the X5 sharply into corners. The 60% power going to the rear wheels can go up to 100% as per driving conditions. Thanks to dynamic stability control, there is ample sure-footedness.
In the Eco Pro mode X5’s automatic gearbox upshifts earlier than in other modes and the acceleration responses, climate control settings get set for maximum feasible fuel savings. While the ARAI claimed fuel economy is 15.35 km/litre, in the real world it affords 7.5 km/litre in the city and 11.8 km/litre on the highways. For its kerb of over 2 tonnes, these figures are acceptable and anyways an SUV of BMW X5 size is not bought with ‘excellent fuel economy’ as one of the parameters!
More powerful diesel engine, refurbished cabin and added equipment have made the third generation X5 more appealing. It retains its sporty handling characteristics and is enjoyable to drive in city and on the highways. The smooth and responsive gearbox is also its strength. While the cabin is roomy and provides adequate comfort to 5 occupants, the third row of seats has limited use. And one downer for this vehicle is the noise that the 3.0 litre engine makes. But put against its predecessors, the third generation X5 is a superior product and better value-for-money proposition.
The two variants are priced at Rs 67.9 lakhs and 70.9 lakhs (ex showroom price Delhi) and these make it more expensive than rival Audi Q7.
Value for Money: 3.5/5