Car reviews - BMW - X5
Hushed cabin quietness, strong six-pot diesels, cleaner interior, ride even on 22-inch rims, much improved lane-keep assist and voice control, split tailgate, digital instrument cluster
Room for improvement
Some low-speed transmission jerkiness, lurching M50d gear changes under acceleration, vast options list can get overwhelming and drive up price
BMW makes Australia’s favourite luxury large SUV more desirable with new-gen X5
23 Nov 2018
BMW’s X5 large luxury SUV has had a stranglehold on its segment for the majority of its existence in Australia, having topped the sales charts for 14 consecutive years against competition such as the Range Rover Sport, Mercedes-Benz GLE/ML and Audi Q7.
That streak looks set to continue into 2018 and beyond with the release of the all-new G05 series, replacing the F15 that went on sale in 2013.
The new model receives big upgrades to tech, design and comfort, while the G05 has also grown in all dimensions when compared to the F15.
At launch only two diesel variants will be offered – the 30d and performance-honed M50d – with the petrol-powered 40i set to join the line-up early next year.
Will the new X5 capture the hearts and minds of buyers like its predecessors have?
Since its launch in 2001, the X5 has unquestionably been one of the most critical models for BMW, regularly finishing among its best sellers despite its relatively steep asking price.
Originally hailed for its on-road driveability compared to its competition at the time, the X5 has evolved to become a great family all-rounder that offers, comfort, technology and practicality, as well as strong dynamics and on-road manners.
New tech has been the main point of focus for the G05 X5, however stepping into the cabin for the first time, it is clear that comfort and luxury have been emphasised in equal measure.
Recent BMW interiors have suffered when compared to their German rivals, with dashboard layouts that are cluttered and awkwardly asymmetrical, however the new X5 has an interior with a much cleaner layout and premium materials in abundance.
We are glad to see the Bavarian brand has dropped the semi-digital instrument cluster of previous models and made the switch to a fully digital display, which greatly increases the versatility of the screen.
The 12.3-inch screen sits next to an infotainment screen of the same size projecting the new iDrive 7 user interface, which retains a similar level of usability to the previous generation but has been updated with a slightly different layout.
Most customers won’t notice much of a difference with the operation of iDrive 7 compared to iDrive 6, however we did notice a big improvement with the voice commands, which were able to answer our questions despite using informal language and non-official voice prompts.
Materials in the X5 cabin exude a premium feel, with soft leather upholstery adorning the seats, centre console and upper dashboard (the latter of which is optional), with tasteful trimmings of wood and brushed metal in between. A panoramic sunroof is standard on all variants, which is an attractive feature.
The exterior dimensions of the new X5 have increased all around, which has resulted in the same luggage space but more room in the passenger compartment. Front space is ample, but the difference is clearly seen in the second row, with plentiful leg and headroom for rear occupants over six-feet tall, even with a large passenger up front.
Starting the engine and heading on the road for the first time, we are immediately struck by how quiet the X5’s cabin is, even in the sporty M50d with an M sports exhaust and 22-inch rims wrapped in low-profile Pirelli tyres.
Travelling at 100km/h on a significantly windy day, wind and tyre noise are almost imperceptible, adding to the already premium feel of the interior.
Ride quality is also impressive on the large rims, with a wide array of available suspension set-ups sure to please customers.
Another premium touch is the addition of a split-fold tailgate similar to the Range Rover and Toyota LandCruiser 200, which makes loading items easily and can even act as a bench seat.
One of the updated tech features is the X5’s new camera-based driver assistance system, which increases the number of road-scanning cameras from two to three, and improves the range and accuracy of the systems.
This has resulted in a much more accurate autonomous lane-keeping system. Previous BMW systems only activated once the vehicle got too close to the lane’s edge, resulting in a bias of staying on the left side of the lane. The new system actively keeps the vehicle in the middle of the lane, giving drivers greater reassurance and providing a more accurate lane-keep system.
Both launch variants employ a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel inline six-cylinder engine, with the difference being the spanner-turners at BMW’s M division have tacked an extra three turbochargers onto the M50d’s mill, for a whopping four total turbos.
Driving the M50d, we were impressed at how the performance variant could reliably play the dual-purpose role of everyday family SUV and dynamic sportscar, with its on-road dynamism belying its large dimensions and 2350kg kerb weight.
It can feel a bit tall around corners but its increased track width and the inclusion of rear-wheel steering aid its handling characteristics and keep it planted through turns.
Power from its 294kW/760Nm quad-turbo mill is potent, with a huge shove of torque pressing you into the back of your seat under acceleration. Due its ample torque and lower redline than a petrol engine, gear changes are a little too frequent and can have a lurching feel when under full acceleration. Nevertheless, it is a potent engine and the only example of the quad-turbo mill available in Australia, given the M550d sedan/wagon is only available in left-hand-drive markets.
Sampling the 30d, it is quickly apparent why the cheaper of the six-pot diesels has been the most popular variant in the past. While not as potent as the M50d, the single-turbo engine still offers plentiful torque in a smooth and refined manner, with a quiet and pliant driving characteristic that can also spring to life when needed. Performance and power are more than enough for most, making for a great all-rounder.
Our only grumble is that in start-stop traffic, lifting your foot off the accelerator before the transmission has changed from first to second can result in some unexpected torque braking that jerkily and unexpectedly pulls the car up.
One minor gripe aside, the BMW six-cylinder engine (petrol or diesel) and eight-speed auto combination is one of our favourites in the automotive industry and offers a refined driving experience under the bonnet of the new X5.
Fuel economy on our drive ended up at 12.2 litres per 100km in the M50d and 9.1L/100km in the 30d, however that figure should come down with less enthusiastic day-to-day driving.
The new X5 should keep the sales ball rolling for BMW, with a refined, classy and dynamically enjoyable product sure to continue to captivate Australian buyers. With the arrival of more variants next year, including the petrol 40i, 45e PHEV and at some stage a full M variant, the likes of Mercedes and Audi will have their hands full trying to catch the Bavarian family hauler.
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