Car reviews - BMW - X5 - xDrive 30d
Classy cabin, reasonable option prices, good real-world fuel economy, class-leading dynamics
Room for improvement
Slightly awkward styling, seven seats pushed to options list, wheezy air-con with glass sunroof
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5 Feb 2014
By BARRY PARK
Price and equipment
We’re driving the entry-level six-cylinder diesel variant, featuring a single twin-scroll turbocharger paired with an in-line six-cylinder engine feeding drive to all wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Priced from $99,900 before on-road costs, it is $12,000 more expensive than the entry-level four-cylinder diesel version, or $17,000 more than the newly introduced four-cylinder rear-drive model that eschews the X5’s once-mandatory all-paw grip.
The sub-$100,000 figure stacks up competitively against the opposition.
Audi’s seven-seat Q7 3.0 TDI slips in at a cheaper $90,500 with a 3.0-litre single-turbo V6 diesel engine mated to an eight-speed auto – but has the legacy of a less than stellar four-star crash rating – while Mercedes-Benz’s fresh-look ML350 BlueTEC featuring 3.0-litres of turbo diesel V6 driving all four wheels via a seven-speed shifter is priced from $99,400.
Base equipment is surprisingly rich by traditionally expensive BMW standards.
For the money, you can expect a smarter Bluetooth phone connection that includes voice dialling, adaptive cruise control that automatically taps the brakes if you drift too close to the car in front, front and rear parking sensors with a surround-camera view that looks as though you’re standing on the roof looking down, a head-up display that floats information such as the X5’s speed in the air in front of the driver, a mix of real and synthetic leather, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing bi-Xenon headlights with an automatic high-beam dipping function, and satin-finish aluminium roof rails.
The car sits by default sits on 19-inch alloys clad in low-profile Goodyear rubber (our test car replaces them with 20s), the front seats each have electric adjustment, there’s dual-zone climate control with air vents for the rear seats, velour floor mats, nine-speaker audio system with a USB port tucked in under the lidded centre console, and a huge 10.25-inch multimedia screen with satellite navigation running a bit like an afterthought along the centre of the dash.
As always, there’s the option of accessorising. Our test car came loaded with $12,800 with of extra gear, including a $3700 panoramic glass sunroof – more about that later – a $1500 16-speaker Harmon Kardon audio upgrade, $2000 worth of metallic paint and $5600 for the M Sport package adding M-branded alloys, adaptive suspension, different bits of exterior plastic, polished roof rails, and an M-badged steering wheel with paddle shifters tucked in behind it.
The sport package also adds tightly hugging M-branded sports seats.
The only blight on the whole prestige package is the lack of keyless entry, which will have you fumbling in a pocket for the key fob each time you go for a drive. It does get push-button start, though.
Slipping in behind the new X5’s steering wheel is an experience. It’s all very official and blokey-looking, but nicely presented and packaged with that air of prestige about it.
Strong horizontal lines define the cabin, dressed in cold-touch aluminium highlights and real wood polished to a high gloss.
The driver sits in front of a smart-looking steering wheel with buttons for the cruise control and audio functions, while the dash sports a tacho and speedo split by a large LCD screen showing the trip computer and other bits of important information.
Interior stash space is improved, including a lidded bin at the front of the centre console that also hides a couple of cupholders, and the split centre armrest that folds up to reveal a reasonably sized cubby including a USB port.
Once again, everything along the dash apart from the multimedia screen and the glovebox is skewed slightly towards the driver. For the first time, though, the X5 features a single dash-mounted button that allows the driver to quickly access, and switch off, various safety systems. It glows green when the whole safety net is in place, and growls orange when things are disabled.
The centre console has myriad buttons around the short, stubby gearshift lever that are used to tweak the driveline settings to eke out fuel savings or attack a bit of road like a sports car, as well as the parking sensors, hill descent control tat automatically crawls the X5 down a slope, and the surround camera system. An electric parking brake is a nice touch.
The rear seats are roomy and comfortable, with a fold-down armrest that also hides a pair of cupholders. My children delighted in a pair of family-friendly 12-volt sockets positioned especially for the rear pews.
A comment, though, about the panoramic sunroof. Once a bit of sun hits it, the light fabric blind beneath it does little to stop the heat penetrating the cabin. Things weren’t helped by an air-conditioning system that always seemed to struggle to cool the vast interior.
Our test car did not have the $4600 third-row seats fitted, so the boot space is big and airy. It includes a false floor that provides a hidden storage space.
One quirk on our car, though, was an alarm that sounded after the reversing system faulted while backing up the X5. Switching the vehicle off, and then on again, cleared the problem.
Engine and transmission
The X5 range is entirely made up of turbocharged engines for this generation.
The xDrive30d uses just one turbocharger, with variable vane technology to help with low-rev performance.
In short, it’s a corker. Strong, responsive and frugal, it is as happy tooling along the freeway as it is attacking a string of tight corners.
Look on paper, and you’ll see why. Power is rated at 190kW, while torque is a truck-like 560Nm from about 1500rpm, so not far off idle.
The high number of ratios in the automatic transmission help the X5 to keep its engine almost constantly in its torque sweet spot. It slurs deliciously up the ratio under hard acceleration, and is whisper-quiet and smooth under a more pedestrian throttle.
Pull up at a set of lights, and the engine shuts down to save on fuel, restarting as soon as you start to lift a foot off the brake.
Fuel use is officially rated at 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. In our week behind the wheel, we averaged a commendable 6.9L/100km.
If you want to tow with the X5, this model is rated at 2700kg – enough for a double horse float or a decent-sized half-cabin runabout.
Ride and handling
One thing the new X5 has not improved on is sheer bulk. On the scales, it tips in at 2070 kilograms. One of its rivals, the Range Rover Vogue, has just shed almost 500kg as part of a generational change.
You wouldn’t know it weighs that much. Body roll on cornering is very well controlled, the X5 brakes sharply in a straight line without wriggling around as the higher centre of gravity upsets its balance, and acceleration feels especially brisk once you grab the big soft-roader by the scruff of the neck.
The steering is electrically assisted, but with keen weighting and decent feel and directness to keep the driver in contact with the road.
The low-speed ride is excellent, soaking up all the lumps and bumps of even patchy road surfaces without fuss. Our only criticism is a tendency for the ride to get a bit fussy at higher speeds, where small, sharp bumps earthquake through the cabin. But we can live with it, and potentially the softer riding 19-inch default hoops will be a better match.
Safety and servicing
Adaptive cruise control, a lane-keeping assistant and a fun-loving electronic safety net sit on top of a safety list that includes side curtain airbags for the front and rear seats.
The new X5 doesn’t yet have an official Australasian New Car Assessment Program crash rating, but the previous generation scored the top five stars. You’d expect the same for this generation.
The BMW X5 is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty that includes roadside assistance should something go wrong.
BMW allows owners to find out the cost of a service before they head to the dealership. For a minimum outlay of $990, you can have a portion of your service needs covered for the next five years. As always, read the fine print.
BMW’s X5 set out to reset the benchmark, and in short it has. However, nothing is ever perfect, and the big Bavarian does show a few character flaws.
If you’re thinking like me, though, there’s still enough of the good stuff to make it a top pick.
Audi Q7 3.0 TDI (From $90,500 before on-roads).
Launched in 2006 and soon up for replacement. Refined on-road and with good economy from a strong engine, it suffers from below-par safety thanks to a surprise four-star crash rating. Does come standard with seven family-friendly seats, though.
Lexus RX450h F Sport (From $89,900 before on-roads).
Lexus eschews diesel technology for petrol-hybrid drivetrains. Its soft-roader version, the part-time all-wheel-drive RX450h, comes very well equipped and with sharp looks thanks to the F Sport package, but disappointingly it doesn’t drive like a sporty SUV.
Mercedes-Benz ML350 CDI (From $99,400 before on-roads).
Bang on the X5’s pricing, so the Benz soft-roader has BMW wary. Roomy and comfortable, and dispensing with the awful foot-operated park brake, the bigger Benz SUV suffers from too much of a top-heavy feel when cornering.
MAKE/MODEL: BMW X5 xDrive30d
ENGINE: Turbo diesel 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder
LAYOUT: Front engined, all-wheel-drive
TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed automatic
TOP SPEED: 209km/h
EMISSIONS: 164g/km CO2
SUSPENSION: Macpherson (f)/Multilink (r)
STEERING: Electrically assisted rack and pinion
BRAKES: Disc (f)/disc (r)
PRICE: From $99,900 before on-roads
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