Car reviews - BMW - X5 - xDrive30d
Imposing looks, luxurious and roomy interior, cutting-edge technology, effortless torque, intuitive transmission, real-world efficiency, supple air suspension
Room for improvement
Steering can feel heavy and slow at low speed, noticeable understeer and body roll during hard cornering, optional 21-inch alloy wheels can catch sharp edges
BMW adds 7 Series luxury and technology to much-improved X5 xDrive30d large SUV
3 Apr 2019
WHEN the original X5 broke cover in 1999, most within the automotive industry thought BMW had gone mad.
As a premium brand that prided itself on selling ‘the ultimate driving machine’, how would an SUV justify its existent?
Well, hindsight is 20/20 and BMW made the right move, as the various X Series models now account for the majority of its sales here in Australia.
So, after its predecessor’s shorter-than-usual lifecycle, the fourth-generation X5 has arrived rocking a bold new look and brimming with cutting-edge technology.
But is this significant upgrade any good? We’ve put the volume-selling xDrive30d variant through its paces to find out.
Price and equipment
Priced from $112,990 plus on-road costs, the xDrive30d is no dearer than its predecessor despite being armed with more standard equipment than ever before.
These features include LED daytime running lights and foglights, three-dimensional LED tail-lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power-folding side mirrors with heating functionality, roof rails and a power-operated split tailgate.
Inside, the 12.3-inch touchscreen iDrive7 infotainment system supports always-on natural voice and gesture control and features satellite navigation with live traffic, wireless Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity and DAB+ digital radio.
Furthermore, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a windshield-projected head-up display, keyless entry and start, a panoramic sunroof, two USB-A and -C ports, three 12V power outlets, an auxiliary input, power-adjustable sports seats with memory functionality, Vernasca leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and ambient lighting are also found.
In typical BMW fashion, our test car is fitted with several options, which bring the price as tested to $126,860. Curiously, though, heated front seats cost extra, which is an oversight in our books.
Optional equipment found here includes the $4000 M Sport package that bundles in a sports body kit, larger brake discs with blue callipers (four-piston fronts and single-pot rears), high-gloss Shadow Line exterior trim, sports steering wheel and pedals, M-branded scuff plates and an anthracite roofliner.
It also has self-levelling air suspension ($2300), bi-colour Orbit Grey 21-inch alloy wheels wrapped in a mixed set of Pirelli P-Zero tyres ($2600), adaptive laser headlights ($2400), Phytonic Blue metallic paintwork ($2000), a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system ($1300), four-zone climate control ($900), wireless smartphone charging ($900), extended Merino leather upholstery ($2700) and Piano Black interior trim ($800).
Step inside the X5 and you’d be excused for thinking that you’re in the wrong BMW. Yes, the X5 could very well be the body double for the 7 Series. In fact, in many ways, it’s more luxurious than the flagship model.
Granted our test car is fitted with extended Merino leather upholstery that beautifully covers the dashboard and door shoulders, it is still a premium affair.
The X5’s Vernasca leather upholstery, which is used for the seats, armrests and door inserts; unusually feels like it has a finer grain than it does in the X3, while soft-touch materials are pretty much found everywhere else – even on the door cards!
This ambience is further heightened by our test car’s Piano Black interior trim that looks less plastic than it actually is. BMW has nailed the combination of materials here.
However, the X5 set itself apart from the 7 Series by introducing cutting-edge technology, highlighted by the pair of sharp 12.3-inch displays that handle the infotainment system and digital instrumentation separately.
The central touchscreen is powered by BMW’s new iDrive7 software, which is a stark departure from its predecessor in terms of layout and functionality, but this is a not a bad thing, as it well and truly raises the stakes, especially with its always-on voice control.
iPhone users will also be stoked by iDrive7’s seamless integration of wireless Apple CarPlay, connecting with ease upon re-entry, although we wish the two-minute delay was shorter.
That being said, while the instrument cluster is finally fully digital – having abandoned the physical rings of its forbear – it still lacks the breadth of functionality that some rivals offer.
Oh, and let’s not forget the brilliant windshield-projected head-up display that is larger and crisper than before, giving you fewer reasons to look away from the road ahead.
Sitting inside the X5, the second thing that becomes apparent is how much space there is behind the front seats that feature future-proof USB-C ports integrated into their backrests.
Rear occupants have oodles of legroom, even behind our 184cm driving position, while we had about an inch of headroom to spare with the expansive panoramic sunroof that often poses a threat to comfort.
However, what’s really impressive is how well the second row accommodates three adults abreast, with enough room on offer that a fully grown trio could partake in a long journey with few complaints, partly thanks to the almost non-existent transmission tunnel.
One thing to watch, though, is entry and egress via the rear doors that appear large on the outside but actually have small openings for occupants to use. It’s not always comfortable getting in and out.
Nonetheless, cargo capacity is also generous, at a familiar 650L, but can expand to a carnivorous 1870L with the 40/20/40 split-fold rear bench stowed.
The split power-operated tailgate ensures that access to the wide and flat rear storage area couldn’t be any easier. Make no mistake, the X5 does practicality very well.
Engine and transmission
As its name suggests, the xDrive30d is motivated by the same 3.0-litre turbo-diesel inline six-cylinder engine used in other BMW models, and that’s a very good thing because it’s one of our favourites.
In this form, it produces 195kW of power at 4000rpm and a very useful 620Nm of torque from 2000 to 2500rpm – perfect outputs for a large SUV.
With a very thick wad of Sir Isaac’s best coming on stream early, pulling power is effortless from early engine speeds to the mid-range.
While maximum power is relatively strong, you rarely need to approach the top end to make use of it, because this engine is all about the torque.
An eight-speed ZF torque-converter automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) – another one of our favourites – and BMW’s rear-biased xDrive system are responsible for sending drive to all four wheels.
As a result, the 2110kg xDrive30d can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in a hot-hatch-like 6.5 seconds while on the way to its top speed of 230km/h.
In reality, it feels much spritelier than these claims, hunkering down and charging ahead with intent when full throttle is applied.
A lot of this is performance is thanks to the eight-speeder’s intuitive calibration and general responsiveness to spontaneous inputs.
Predictably, gear changes are quick and smooth, although on occasion they can be a little jerky when decelerating from low speeds to a standstill.
Five driving modes – Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, Adaptive and Individual – allow the driver to alter the throttle and transmission’s settings while on the move, with Sport adding a noticeable edge.
Naturally, the eight-speeder’s Sport mode can be summoned at any time, with a flick of the gear selector leading to higher shift points that are complementary to spirited driving.
Claimed fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions on the combined cycle test are 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres and 189 grams per kilometre respectively.
During our week with the xDrive30d, we’ve averaged 7.7L/100km over 400km of driving skewed slightly towards highway stints over urban runs. Either way, this is outstanding real-world efficiency for such a large vehicle.
Ride and handling
While the xDrive30d’s suspension set-up usually consists of double-wishbone front and multi-link rear axles with adaptive dampers, our test car adds optional self-levelling air springs that can adjust ride height by up to 40mm in either direction.
Ride comfort is simply sublime on tarmac, with the xDrive30d wafting over uneven surfaces with ease and maintaining composure over bumps. It all feels suitably luxurious.
However, the extra-cost 21-inch alloy wheels fitted to our test car often manage to catch sharper edges and spoil ride quality over poorer surfaces.
While the air springs do wonders for comfort, they do inevitably hamper dynamics, with the xDrive30d leaning into corners during spirited driving in the Comfort driving mode.
That being said, body control is strong overall for a large SUV, and the Sport driving mode goes some way in tightening things up, but it’s always going to be hard to defy physics.
The xDrive30d’s electric power steering is speed-sensitive, and its weight is adjustable via the aforementioned driving modes.
In Comfort, the system is well-weighted with just the right amount of heft, however, change it to Sport and it becomes even heavier, which might not be everyone’s taste.
Either way, the steering is relatively direct and offers great levels of feedback, with the chassis consistently communicating its movements to the driver.
However, the system does feel a little slow at low speed, meaning understeer often rears its ugly head when navigating tighter corners, but not to any great detriment.
Most of these minor handling issues can be attributed to the X5’s increased size. Measuring in at 4922mm long (+36mm), 2004mm wide (+66mm) and 1745mm tall (+19mm) with a 2975mm wheelbase (+42mm), it’s a properly large SUV (no pun intended).
This is further reflected by its 12.6m turning circle that makes low-speed manoeuvres in small spaces that little bit more challenging. Nothing that the optional rear-wheel steering ($2250) can’t help with, though.
Safety and servicing
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the X5 a five-star safety rating in December 2018.
It scored 89 per cent for Adult Occupant Protection, 87 per cent for Child Occupant Protection, 75 per cent for Vulnerable Road User Protection and 71 per cent for Safety Assist.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the xDrive30d extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep and steering assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, a manual speed limiter, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, surround-view cameras, park and reversing assist, front and rear parking sensors, high-beam assist, hill-descent control and -start assist, traffic sign recognition, tyre pressure monitoring and driver attention alert … and take a deep breath.
Other standard safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain plus driver’s knee), anti-skid brakes (ABS), brake assist (BA), electronic stability control (ESC) and a traction control system (TCS).
As with all BMW models, the X5 comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with three years of roadside assistance.
Service intervals are every 12 months of 15,000km, whichever comes first.
There is no doubt that BMW has seriously stepped up its game with the fourth-generation X5, raising its levels of luxury and technology beyond that of the 7 Series.
The X5’s mix of imposing looks and relatively well-sorted dynamics are complemented by the xDrive30d’s brilliant engine and transmission.
It’s no surprise then that the X5 continues to be its best in entry-level xDrive30d form. There really is no need to stump up the extra $37,000 for its M50d flagship … unless being the quickest in a straight line matters to you.
Volvo XC90 D5 R-Design (from $101,900 plus on-road costs)
With a handsome exterior and a well-executed interior, the XC90 D5 R-Design exudes quality, but its standard suspension tune is not up to par.
Lexus RX450h Sports Luxury (from $108,610 plus on-road costs)
Thanks to its quiet engine and low fuel consumption, the RX450h Sports Luxury is a solid option, but its overly fussy looks still divide opinion.
Mercedes-Benz GLE350d wagon (from $110,300 plus on-road costs)
Refined, roomy and safe with a quality ride, the soon-to-be-replaced GLE350d wagon is a crowd-pleaser, aside from its annoying gear selector.
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Model release date: 1 November 2018
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