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BMW launches off-road rocket

Ready to go: BMW claims the X5 4.6 rockets to 100km/h from rest in just 6.5 seconds.

BMW ups the off-road sports battle with a hyped X5 aimed at Benz's ML 55 AMG

25 Sep 2001

BMW Australia has squared up to arch-rival Mercedes-Benz in the sport off-roader category, announcing it will sell the storming X5 4.6is from February.

The latest X5 four-wheel drive, unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show earlier this month, is a direct rival for Benz's ML 55 AMG, the king of the highly successful M-class range.

The BMW is powered by a 4.6-litre version of BMW's famed all-aluminium, 4.4-litre V8, which punches out 255kW of power and 480Nm of torque, up from 210kW and 440Nm respectively.

BMW claims a sizzling 0-100km/h acceleration figure of just 6.5 seconds with a top speed of 240km/h, making it undoubtedly the fastest sports utility vehicle ever.

The ML punches out an identical amount of kilowatts from its 5.4-litre V8 engine, 30 more Newton-metres than the BMW, but trails it by 0.4 seconds to 100km/h and lags by 8km/h in terms of top speed.

The BMW is significantly more expensive, however, commanding a hefty $149,750 while the Benz is $139,900, although that price is due to rise by around $1000 when a facelifted M-class range goes on sale on November 1.

The ML also has the sales edge, with around 200 moving annually, while BMW is forecasting about 100 Australian sales per annum, although supply is restricted.

To cope with the extra grunt, the X5 4.6is has sports suspension mated to 20-inch wheels and enormous 275/40 front and 315/35 rear tyres, as well as a larger braking system.

BMW says the Steptronic automatic transmission has also been modified to give it a more sporting character.

Flared wheel arches, a front air dam and wind splitters are visual clues to the 4.6is while standard equipment levels are boosted with xenon headlights and headlight washers, rain sensor activated wipers, BMW satellite navigation and a television screen.

That's in addition to 10 airbags, leather/Alcantara upholstery, sports steering wheel, sunroof, powered lumbar support and seat heating.

For those few who would want to take the 4.6is off-road, there's an array of electronic aids rather than traditional low range gearing or differential locks.

Ready to be confused? There's ADB-X differential lock, HDC hill descent control, ABS anti-lock, DSC stability control, CBC corner brake control, ASC-X traction control and DBC dynamic brake control. Got all that?

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