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New X5; apt for the demanding luxury SUV buyer

S Muralidhar | Updated on October 04, 2018 Published on October 04, 2018

The new fourth generation BMW X5

Sleek and shiny: The interior now gets cut crystal glass elements

The X5’s rear has undergone quite a few changes

Loaded up to its gills, the 2019 model from BMW will be worth the wait

It is an oft-repeated line that the Indian luxury car buyer is one of the most demanding there is. They want the car to offer every feature that can possibly be loaded on even though more than half of those may never really be used. That tough-to-crack customer segment would be delighted to know that the new fourth generation BMW X5 is loaded up to its gills. It is longer and wider, offering even more space inside; it can be specified as a seven-seater too; gets more powerful powertrains, which are yet, more fuel efficient; it is more capable off-road and has many more electrically operated features like the rear parcel shelf, which folds down and retracts into the boot floor at the touch of a button. Happy now?

The X5 is an important model for BMW too, because it is the largest seller in the segment, and is considered the father of the SAV (sports activity vehicle) category for the German brand. Launched almost two decades ago and spanning three generations, the X5 has sold over 2.2 million units till now worldwide. Every generation of the X5 has marked an organic increase in proportions, similar to competing models in the market. Yet, the new generation model’s stance and size delivers an impact that more than subtly distinguishes it from the outgoing model.

Sleek and shiny: The interior now gets cut crystal glass elements

 

Design

The fourth-gen X5 is 36 mm longer than the previous model, and its wheelbase is 42 mm more. It is a full 66 mm wider making it seem squatter, a perception that is further enhanced by its pared-back design language. It is also 19 mm taller and it gets lightly hexagonal wheel arches, both of which accentuate its muscular, upright stance. BMW had organised the international media drive of the new X5 in Atlanta, in the US, last week and at first glance, the new model seemed to be smaller than the outgoing one. Walking up close, I realise that the reason for this is the new, much larger kidney grille that dominates the front of the new X5 so much that it distracts the eye. It also features a single piece surround and active shutters meant to boost aerodynamics. LED headlights are standard, while BMW Laserlights with adaptive LED headlamps are optional. The Blue x-shaped elements in the headlamp units deliver a selective high beam extending the range of the non-dazzling beam to 500 metres.

 

 

The side character line now traces up higher at the rear door and merges into the tail-lamps giving the new X5 a stronger haunch. The tail-lights themselves are more horizontal, feature LEDs and offer a new 3D, sculpted look. The standard rims are 18-inchers, with the xLine and M Sport trim getting 19 and 20-inchers respectively. Optional additions include 21 and 22-inch rims, with what must seem like rubber strips for tyres! The xLine and MSport trims get mild variations such as the underguard and window treatment to distinguish them from the rest of the pack. Overall, the rear of the new X5 looks fresh and very different from the outgoing model, while the front still seems familiar.

Cabin

But if BMW designers might have seemed too cautious with the exterior design, they certainly have given vent to their creativity in the new X5’s cabin. It is more spacious and airy (also thanks to the optional panoramic sunroof), but the cabin also feels much more premium compared to the current model. There are cut crystal glass elements for the gearknob and rotary iDrive controller; there is the new 12.3-inch control display cresting the centre stack and the similarly-sized digital instrument cluster, and the seats with more luxurious leather upholstery options are all new in the cabin. The dashboard layout is now layered and features horizontal lines, though it still has a few BMW trademark hexagonal trim patterns. Electroplated trim elements and black glossy panels add to the sense of plushness in the X5’s cabin.

 

There is a lot of the discreet LED ambient lighting that we have already seen in models higher up in the hierarchy. The colour palette has some funky shades, as do the effects and pulsing settings for some of the functions. I didn’t get to drive the seven-seater configuration, but predictably you’d have to choose between reasonable space (650 litres) in the boot or a cramped third row of seats. The split tailgate is still there, though both the parts are now motorised. Both the second and third row seats can also be folded down electrically. Top-end variants, which feature air suspension can also be lowered by about 1.6-inches at the touch of a button for ease of loading into the boot. The driver seat is set a bit higher and the cockpit is still very driver-focussed. Also improving the drive experience is the interesting combo of display settings that the new operating system allows for the infotainment and digital instrument cluster. Also likeable is the Bowers & Wilkins music system.

 

Performance

The new X5 is being offered with four engine options worldwide, including a brand new V8 petrol engine for the xDrive50i and a diesel in-line six-cylinder with four turbochargers for the M50d. But I would hazard a guess that the engine that will make it to our shores will be the smaller diesel in the xDrive30d. Similar in size to the current model on offer here, the changed performance characteristics for the 2,993 cc engine allow it to generate 265 hp of power and 620 Nm of torque. The engine is just a shade quicker in its sprint to 100 kmph, making it in 6.5 seconds. But, the engine is also more frugal and delivers an efficiency of 6.8-6.0 litres per 100 kms. All the engines are paired with an eight-speed ZF steptronic transmission.

Being bottled within the confines of peak-hour traffic in Atlanta’s downtown and then a bit of the highway run at limited top speeds highlighted how quiet the new X5’s cabin really is. Thanks to the 30d engine’s refinement and an excellent NVH package, it was almost impossible to identify any of the usual diesel engine characteristics in the mule I was testing. On the winding country roads leading to a farm on the outskirts, where the events team had organised an off-roading experience, the X5 really came into its own. Delivering a punchy, linear response all the way from about 1,800 rpm, the powertrain has none of the lag that is endemic to single-turbo units. Change in powertrain character based on driving mode selection is predictable.

The suspension set-up included adaptive dampers and air springs. Ride quality was surprisingly not harsh even in sport setting, though it might be less comfortable on the kind of broken tarmac that is common on our roads. The off-road course that I tested included fairly challenging steep gradients and muddy, slushy conditions. The new X5 xDrive30d gets the latest version of BMW’s intelligent all-wheel drive system, which is quicker and can even direct full power to the rear wheels. The off-road package (a first for the X5) includes an electronically-controlled rear differential lock, which in addition to splitting torque availability in off-road conditions, can also help tackle differential grip while taking corners.

 

Bottom Line

The new X5 also gets a range of semi-autonomous driver assistance systems, and active and passive safety systems. It gets the parking assist function we have seen in the 5 Series. But the more dramatic and possibly useful in a tight spot function is the back-up assistant, which allows you to automatically trace back in reverse the route the X5 took forward for the last 50 metres. The system stores the steering input of the last stretch and the driver only needs to control the throttle and brakes after choosing the auto reverse for either getting out of a cul-de-sac or a tight parking spot. Unlike some of the competitors and even unlike the previous generation’s rather incremental change, the new X5 represents a big jump in quality, luxury and prowess compared to the current model. It can now take on the competition better and some more, with the new X5M scheduled to debut in 2019 and a hybrid due out globally in 2020. The new X5 is due out in India by Q2 next year. Prices are likely to be marginally higher.

Published on October 04, 2018
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