Back in the ‘90s, a partnership that was supposed to bring Rover back to its glory lasted only six years; BMW, having learned that it just couldn’t continue to sustain losses, decided to let go of the British carmaker. What stayed, especially for BMW (apart from the resurrected MINI) was something that would help the German carmaker go places it hadn’t been to yet. The all-new BMW X5 was developed during that time, incorporating Land-Rover know-how to create a BMW SUV that was adept at offering great driving fun without losing out on practicality. It was exactly 25 years ago that the first-generation X5 was born, and as many would agree, life hasn’t been the same since. With its launch, BMW showed everyone that SUVs could handle well; this is a hill that the German carmaker will be more than happy to die on, even now. Things are very different now, because the luxury SUV market is more populated than it’s ever been, and nearly every carmaker has got it right. So, how does the ‘OG’ fare?

The G05-generation of the X5 isn’t new, but for this facelift, the design approach is more sensible than just placing a large grille at the front. The original X5, designed by Frank Stephenson, was a gargantuan task because BMWs were expected to look a certain way, and the firm was suddenly banking on a box-like body style to be inducted into a line-up full of sleek cars. Bringing together traditional BMW design elements and a large fuselage, the X5 somehow managed to look just right, but also rather inoffensive. 25 years hence, it continues with the same approach. For the facelift, the new bumper, sleeker headlights, and even the easily noticeable 21-inch alloy wheels do the trick. The Matrix LED cluster leaves a lasting impression (and also lights up the road quite effectively) and can even be specced with LEDs placed within the grille. It’s an easy box to tick for those looking for more attention, but it’s available only on the petrol-engined version as of now.

BMW has gone for a minimalist approach for the cabin which means fewer buttons, more screens and heightened luxury

BMW has gone for a minimalist approach for the cabin which means fewer buttons, more screens and heightened luxury

Minimalist cabin

On the inside, too, the X5 is loaded with appeal. Like most of its new cabins, BMW has opted for a minimalist approach here. This means fewer buttons, more screens and heightened luxury. The high-quality dashboard doesn’t disappoint in the way it looks and feels. A large 14.9-inch touchscreen sits in the centre and works as the entertainment unit, and in the absence of a myriad of buttons like on BMWs of the past, a fair number of features can be accessed from here. It’s powered by iDrive 8 software, and is complemented by a 12.3-inch screen for the driver. The onboard Harmon Kardon system sounds really good and adds to the upmarket appeal of the car.

It costs north of a crore (for this specific variant), and the BMW fittingly comes with a variety of features to keep occupants satisfied about their purchase. The easiest to appreciate among these is the gesture control on the infotainment screen. It has been around for a while, and many carmakers have toyed with it, but BMW has got it right. On the verge of sounding like a gimmick, it enables the driver to access music controls, for instance, through gestures, without having to take their eyes off the road. One might not notice how effective it is the first time, but the fewer the distractions, the safer your drive is going to be. This is also a bit ironic, because the buttons are nearly gone — and so is the tactility — and that high-res screen, although not in the line of sight, is too large to ignore.


Also not ignorable is how well the BMW X5 drives. In the xDrive 30d variant that we had on test, a 3-litre, straight-six diesel engine powers the car. BMW has always had a strong suite of engines, and this one doesn’t disappoint, either. Moving forward with time, it comes equipped with an onboard electric motor, which adds a modest 10 bhp and 20.39 kg-m of torque, taking the resultant figures to an extremely impressive combination of 66.28 kg-m and 282 bhp. In stereotypical BMW fashion, the engine, which seems eerily silent at low revs, can offer blasts of performance, moving this 2.4-tonne mammoth from standstill to a ton in a claimed time of 6.1 seconds. The chassis balance hasn’t been forgotten, either. Despite its bulk, the X5 is never non-responsive, both to throttle inputs and direction changes. It turns out to be a great highway cruiser, too, with immense stability and the diesel engine ready to offer more power in nearly all instances.

This makes overtaking a breeze, and even when the road starts to wind, the X5 catapults itself from one corner to the other without hesitation. The steering is direct, with both the right amount of weight and feel for its size; accurate and easy to operate, it instils confidence. The all-wheel drive system ensures that the X5, while not a hardcore off-roader, can handle bad roads without troubling its occupants, or resulting in a heavy repair bill.

For moments when you don’t want to follow an imaginary racing line, you’ll be able to appreciate the smooth nature of the eight-speed automatic gearbox. The ride, crucial for a car from this segment, can’t be faulted, either. The onboard air suspension makes sure that bumps are absorbed without causing the occupants even the slightest trouble. The same suspension will also happily oblige when you want the X5 to keep body movements in check, especially during spirited drives.

With energetic performance, upmarket looks, new technology, and a plush cabin, the X5 does its bit to justify its ex-showroom price tag of ₹98 lakh (for the standard trim) and ₹1.09 crore for the M Sport as pictured here. Having said that, the competition in the segment isn’t far off. SUVs like the Mercedes-Benz GLE LWB and Audi Q7 are equally well-equipped, and have a lot to offer in terms of comfort and overall appeal. That said, in true BMW fashion, the X5 is likely to be the preferred choice of those who want their SUV to handle well — better than its rivals, certainly. It offers more driver engagement, sharper looks, and a more individual appeal. It doesn’t fall flat as a chauffeur-driven car, either, which is a great thing considering many of these will end up being daily drivers for top executives. However, if you are after something that does well off the road, you might want to look elsewhere.

25 years after its launch, the X5 appears to have been shaped to accommodate what the market wants, without stripping away its core character. It’s the best of both worlds, and while BMW calls it a Sports Activity Vehicle, it’s still what an ideal road-biased SUV should be.