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First drive: BMW X5 – on sale now

BMW

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Review

Before the BMW X5 was launched in 2000, sports utility vehicles were more utility than sport: on-road performance was compromised by attempts to fulfil a perceived need for off-road abilities.

The X5 was never about that. Although BMW always claimed the car was capable at venturing on to the grassy and rocky bits, none of the 600,000 global buyers bought it for that reason.

This car revolutionised the 4x4 sector. It was a two-tonne SUV that felt like a 1.5-tonne car, and a sporty one at that. BMW called it a sports activity vehicle with justification.

The next-generation X5 has a lot to live up to, then. First impressions concern how much bigger it is: 26mm higher, 187mm longer and 61mm wider. The wheelbase is up 113mm to 2,933mm, the front track has been increased by 68mm to 1,644mm and the rear by 74mm to 1,650mm.

It allows BMW to offer the option of two more seats, making X5 a seven-seater, and also lowers the centre of gravity to assist handling.

Consequently, it’s also heavier, which impacts on handling. The X5 no longer feels spritely or nimble-footed. However, it still heads the pack – just.

That’s down to replacing the strut suspension with double wishbones which improve camber control and reduce lateral forces.

Active steering, adaptive drive (electronic dampers and active anti-roll) plus data transfer via FlexRay which enables multiple changes per second to damper rates also offset the impact of extra weight.

Introducing the option of third-row seating is expected to broaden X5’s appeal to families. BMW believes the optional seating specification is likely to be chosen by a quarter of all buyers. More than 90% will go for the “dynamic package” of sports seats and suspension, bigger wheels and black roof-lining.

Anyone wanting an X5 faces a wait as the 2007 allocation of 6,000 has been sold.

The 3.0-litre diesel will account for the vast majority of sales followed by the 3.0-litre petrol; just 600 will be the new 4.8-litre V8 petrol tested by AM.

No surprise as it lacks the diesel torque pull and efficiency.

Interior quality is excellent, although, annoyingly, the front doors need slamming to shut properly. While the new X5 doesn’t tear down barriers like the original, it remains among the sector leaders on performance, quality and style.

Price: £39,540-£49,980
Engines: 3.0-litre diesel/petrol, 4.8-litre petrol
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Performance: Diesel 0-62mph 8.3s, top speed 134mph; petrol 8.1/6.5s, 140/150mph
Efficiency: Diesel 32.5mpg, 231g/km CO2; petrol 25.9/22.6mpg, 260/299g/km
Cap RV 3yr/30k: 56% (3.0 diesel), 50% (4.8 petrol)
Rivals: Mercedes M-Class, Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, Land Rover Discovery

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