BMW X5: More comfortable than ever before
There’s no denying the sheer presence of the BMW X5, the brand’s flagship SUV until the X7 was recently unveiled. For this generation, the X5 has been overhauled entirely. Where the last X5 was the sharpest big SUV you could get this side of a Porsche Cayenne, this one has been softened and there’s a huge focus placed on comfort. At Rs 72.9 lakh, the BMW X5 continues to rival the likes of the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS.
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The BMW X5 is a much larger car than its predecessor. The wheelbase is longer by 42mm and wider by 36mm, which contributes to a much more spacious cabin. The car itself is 36mm longer from bumper to bumper and also 19mm taller. Up front is the now bigger-than-ever kidney grille, and the car we are driving comes specced with the optional LaserLights that can be recognised from the blue elements.
The design of the X5 is definitely more in-your-face than before. The bodywork is sharper and tighter, and the BMW has a sense of restrained aggression about it. Whether this design is good or not depends entirely on your sense of aesthetics. In my opinion, it is a bit brash but it’s a nice differentiator from the sedate looks of the Audi Q7.
On the Inside
This is where you get your first sense that the X5 is a softer machine. The seats feel like they’ve been lifted straight out of the 7 Series — they’re really plush, at least in the xLine trim. The spec sheet tells me the petrol with the M Sport trim gets ‘sport’ seats, and I’m not too sure I’ll like them as much. There’s great materials used on the inside, with glass in the gear selector, the iDrive controller and the start-stop button. The wood used on the centre console has an unvarnished, matte texture to it. It also has electroplated trim inserts and a sunroof that glows with ambient light after dark and the fully-digital instrument cluster. The infotainment screen is massive (12.3-inches, if you care), and in typical BMW style, it is canted to face the driver.
Space on the inside is not an issue. At the back, there is plenty of room. Where the older X5 would just about suffice, this one finally feels par for the course. The equipment list isn’t something you can really complain about either. You get a large 12.3-inch screen for the iDrive system, which is touchscreen and gesture-control enabled. The cluster is fully digital too, and is slightly unnerving as the speedo and tacho needles rotate in opposite directions. The X5 gets four-zone climate control, electrically-adjustable front seats with memory function, a Harman Kardon sound system and a 360 degree camera.
Driving it around
The BMW X5 gets a three-litre straight-six turbo-diesel engine putting out 261bhp and 620Nm. It’s a quick SUV for its size: hitting a ton in 6.5 seconds. It gets an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and (obviously) all-wheel drive. The engine is rather refined, and that combined with the great sound insulation means you can barely hear it in the cabin. Gone are the days of loud, rattly diesels. But then again, the days of diesels themselves are nearly gone.
The BMW picks up speed well, and the gearbox does well to keep things very smooth. The X5 has multiple driving modes to set up the car differently — Eco, Comfort, Sport and Adaptive. These adjust the steering weight, throttle sensitivity and the suspension to set up the BMW X5 better for different conditions. I found leaving it in Adaptive to be the best, as the SUV sorts itself out in most conditions especially if you’re switching from aggressive driving to relaxed cruising often. The new air-suspension is something else that has allowed for this SUV’s focus on comfort. The suspension is soft, almost to a point of being floaty, though it still has good ride quality over bumpy roads. Where the old X5 was a bit stiff and juddery, the new one wafts over everything that comes its way. It’s now more suited to off-roading too, as it has finally picked up the suspension lift trick that the rest of the competition has had for a while now. But this has compromised how tight it feels around a bend.
Don’t get me wrong, it still has plenty of grip. With 305-section rear tyres (the same as a Lamborghini Huracan), the sheer grip it has is mega. The steering is very direct and it turns in well for a car its size. But where it flounders is the suspension’s floatiness, which means it takes a bit longer to settle down after a bend or bump. This slightly dulls the sheen of an otherwise sound car.
Wrapping it up
This variant of the BMW X5 is priced at Rs 82.4 lakh and gets additional equipment over the base variant. The X5 will be sold in India as a CKD, and this is rather steep pricing for one. That said, the BMW does offer you a good amount of comfort in a package with immense road presence. It can be chucked up a hilly road, though I don’t think your passengers would appreciate it too much. It doesn’t feel as settled on our roads as say, an Audi Q7, but it certainly feels more exciting and is more fresh. BMW finally have a product that offers the level of luxury its competitors did at this price point, but they have sacrificed some of their core DNA in the process.