Test Drive Review: The BMW X5 xDrive 40i
The fourth generation BMW X5
In June this year, BMW had pulled the wraps off the fourth generation X5 and it features many firsts. It is the first X model to be equipped with an optional off-road package. It is also the first BMW which offers optional 22-inch wheels. Over the (massive in its own right) third generation BMW X5, the new one become taller (by 19mm), wider (by 66mm) and longer (by 36mm). I sampled a first gen X5 and it drove very well. I’d be happy driving one even today. But the really astonishing bit is how the new X5 towers over the first X5. Heck, the first BMW X5 is actually smaller than the current BMW X3! And all that real estate goes into liberating a third row that is no longer suitable only for toddlers. Oh, it is very toddler friendly, in fact the third row has been designed and crash tested with three (dummy) kids in child seats in the third row and meeting the side impact tests necessitated the additional width. Human beings can also fit in now, the middle row (electrically) sliding forward and tilting a fair bit out of the way to allow (relatively) easier ingress and egress though anybody above five foot five will have a better time in an Uber than back here.
“Heck, the first X5 is actually smaller than the current X3! And all that real estate goes into liberating a third row that is no longer suitable only for toddlers”
The middle row of the BMW X5 has more space
It has to have more space now that the BMW X5 is over 5 meters in length! – though that said for something so massive you’d expect more leg room. Up front though, that’s where the new X5 scores. And how! The last bastion of traditional dials and needles has fallen and BMW follows Audi, the entire VW Group, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover and everybody’s lead with a high-def virtual cockpit. Their graphics are, of course, unique in that the tacho and speedo are fixed at the two extremities while the stuff that happens in the middle (nav, audio tracks, trip computer, semi-autonomous driving modes) is endlessly configurable as are the colours that vary with driving modes. If it sounds familiar, let me assure you, everything is really new. The touch and gesture-controlled central screen now has configurables menus, the iDrive is now in its 7th generation and even more intuitive and easier to use than before, the operating system is upgraded and the design of the cabin has evolved with fewer buttons and more shiny, glitzy materials including turned aluminium. You can even option a crystal gearlever to go with the same crystal topping on the iDrive controller, volume knob and smaller controllers – I’m guessing the Chinese like these things.
Check out our review of the BMW i8 Roadster here
The exterior design too has evolved
Not just the grille, everything is over-sized so much so that the wheels on our test car – massive 20 inchers! – don’t look massive. On India-appropriate 18s or 19s the BMW X5 will definitely look undertyred. From the front there’s no mistaking this for anything other than a BMW even though the trademark corona-rings DRLs are now half-Cs. The rear though marks a significant departure from the BMW norm and I couldn’t put my finger on what the taillamp design reminded me of until a Jeep Grand Cherokee passed us by. The taillamps also have this 3D effect where the bits that glow red stand proud over the rest of the surface that is recessed – very techy, very cool and soon to be seen across all new BMW’s.
“In Sport mode it resists both body roll and understeer while also delivering something in the way of genuine feel and feedback”
Ride and handling of the BMW X5
For a BMW what really matters is how the X5 drives and in adopting the CLAR architecture (that every new BMW car or SUV rides on) and aluminium for the doors, hood, tailgate and fenders the X5 hasn’t put on any weight despite the added girth and tech. I drove both the 30d straight-six diesel and the 40i straight-six petrol and both were optioned with the rear-axle steering that makes a successful attempt at reducing the X5’s girth. Over some tight winding lanes through the woods outside Atlanta the X5 handled really impressively for something that is so heavy and the xDrive system retains a rear-bias to give it that sportier feel. In Sport mode it resists both body roll and understeer while also delivering something in the way of genuine feel and feedback. Grip, as you can expect from 20-inch rubber is leech-like that switching off all electronic nannies makes nary a difference, you’ll need a wet or slick stretch of tarmac to get the BMW X5 to do anything funny.
0-100kmph in 5.3 seconds
Response from the motors is familiarly eager, even though these engines have been worked over to meet new, stricter, European emission and fuel efficiency norms. Being in America we spent the majority of our time in the 330bhp 40i that is backed up by 450Nm of torque. The claimed 0-100kmph time is 5.3 seconds though, truth be told, it didn’t feel that quick, the engine is so cultured and creamy in its delivery.
“Engine refinement? You won’t hear or feel a thing. This is a luxury SUV sitting at the very top of the BMW pyramid”
Engine options for India
The base engine, and the motor that we will get in India, is the single-turbo 30d diesel that makes 261bhp and 620Nm of torque making it feel even punchier in the real world while 100kmph takes a very impressive 6.5 seconds. Turbo lag? You won’t feel anything. Engine refinement? You won’t hear or feel a thing. This is a luxury SUV sitting at the very top of the BMW pyramid and it feels every bit as luxurious, refined and expensive as something that will nudge a crore of rupees ought to feel.
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Air suspension and off road modes for the first time in BMW X5
And if you’re game to take your one crore rupees SUV off-roading the BMW X5 now gets, for the first time ever, off-road driving modes. Also, for the first time ever, all versions of the X5 now come with air suspension on all four corners and that allows it to raise the ride height by 40mm for off-road conditions, or lower it by 40mm for enthusiastic driving. Most importantly the air suspension delivers a significantly better ride quality, the one area that X5 owners, particularly in India, felt their SUV to be lacking in.
“The X5 has been a tremendous success, so much so that BMW have shifted 2.1 million of them over the past two decades”
Equipment for off-road package
Option the off-road package and you get bash plates, a centre diff lock and electronic programming for Sand, Gravel, Rock and Snow modes. We tried it out in the woods and the BMW X5 dealt with small logs, medium boulders and inclines/declines with ease, the electronics doing all the work for you, the seats cooling and massaging your back side, the cameras letting you see what the wheels are doing and what you’re climbing over. Easy-peasy. Not that X5 owners really care about off-roading prowess, or that X5 sales suffered on account of not being able to lift its skirts and rough house in the mud. The BMW X5 has been a tremendous success, so much so that BMW have shifted 2.1 million of them over the past two decades, and its success has widened BMW’s X portfolio all the way from 1 to 7.