Fifteen years after it introduced the world to the concept of high end, luxurious and road biased SUVs, BMW is back with an all new one. The X5 is fresh again in an all new third generation avatar called the F15. Our first experience in Canada indicated that BMW has built a bigger, more luxurious and more comfortable X5. When we got an opportunity to drive it here in India before it hits the stands in June, we learnt that there is more to it.
BMW hasn't made any revolutionary design changes since the end of the Bangle era and the new X5 design is predictably evolutionary in nature. It is a handsome, even striking design but the overall shape isn't hugely different from the old car. But then like most evolutionary design updates almost every single angle has been subtly revised. The new LED headlamps use a 3 Series styling cue in the way they extend into the smart silver kidney grille. The X5 gets open channels that BMW calls 'air curtains' along the front fenders to help reduce drag and improve the aerodynamics. The large window line ends in a smart triangle while the rear end gets new tail lamps and bumpers but is the most familiar looking angle on the car. It also runs gorgeous but terribly impractical optional 20-inch rims that look like they came straight off a Lamborghini, but we'll discuss that later.
The interiors appear fresh but at the same time, very BMW. The bottom half of the centre console that houses the audio and aircon controls looks familiar but the top half is rather fresh. A fixed 10.3-inch display sits on a handsomely contoured dash with smart blue LED piping that looks the business when the sun goes down. We also liked the new rippled wood trim along the dash and door pads. The middle row is comfy and supportive and features its own dual zone climate control with vents at the knee level as well as on the B-pillar (which were surprisingly loud in an otherwise rather quiet cabin). There's also a foldable third row of seats that fits flush in the boot when not in use. The third row offers decent knee room but not much head room and you sit with your knees rather high up. Best reserved for kids and short distances. The tailgate is now a split type with electric functionality for the top while the smaller lower half is manual.
The Indian X5 comes with just one engine but it's such a good one you couldn't ask for more. The 3.0-litre straight six single turbo diesel produces 258PS and 560Nm; figures that result in a very brisk 7.3s time in our test and a top speed of 230kmph. The engine is mated to the ever delightful and highly responsive ZF 8-speed auto box that can be controlled via steering mounted paddle shifters. The engine revs eagerly all the way to the redline but also produces peak torque from 1500rpm to 3000rpm, making it very versatile. It gets rather vocal when run hard but it's a nice noise for a diesel. It even manages to be decently efficient - we managed a highway run where the X5 returned 15.5kmpl at a steady 100kmph with the engine burbling just above 1500rpm. The on-board trip computer indicated about 10.5kmpl when dealing with evening traffic in Delhi which isn't bad at all for such a big machine.
Handsome optional 20-inch rims with huge 315 section rear tyres severely compromise ride quality
Halley returned from Canada rather impressed with the X5's improved ride. However we were in for a bit of a surprise - from the very first speed-breaker, the X5 felt surprisingly stiff. Ride on smooth roads and at high speed is quite supple with composed damping but show the car a sharp bump or irregularities in the tarmac and you're greeted with a surprisingly jittery ride. And that's entirely down to those optional wheels. Get this the rear 20-inch wheel was wrapped in paper thin 35 profile 315 section tyres. That's wider than a BMW, Ferrari and even a Lamborghini all 550PS plus monsters. In fact a 730 horsepower rear wheel drive Ferrari runs a rear tyre with the same footprint! Such low profile tyres, especially run flats wil ruin ride quaility. It's the very definition of overkill. The standard 18-inch wheels are the smart choice and they should significantly improve the ride quality, especially with the dampers in the softer of the two selectable settings. The electric steering is light, quick and direct but not very interactive as is the case with most of these new electric systems these days. Chassis control with the new rear air suspension is good with very limited body roll and the X5 corners with an enthusiasm that belies its size. The all-wheel drive system offers supreme levels of grip but like most potential owners we didn't bother taking the X5 off-road. It's not the final word in handling finesse but the X5 is an entertaining car to drive on a winding stretch and will embarrass quite a few luxury sedans. Strong and progressive brakes make it a confident machine to hustle through your favourite ghat stretch.
Refreshed interiors with smart blue LED mood lighting and lovely rippled wood trim
The new BMW X5 looks and feels fresh and is enjoyable to drive as well as offering all the luxury you'd expect at this price point. It's also unique in that both its similarly priced rivals, the Audi Q7 and Mercedes GL-Class are much bigger, not as fun to drive and aimed at a different buyer. The Q7 is also overdue for a replacement. The new X5 costs Rs 70.9 lakh ex-showroom pan-India and you should expect to see quite a few of them on the road now that it is on sale.
The third row fits flush with the floor liberating 650litres of space