Just five years after we first drove the 3rd generation X5 in Vancouver, BMW has the 4th generation of the SUV ready and we are driving it in Atlanta just down the road from BMW’s US plant in Spartanburg, the only one making the X5.
The X5 was the vehicle that kicked off this premium SUV segment of cars with the off-road capabilities, looks and advantages of SUVs, but driving characteristics of road going cars nearly two decades back, but since then all the other premium car manufacturers seem to have advanced the concept much more than BMW and the previous generation X5 was launched at the beginning of a period that would see big and rapid advancements in assistance systems, electronics, and autonomous driving features as well as interiors and infotainment system concepts and the X5 was fast getting left behind. So BMW took the unprecedented step of developing and introducing the next generation X5 in just five years. And this time it seems BMW has wrestled back its leadership status in this segment.
The new X5 is wider, longer and bigger in all respects but it’s not done just by a little stretch in all directions but by shifting the underpinnings to BMW’s new cluster architecture (CLAR) platform. This paves the way for all the new systems to make their way in as well as affording flexibility and the sharing of parts across vehicles from across the CLAR platform. Like before the X5 will come with an option of two additional seats making it available as a 7-seater as well.
The increase in the size of the X5 is masked by the new design that keeps the X5 much in line with the latest gen X-cars from BMW the X1 and the X3. Although the profile and the front are similar to the rest of the X-cars and also to the old X5, there are some important differences though. The large kidney grille up-front is now huge and has flaps just like on the 7-series that can shut when cooling is not required or when the SUV is in water. The X5 gets Laserlights with adaptive LED headlights that have a signature blue element in them and are laid out in the form of an X. This new design also bids adieu to the signature corona ring DRLs. Wheel-size is also up now to 22in and such is the size of the car that even 22in wheels do not look big on the SUV.
While the X5 is available with turbocharged 6-cylinder diesel and petrol engines as well a turbocharged V8 exclusively for the US market, we are expecting the 6-cylinder diesel to be launched in India with the 30d badging. The same 6-cylinder diesel engine will also be available with a 50d badging with 4 turbochargers and an output of 400bhp. However, we drove the 30d with the same straight-six engine with BMW’s twinpower turbo technology producing 265bhp of max power and 620Nm of peak torque. This engine is mated to the 8-speed automatic gearbox that BMW has been using for some time now on both the previous X5 and other models as well and combined with an AWD system, manages to put oodles of torque to good use, accelerating to 100kmph from standstill in six and a half seconds and to a top speed of 230kmph.
While mechanically there may not be a lot of changes on the X5 in terms of the hardware used there is a whole lot of changes inside the car. After a long time, the infotainment system, as well as the display for the infotainment system, is different. It’s now a 12.3-inch screen and actually, there are two of the same screens the first one is the touch-screen on the center console and the other one is the instrument panel display which is now totally digital, fully configurable and a big change from earlier BMW instrument displays.
Steering wheel controls are all new as well with its more features and systems to control as well. Gone also is the rotary knob for the lights and instead, there are switches now to select a different setting for the headlights. The gear shift lever is now looking cool, with BMW having taken an idea from the Volvo plug-in hybrids and incorporating pure crystal not only into the gear knob but also into the iDrive controller. Rear seats come with factory fitter base for coat hangers or displays and the cabin feels totally different.
While there is a huge change in all the major things inside the cabin there are also a lot of delightful little additions on the inside. What I particularly liked is that the cover of the luggage compartment is now electrically operated. Not only does the curtain roll itself but also goes all the way under the floor of the boot and stows itself in case it is not required. The luggage compartment itself has metal riders for sliding bags and suitcases in but once the vehicle starts and is in motion, a rubber strip comes up above the metal so that the suitcases or whatever else there is does not slide around. And not only can one reach and lower or raise the third row of seats from the back but one can also electrically operate the 2nd row of seats from the back.
The proof of a pudding is in eating it and that for a car is in driving it and the differences that one can see and feel translate into driving as well. The NVH is remarkable and even for the diesel engine, the car is quiet and barely shakes as the engine comes to life and powers the car into motion. What is remarkable is that despite all the additions to make the X5 more sporty, the car has a very nice ride quality in comfort mode and despite the large low profile tires that look good on it, the car should ride well even on Indian roads. This, of course, is the contribution of not only air-suspension all around but also the way it is set-up and tuned. The steering is adaptive and it seems that BMW has mastered the art of using electrics on steering columns while handling is also superb, given that there are a number of systems that not only keep the car stable but also aid in making it feel like a sports car.
Not only is the X5 good on the road but is better off it as well. Now it gets a selection of off-road driving modes as standard with the Off-road package and in addition, has a number of smart features that will help it go off-road. First, there is a system that judges if the car has been beached or has touched down by recognizing that several wheels are losing traction and if it does then automatically gives it a further 30mm of lift in addition to the 40mm that would have been selected with the off-road mode.
This is a giant leap forward for BMW coming after a lot of evolutionary and incremental changes. Even though the styling of the 4th gen X5 is evolutionary, everything else about the SUV is not. The SUV gets more hi-tech at the same time more practical and has even more assistance systems and safety systems than any of the cars launched in the past. Like before, the car will be assembled in India and therefore should have a competitive price tag despite the addition of a lot of hardware and software. If it were launched today it would by far be the most advanced SUV in the country but even when it is launched around the middle of next year it will be the one stand-out production vehicle in India.