Road tests

BMW X5 xDrive40 SE

Large luxury SUVs might not be as popular as they used to be but with a raft of updates BMW believes its big SUV still has the X-factor.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

BMW hasn’t messed with the X5’s winning formula, the large SUV still offers the car like responses and road manners owners have come to expect, while the styling and cabin updates are very subtle. The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox is a highlight, as well.However, the big news is the new diesel engines – they offer more power but crucially lower emissions and improved economy, which in 2010 is what cars is this class need more than ever.The 40d offers silky refinement and effortless performance – the fact that it does this while emitting just 198g/km is even more impressive. With the same optional seven-seat layout as before the X5’s improved efficiency means it can now counter a lot of the criticisms levelled at this type of vehicle.

More than a decade after the original X5 ignited the high-end sporty 4x4 segment, the second-generation model has been upgraded with a host of improvements, which the German firm hopes will see off the new Volkswagen Touareg and revised Porsche Cayenne.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the BMW X5


Visually the changes are subtle, with its short overhangs, large wheels and long wheelbase the X5 has always had a purposeful stance on the road and this remains. However, with more surfaces now painted in body colour, larger side vents at the front and a reshaped rear bumper, the styling has been freshened up.

Xenon lights, with attractive twin lens rings, are now standard across the range and overall the X5’s detailing resembles its shapelier X6 cousin a little more, which is no bad thing.

Inside, you now get the latest generation of iDrive control system and as with most cars in the BMW range the dash design is modern, smart and well executed.

Materials and build quality are hard to fault, while an excellent range of wheel and seat movement makes it easy to get comfortable. As before the lofty seating position gives a superb view of the road and yet with the centre console inclined towards the driver you still get the sporty sensation of the cabin wrapping around you.

There’s plenty of space for passengers and a pair of third row seats are optional. Largely unaltered the X5’s cabin delivers an appealing blend of space, luxury and comfort. Plus, with lane departure warning, head up display, active cruise control side view cameras and reversing assist the fall spectrum of BMW’s latest gadgetry is available on the options list.

However, the really big news is a line up of three new engines. With 95 per cent of UK sales diesel, it’s the pair of 3.0-litre six-cylinder oil burners that are of the most interest. With 242bhp the 30d has emissions of 195g/km, while the 302bhp 40d produces just 198g/km – making them the first conventionally powered luxury SUVs to dip below the 200g/km mark.

We got behind the wheel of the 40d, which helped by the firms well established EfficientDynamics technology is not only 10 per cent cleaner than the 35d it replaces, it also has an extra 20bhp – helping it sprint to 62mph in just 6.6 seconds.

This accomplished engine debuted in the 740d saloon and it works just as well in the X5. Benefiting from direct injection and twin turbo activation 450Nm of torque arrives at just 1,000rpm, while peak output of 600Nm is delivered between 1,500 and 2,500rpm. As a result in-gear response and flexibility is excellent, plus with its wide spread of ratios the smooth shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, which is now standard on all X5’s, compliments the engines refined character.

The all-aluminium construction of the new engine and the subsequent reduction in weight over its predecessor has helped the agility of the X5, too. BMW’s big SUV has always been famed for its car like cornering responses and body control, and this dynamic excellence remains. There’s plenty of weight and feel to the steering, while the poise of the body under braking and in the bends inspires confidence.

By transferring power between the front and rear axles the xDrive 4x4 system delivers excellent on-road traction and reassuringly high grip levels. The chassis can be enhanced by choosing to fit BMW’s optional Adaptive Drive package, which brings variable damper control and active anti roll bars to tighten body control even further and improve the ride.

As a result the X5’s reign as the king of dynamic SUV’s looks set to continue.

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