Car group tests

BMW X5 v Audi Q7 v Land Rover Discovery

Now offering seven seats, BMW’s all-new X5 aims to make choosing a premium SUV even more difficult. We see if it leaves rivals from Audi and Land Rover out of their depth

BMW X5 v rivals

The original BMW X5 made quite a splash when it hit UK showrooms in 1999. It wasn’t the world’s first upmarket 4x4 – the Range Rover preceded it by nearly 30 years – but its arrival, more than that of any other model, helped to kick-start the surge in popularity for full-size SUVs.

The X5’s blend of desirability, sporting attitude, BMW quality and class-leading road manners made it the first choice for more than 50,000 British buyers.

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

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Environmental concerns mean the SUV sector is less fashionable now than it was eight years ago, but that hasn’t stopped BMW predicting great things for its second-generation X5. The larger newcomer is cleaner and more efficient than its predecessor, has revised front suspension to improve dynamics and, perhaps most importantly, now offers family buyers the option of seven seats. However, the premium 4x4 market is flooded with talented machinery – such as the Audi Q7. The manufacturer took its time to jump on the SUV bandwagon, but its seven-seat offering aims to be all things to all men, combining space, comfort and quality with real driver appeal. Yet it’s unlikely the Germans will have everything their own way in this test. Our current class champion is the Land Rover Discovery. It makes no pretence at being sporty, but its sheer versatility has won it a legion of fans.

Here the three meet for the first time. Will the BMW X5 sink or swim in this key UK test?

Verdict

The original X5 surfed the SUV wave when the market boomed, and sold in huge numbers as a result. The second-generation model won’t have such an easy ride. It’s still a fine car, though. Its increased practicality is welcome and it drives with the same verve and agility as its predecessor.

Factor in the superb straight-six diesel, and the X5 has the Q7 well beaten. The Audi tries to be all things to all owners, and falls between two stools as a result; it’s neither as crisp to drive as the BMW, nor as versatile as the Discovery.

Ultimately, the Land Rover is a very different car to the BMW, so the choice here boils down to your own personal priorities – the X5 is for keen drivers with an eye on image, while the Discovery is for those who value comfort and convenience above all. For our money, the British car’s pin-sharp focus on what really matters in an SUV means it’s still our class leader.

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