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BMW X5 30d SE

German is a tough rival

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. The visual changes are subtle, but that’s not a criticism – with its short overhangs and chunky shoulder line, the X5 has always had a purposeful and athletic stance. 

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More of its exterior trim is now body coloured, though, and there are larger side vents at the front, plus a reshaped rear bumper. Effective xenon headlights and distinctive twin-ring daytime running lamps are standard across the range, so the X5’s detailing now resembles the quirky X6.

Inside, you get the latest version of BMW’s iDrive cabin control system on the centre console. As ever, the dash is modern, smart and well executed. Materials and build quality are hard to fault, while an excellent range of wheel and seat adjustment means it’s easy to get comfortable. 

As before, the lofty driving position gives a superb view of the road but, with the centre console aimed towards the driver, you still get the sporty sensation of the cabin wrapping around you. The car doesn’t have the glitz of the Porsche, yet it feels more upmarket than the VW. And when it comes to passenger space, the BMW has a big advantage over its rivals. 

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A flat transmission tunnel means it’s the best at carrying three people in the back, and it’s the only car in this test that gives you the option of an extra pair of rear seats. The third row costs £1,380 and is a tight fit for adults, but can accommodate children comfortably. Fold them flat and the X5’s 620-litre boot is the biggest here, and the middle row stows with ease, too. So while it’s largely unaltered, the X5’s cabin still delivers an appealing blend of space, luxury and comfort. Plus, the full spectrum of BMW’s gadgets is available, with lane departure warning, a head-up display, active cruise control, side-view cameras and reversing assist.

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The headline news is thateven without the aid of stop/start technology, the 242bhp 3.0-litre straight-six diesel now emits only 195g/km. This 10 per cent improvement over the old version is even more impressive when you consider that power has risen by 10bhp as well.

As a result, performance is a very close match for its German rivals. At 2,075kg, the X5 is the lightest car here, which undoubtedly helps. And it also proved to be the most economical choice. Away from the track, the standard eight-speed automatic transmission had the smoothest downshifts of the cars tested, and manual control is provided by the large gear selector on the centre console.

This X5’s sporty character continues in corners. There’s plenty of weight and feel to the steering, while the poise of the body under braking and in bends inspires confidence. 

It doesn’t feel as nimble as the Porsche, but excellent traction and impressive grip mean it’s very reassuring. However, our car was fitted with BMW’s Dynamic Package (£2,740) which includes 19-inch wheels and sports suspension. It takes the edge off refinement and conspires to make the ride uncomfortably firm. Even so, the X5 is a hugely capable and desirable package.

Details

Chart position: 2
WHY: The sporty SUV class leader offers space, great handling and a strong engine. Has a host of updates kept it at the top?

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