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D / IMPRESSIONS

2014 BMW X5





10 February 2014


As we reported a couple of days ago, the BMW X5 was officially launched in SA this week. And, now that we’ve been behind the wheel of the new model, we can give you our first impressions.

Like its predecessor, the new X5 is certainly a large and imposing SUV. Its overall styling hasn’t been altered too much, but it does look a tad more streamlined than before. Its lines seem a bit softer than they were before, and there appears to be a prioritization of elegance over off-road ruggedness. Even more so than with the previous model, this X5 definitely looks more at home in an urban environment than it does somewhere out in the bundu.

Exterior

The most significant exterior changes have been made to the front of the vehicle, with headlamps that stretch to the very edge of a new kidney grille. The bumper has also been redesigned.

For the most part, the changes are subtle and inoffensive. Some of the journalists at the launch didn’t like the exterior changes very much, but we weren’t too bothered by it. If you liked the looks of the previous X5, you’ll probably be content with how it looks now.

Interior

Similarly, the interior of the new X5 is pretty similar to the previous model’s. There are some tweaks here and there, but an owner of a previous X5 will feel right at home in the cabin of the new model.

The most notable addition to the cabin is a rather large screen that displays vehicle info, entertainment info and the GPS map. The fact that its big is certainly a boon. It’s easy to follow the navigation system, and it even allows for a split-screen option, which is useful. But it seemed a bit out of place. The way it juts out of the dash, we thought it would perhaps flip down, or even recede into the dash, but no, it sits permanently atop the dash. Whether you like its positioning or not, though, it is hard to deny that its spot on the dashboard makes it very user-friendly. It is very legible and doesn’t demand that your eyes stray too far from the road when inspecting it.

How about the rest of the cabin? Well, everything is undeniably high-quality. The interior looks and feels very plush. The prevalence of buttons and dials in the front of the cabin make it feel a tad cluttered and perhaps prevent it from seeming truly elegant. But on the upside, all those buttons ensure that its quick and easy to make important adjustments while on the go. More options could probably have been routed through the touch screen and infotainment system, but then it would have been more of a hassle to adjust setting to your personal preference, so we’d happily live with all those buttons.

On the road

Three engines will be available at launch, and we thankfully had a chance to test out all of them. The first is the familiar xDrive30d oilburner, but it has been tweaked for the latest model to provide a bit more oomph. The second is the burly xDrive50i, and the last mil is the M50d – BMW’s beast of a diesel engine that boasts three turbos and offers 280 kW of power and 740 Nm of torque.

M50d

Let’s start with the M50d. The tri-turbo oilburner in the M50d is undeniably a thing of beauty. With all that power and torque on tap, it doesn’t take much to get the SUV up to highway speeds. In fact, if you’re not careful, you’ll soon be cruising at 150 km/h without even noticing. Thanks to its three turbos, there isn’t any real turbo lag to speak of either. Power delivery is wonderfully smooth and linear.

That said, it might be tough to justify purchasing the M50d. Yes, that engine is spectacular, but the xDrive30d and xDrive40d aren’t exactly useless either, so should you spend that extra money to get your hands on the M50d? If you’ve got the cash to splurge, you should go for it, but don’t be fooled by that “M” badge. This is still a heavy, high-riding SUV. If you’re looking for true M performance, you should opt for something smaller, lighter and lower to the ground.

xDrive50i

The second model, the xDrive50i is similar to the M50d when it comes to performance, but with that petrol mill, it’s obviously quite a bit thirstier. Still, that V8 generating 330 kW of power and 650 Nm of torque is so lovely, that you just might be willing to spend that extra cash on petrol. It is wonderfully smooth, powerful and refined. Like with the M50d, it is worth indulging in of you have the money to do so.

xDrive30d

We come now to the final and most sensible engine in the current X5 line-up – the 30d. Does it offer the thrills of the 50i or M50d? Of course not, but with 190 kW of power and 560 Nm of torque it isn’t exactly boring. In fact, it probably makes the most sense of all the engines. It still feels sporty, but also promises to provide great fuel economy. For the vast majority of X5 buyers, this will be the perfect option. The 30d provides all the power you could ever reasonably require. Yes, all that extra power in the M50d and 50i is a nice bonus, but do you really need it? Go for the 30d, you won’t be sorry.