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BMW X5 (watch the video)

BMW

Review

THE Beatles, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. All, one way or another, went out at the top. And, so it seems, does the old X5.

When consigned to a life of permanent used status next April, the X5 mark one will leave a record sales year in 2005 and still-stunning residuals as its legacy.

However, unlike the three consignees-to-history mentioned above, the equally legendary X5 is replaceable. The new X5 – the king is dead, long live the king.

And while the old car redefined the sector, proving that dynamically an SUV – or SAV in BMW-speak – didn’t have to have the stability of a Kate Moss relationship, and was refined enough to feel more like a big estate car than a small tractor, the new one doesn’t provide any of those sector-busting skills. In fact, it’s only much, much better.

More dynamic looks, revised drivetrain and suspension, new engines, more space and an adoption of many of the technologies in the 5 and 7-series mean the new car, BMW claims, does everything the old one did, but better.

Initially it will be available with two engines, a 4.8-litre V8 petrol and a 3.0-litre diesel.

Later next a year there will be a 3.0-litre petrol too, but for all but the odd Premiership footballer, diesel is the only sensible option. In fact, nine out of 10 X5s sold will be the 3.0d.

It’s not hard to see why, with its 32.5mpg combined figure and pricetag nearly £10,000 less than the 4.8i.

At a touch over £40,000 – and nearly £3,000 more than the current one – it’s still not cheap, especially considering that’s with cloth seats (and it’s written in stone that an SUV without leather really struggles to sell on the used market).

But it looks positively cheap against the £49,945 4.8i SE.

However, where the X5 has traditionally monstered the competition and made it a very popular car for both fleets and leasing companies, is not in the front-end price or miserly spec. It’s in sparkling RVs that have seen it join a select club including the Porsche Boxster and MINI which manage to retain more of their value than they lose over 60,000 miles.

The residual value predictors have yet to see the car – that happens in the next few weeks, but it will be a surprise if the status quo isn’t maintained.

In 2007, BMW intends to bring around 6,000 into the UK from April, six months after left-hand drive sales start. The reason? America takes 41% of production so it gets first bite of the cherry.

Once here, buyers will be able to appreciate the clever way BMW has progressed the design without seemingly changing much. Just as the 3-series saloon and Coupe have always benefited from looking the same but different, so does the X5.

It isn’t much bigger than the old model on the outside, but is much curvier without losing its masculine charm, especially at the front, where the use of dark plastic lower body panels on the nose hide the car’s height.

The X5 isn’t short of options that will see it compete with the most lavished-upon 7-series. Active steering, Adaptive Ride, Head-Up Display, rear DVD and a reversing camera are all options to turn this into the most luxurious of SUVs.

It won’t be too luxurious if you’re in the third row of seats, though. BMW’s approach differs from Audi in that it does not offer seven seats as standard, and after trying to shovel an average-sized adult into the back, you can see why.

They are not designed for anybody over about five foot seven in height, or ample of bottom either, and BMW is quite open about this. As a result, these will be an option, costing around £1,000, with expected take-up around 30%. But for a grand in a £40,000 car, why not just have them anyway, just in case?

Behind the wheel

THE big V8 is a phenomenal beast, roaring about it business with a pace that wouldn’t disgrace the Space Shuttle. But it is very expensive and could easily manage 12mpg in the wrong hands, so please turn to EVO magazine for more on that.

Of interest to fleets will be the diesel and again, you get exactly what you expect. It is quiet, refined and does its job very effectively, and in a manner not far short of the V8. The gearchange is sharp and responsive thanks to a new six-speed ’box and while the ride seems on the firm side, it is not crashy.

Dynamically, new suspension makes the X5 the jauntiest mover in the sector, for the second time in its history. There is very little body roll – so much so that the Adaptive Drive option, which controls the anti-roll bars and dampers to hold it steady, seems to make only a little difference.

All the launch cars were fitted with Active Steering, which makes sense in the X5.

Although it filters out some of the feel it makes the steering faster at slow speeds, and as parking spaces in Surrey and London can be unbearably tight, this can only be a boon.

Inside there is little that anybody who knows BMW is likely to get excited about. This is no bad thing though. It’s all very high quality, and the cabin wraps around you rather more than the airy spaces in the Mercedes-Benz ML or Audi Q7. In fact, all that is especially new and exciting is the fly-by-wire gearlever that looks as if it comes from a stealth fighter.

BMW is sticking obstinately with iDrive. Originally conceived to get rid of the panoply of buttons cluttering the dashboard, in the X5 it is complemented by eight new buttons which shortcut to favourite options, which seems to rather defeat the original point.

Verdict

THE new X5 is a class act and raises the bar in nearly every area. Great engines (especially the diesel), nicely judged design, the option of seven seat capability for the first time, and it drives really well, too. If wasn’t so good, it could almost be boringly repetitive.

Fact file

Model:   3.0d   4.8i
 
 
 
Max power (bhp/rpm):   235/3,000   355/6,300
 
 
 
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):   383/2,000   350/3,400
 
 
 
Max speed (mph):   134   150
 
 
 
0-62mph (secs):   8.3   6.5
 
 
 
Fuel consumption (mpg):   32.5   25.9
 
 
 
CO2 emissions (g/km):   231   299
 
 
 
On sale:   April    
 
 
 
Prices (OTR):   £40,085   £49,945
 

 
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  • Click on the next page to view a video of the X5 in action. Video - press play

  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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