BMW X5 xDrive40d SE
Few buyers will spot the new X5 at first glance
- New high-power diesel is effortless and efficient
- Ride and handling suit all conditions
- Excellent new gearbox is smart and unobtrusive
- Overall build quality is very good
- Largely unchanged exterior will begin to age sooner
- Running costs will be relatively high
- Six and seventh seats not suitable for adults
- Off-road pack only an option
Arguably the first SUV to combine typical values of the breed with the level of roadholding and comfort more synonymous with sports cars, the BMW X5 has been one of the most popular cars in the segment and for the manufacturer. The second-generation X5 appeared in 2007, and three years on it has received a further facelift to keep pace with the opposition.
BMW has been careful not to tamper too greatly with the exterior shape, which has won over the hearts of buyers despite initial controversy. In fact a casual glance is not enough to register the external changes, which are limited to new bumpers, repositioned fog lights, bigger air intakes and a matt finish to the underbody protection. Similarily small changes are made at the rear also. This light touch proves the popularity of the original design.
Mechanically there are more significant changes, aimed at improving efficiency to boost performance and fuel economy. The entire engine range is either new or heavily revised, with both petrol and diesel options giving the buyer plenty to think about. Grabbing the most attention is the xDrive40d version, which remarkable performance and fuel efficiency for a car in this class. All X5s now use a new eight-speed automatic transmission, also aimed at improving efficiency and performance.
Once again the X5 benefits from high-tech features seen elsewhere on BMW cars, such as Active Steering and Adaptive Drive. The Active Steering system changes the ratio of the steering, giving very quick and light steering at low speeds for easy parking then, at higher speeds, increasing the ratio and reducing the power assistance for improved feel. Adaptive Drive uses electronically controlled anti-roll bars to simultaneously give a smoother ride yet minimal body roll.
All X5s also benefit from an improved specification, with features such as leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels and Xenon lights fitted as standard across the range. Side view cameras, Active Cruise control and Reversing Assist with top view are also luxury features already seen on the 5-Series and 7-Series which are available on X5 for the first time.
Our verdict on the BMW X5 xDrive40d SE
BMW has made a series of small but significant improvements to the X5 range, not least the adoption of an excellent new gearbox and a wealth of impressive engines. It is no great leap forward, but a notable improvement over what was already an excellent premium SUV.
Running costs will be relatively high given the performance and size of the X5, although both diesel models are now under the 200g/km barrier for C02 emissions.
Space and practicality
The bigger exterior dimensions have resulted in greater interior space and, even with five adults onboard, the X5 is a spacious car. Head, leg and elbowroom are all in plentiful supply, while the boot is also large. Storage space within the cabin is less plentiful as there are numerous cubbies but many of them are relatively small.
Controls and display
As with most BMWs, the cabin layout in the X5 is excellent. All the controls and displays are clearly labelled and sensibly laid out, with the large number of minor functions taken care of with the I-Drive controller, now using the latest generation software which is much easier to navigate.
Another strong point of the X5, comfort is impressive throughout. The front seats are particularly good, with a wide range of adjustment. The second row is also good, although the third row where fitted is suitable for children only. Road and wind noise are very well suppressed, while the engines only make their presence felt when revved, making for a very comfortable cabin.
All X5 models are fitted with a Category One approved alarm and immobiliser, as well as anti-theft bolts on the alloy wheels and remote central locking.
The X5 is packed with standard safety equipment, including a full complement of airbags, Xenon headlights, ABS and stability systems as well as useful extra features such as hill descent control. Added to this is the extra security and stability of the standard four-wheel drive system for extra reassurance.
They key to the appeal of the X5 its all round driving ability. In normal use it is a comfortable car, easy to drive and undemanding. All the engines are capable of relaxed cruising and have sufficient torque for easy progress, with the 40d version proving particularly effortless. More impressive is the X5's ability to cope with enthusiastic driving. The steering is sharp and well-weighted and the suspension control is very impressive, making the X5 a fun car to drive when the roads are clear. Few cars in the class can match this breadth of ability.
Family car appeal
The X5 is ideally suited to performing family duties, given its all-road ability, comfort levels and the amount of space on offer. Especially in seven-seat form, it has the capability to cope with almost any size of family.
First car appeal
The X5 is somewhat large and expensive for new drivers and the purchase price, running costs and insurance are likely to prohibit many of them for purchasing one.
Quality and image
The level of quality throughout the X5 is very high indeed, with excellent fit and finish and high quality materials used throughout. The image of the X5 is also very strong, being one of the most desirable cars in its sector.
Getting into the X5 is easy, with large opening doors and a high ride height, which puts the seats at a perfect height for passengers. Slightly shorter passengers may find they have to climb up into the seat a little, but this does mean a much easier exit. Loading cargo into the boot is also simple, helped by the low loading lip.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The X5 is fitted with a single CD/radio unit as standard, with MP3 compatibility and an auxiliary socket for connecting external devices. The sound reproduction is very good and steering wheel buttons make it easier to control the system.
Colours and trim
There are various options for cabin colours and trim, but almost regardless of choice the X5's cabin is attractive. The combination of wood, leather and aluminium is discreet and tasteful, and the quality of the materials is excellent.
The X5 may be a big car, but all round visibility is good, and park distance control is fitted as standard, which makes parking relatively easy. The optional Reversing Assist produces an overhead view of the car through a clever camera system, giving a near-panoramic view of the car and leaving no excuses for poor parking.
Run flat tyres fitted as standard on all models.
Petrol engine options - 4.4-litre petrol (408bhp). Diesel engine options - 3.0-litre (245bhp and 306bhp). Transmission options: Eight-speed automatic gearbox. Trim levels: SE, Sport.
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