TEST DRIVE | Highly Efficient 2015 BMW X5
I’ve always been quite a fan of the BMW X5, with its squat bulky stance. As time has gone on, the X5 has got fatter and more sculpted and now has a nose like the latest BMW 3-Series which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s essentially a face lifted version of the previous X5 (E70 model) with a few fancy styling features such as a tall slit just behind the front wheels to aid aerodynamics.
On this mid-high range model, a discreet but slightly aggressive bodykit completes the look. I thought this new shape X5 was ghastly when first released but it’s really growing on me the more I look at it.
The car we have here on long test is the new xDrive40d with a 309hp 3-litre twin-turbo diesel V6 engine which reaches 60mph in 6.1 seconds. Two turbos means very little lag under any level of acceleration, almost none in fact. Alas, the same can’t be said for its rival, the ever popular and nouveau riche Range Rover Sport with the same sized engine which has very noticeable supercharger lag. Even more in Land Rover’s turbo-diesel V8. A finely tuned 2-litre diesel engine is also offered in this X5 with rear wheel drive, along with a couple of mid-power diesels in between. Or if you want to spend big bucks then the 575hp X5M starting at circa £90,000 will be more to your liking with its 4.4-litre V8.
For some reason the BMW X5 has absolutely no off-road credentials apart from hill descent control. No adjustable suspension, no terrain driving modes, nothing at all. At the other end of the scale, the Range Rover Sport excels by offering full sand, mud and water wading modes with adjustable air suspension and bump plates plus more toys to spec. Even the Porsche Cayenne is brilliant off-road and the Audi Q7 tries its best. I would imagine the X5 is pretty useless when the going gets tough.
It more than redeems itself on Tarmac when you throw it around and drive a little harder. It holds the road well once you shift it into Sport mode. There are 4 driving modes to choose from: Eco Plus, Comfort, Sport and Sport+.
Eco Plus mode mutes the throttle response slightly and gives you an “Efficient Dynamics” display in the instrument cluster between the dials which shows your driving performance and whether you are adding or reducing mileage range by your driving style. It’s quite a good game actually to see how many miles you can redeem by driving in a more eco-friendly manner. I managed 20-30 miles on long runs.
Standard equipment throughout the range is acceptable and there are lots of options to choose from should you desire. Most are expensive and won’t add much to the driving experience but a must have option is the £1,300 panoramic sunroof especially on a white car, which will boost resale value. The driving assistance technology works well, such as lane departure warning which vibrates the steering wheel when you drift over a white line and also the collision detection system which flashes a big red car symbol in the instrument display if it thinks you’re getting a bit too close to the car in front when slowing down.
This car has the optional 3rd row seating which adds two seats in the boot, suitable only for children though. They can be folded flat into the boot floor to give a large loading area. The tailgate itself is a split affair with the top part electrically operated but the bottom part not; it is on a Range Rover.
One small (and probably insignificant) issue I have with the Range Sport Sport is that after you’ve been driving through rain and spray and go to reverse, the rear view camera is completely unusable because it’s covered in dirty water. Probably because the camera is mounted above the number plate. The X5’s rear view camera is mounted high into the rear spoiler above the window which avoids any spray. It also has a lot clearer and crisper picture than the Range Rover’s. A little niggle yes, but good to point out to a buyer of this £55,000 car. There’s also a fair bit of road and wind noise when the radio is off and you’re on A-roads.
On to the control and media interface now and Audi’s MMI, Merc’s COMAND and Land Rover’s menus are all a lot more intuitive and easier to navigate than BMW’s complex iDrive system, but this could be because I’ve not really had a long enough play on iDrive before. One point I would make is that because the big control wheel is so tall, you can’t see the buttons on the top-left side of it, specifically ‘Radio’ and ‘Media’. But once you’re used to where every button is this shouldn’t be a problem.
The only other negative I can think of is that the side steps/skirts are so deep and large that after you’ve been driving through standing water or muddy roads, the backs of your legs get wet and dirty from brushing against the side running boards. You have to really step out away from the car to avoid this rather than just step down out of the car.
That’s enough bad points because overall this is a great car to drive and all the good points far outweigh the bad, and build quality is top notch. The navigation system is packed with features but works well, and one neat detail is the ability to draw letters and numbers for postcodes with the touchpad on top of the iDrive wheel.
The mood lighting settings give the car a premium feel when driving at night. You can change the colour and brightness of the LED lighting along all the doors and dash, footwells, headlining and door pockets between orange, blue and white or any combination of them. It’s a nice safe car to drive at night and in poor weather thanks to the bi-xenon headlights. You can upgrade them to BMW’s fancy new LED headlight system for £1,495. They’re even developing LASER headlights for the next model.
If you really want to push the boat out with the options, £3,345 will get you a fantastic Bang & Olufsen stereo but the standard setup is more than acceptable.
The new X5 is up there with the best of the Chelsea Tractors and should be considered if your idea of ‘off-road’ is a gravel driveway in West London.