This vehicle and this test drive was, for me, a challenge, an experiment to test the limits of BMW driving pleasure. And it was not a disappointment. If you would be driven with closed eyes, I am sure you wouldn’t object to the statement, you were in a sedan. Yes, this big SUV, as heavy as 2,236 kg and with a towing capacity of 2,700 kg drives very much like a sedan, a 5-Series sedan, to be more specific. Excellent communication with the road surface thanks to a mature chassis, direct steering responses and near-perfect cornering ability. When BMW says, “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, that’s what they probably mean.
I thought myself, how a BMW plane would “drive”, if the Bavarian company would build one, as it is inscribed in its history. For beginners, BMW’s logo is a tribute to the company’s history in aviation. The logo shows a propeller in motion with the blue part representing the sky. This is due to the Company’s history of building aircraft engines for the German military during World War II. Perhaps not surprisingly, blue and white are also the colors of the Bavarian flag, home of the BMW.
What You Find Under the Bonnet
Days are gone when the model definitions were relevant to engine displacements. So, 5.0 refers to a 4.4-litre (instead of 5-liter) V-8, with twin-intercooled turbo chargers, direct injection and variable valve timing. It delivers 445 HP and a hammer-like torque of 480 lb-ft. The eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF is the “translator” of the all-wheel drive system.
The flagship of the SUV family (which was marked BMW’s entry into the SUV category at the beginning of this century) is a very strong seller in Canada. Monthly sales figures, helped by the boom of the SUV’s change from 500 to 700. More interestingly, the X5 sells more than the total of X1s, X3s and X6s combined. This is a different picture from the usual sales trends where you would normally expect the compact-size models such as the X3 leading the sales as the 3 Series achieves in the sedan segment.
The current generation BMW X5 does not radically differ from its predecessor. “Leave the revolution under the bonnet and let the design evolve slowly”. That’s probably the leading statement in the Design Division led by Adrian van Hooydonk. I believe that this is the better way of design management after some unfortunate trials with Chris Bangle, BMW’s former design chief early in this century. The typical client in the upper luxury segments does not easily digest radical design changes. The fundamentals of the BMW design language remain in place: Correct proportions, an appropriately high belt line, a long wheelbase with front and rear wheels stretched to the edges of the body and of course, the twin-kidney grills which are pronounced stronger than the previous model.
Inside the Cabin
The cabin is, as the appearance promises, spacious and the materials and craftsmanship reflect the world-famous high-end German standards. As you see more often recently in the German luxury players, the TV-style display screen sits atop the dashboard. It’s called the Control Display Monitor and is not integrated into the dashboard. This may have something to do with standardization and cost reduction. The standard navigation system comes with a touchpad. And there’s the latest version of i-Drive. Still BMW made some diversification and included knobs and buttons for frequently used commands like volume control. When the Bavarians launched the first generation of i-Drive more than a decade ago, this was the beginning of a painful journey and BMW received tons of negative comments and experienced lots of troubles until they perfected this system to today’s standards. I wish that Cadillac, for example leaves behind this learning curve much faster than BMW did. Now, the i-Drive works perfectly. Period.
Impressions on the Road
I drove nearly 800 kilometers in Ontario from Guelph to Burlington and Toronto and moved the Bimmer on different surfaces, from winter-tortured city roads to highways, from neighbourhood avenues to unpaved countryside roads.
You feel very safe with such a big and heavy vehicle with four-wheel drive. On some icy surfaces, the ABS and TCS systems came into play and the X5 seemed even far from reaching its limits.
Head-up display made a bigger differences on icy and curvy side roads during night when keeping a very close eye on the road was more crucial then day-time driving under normal conditions.
Adaptive M-suspension provides either a silky-smooth ride or a tougher, sportier mood as you wish.
You can “adjust” the X5’s chassis settings based on your preferences and/or driving conditions. A Driving Dynamics Control switch on the centre console allows you to choose Comfort, Sport, Sport+ or Eco Pro at the press of a button, tailoring responses for the throttle, power steering, shift quality and more.
You cannot expect leadership in fuel economy from a vehicle with 8 cylinders heavy lifting more than two tons. The theoretical consumption is 15.3 liters for city and 9.9 liters for highway. I recorded an average of 14.2 liters based on mixed-use of nearly 800 km’s mostly under wintry conditions without any towing.
My humble recommendation: Use the measurements defined by Government of Canada only for comparison purposes, in order not to get frustrated and disappointed.
The base MSRP of CAD 76,500 is not a surprise for a luxurious, full-size SUV with the blue-white propeller. My test vehicle provided by BMW Group Canada had all bells and whistles as it is usually the case with media vehicles. Here is what the BMW had “on board“:
Premium Package (4,400): Includes heated rear seats, surround view cameras, automatic 4-zone air conditioning, head-up display, Sirius XM satellite radio tuner, and M Sport Line Package (4,000): Includes 20 inch, double spoke light alloy wheels with big tires in front (275/40) and rear (315/25), sport-auto transmission, adaptive M-Sport suspension, comfort front seats.
Technology Package (3,800): Active LED headlights, LED fog lights, high-beam assistant, active blind spot detection.
Connected Drive Services (850): BMW online, advanced real time trafic info, concierge services, internet, BMW apps and smartphone connectivity.
Bang & Olufsen (4,900): Bang & Olufsen premium audio system instead of ‘ordinary’ Harman Kardon system.
Rear Seat entertainment: (1,950)
With all these options the MSRP reaches almost the six-digit territory. Price as tested: 96,400
Destination Charge: 2,095.
What I liked: The smooth ride with the performance of a V8, mated to an 8-speed transmission for seamless delivery of power, responsive steering, wonderful chassis and suspension that connects you to the road, car-like handling and impessive brakes. Anything left?
What I did not like: Color. I would never and ever prefer white in a BMW. This is also a very unfortunate choice for taking pictures, especially in winter.
Competitors: Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Audi Q7, Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus LX570, Lincoln Navigator
Article: Varol McKars
Pictures: Varol McKars, Burak McKars
Test vehicle was provided by BMW Group Canada
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