BMW X5 review - rising above it all in serene SUV
I have to admit that the BMW X5 makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite.
I spend a lot of time banging on about how a decent big estate car like the Audi A4 Allroad is all the car anyone needs and there's no need for whacking big SUVs like the X5. Yet, after a week of running an X5 I was sorely reluctant to hand it back.
During my time with the X5 I was forced to venture hundreds of miles from home in the name of “essential training”. The half a day of brainstorming and positivity left me ready to commit murder but the X5 soothed the stress of that and the rush-hour M6 away in an instant.
It absolutely devoured the six-hour, 350-mile round trip and I could easily have spent the same again at the wheel and felt none the worse. It feels purpose built for such long-distance slogs.
It makes quiet, smooth and easy progress for mile after mile with passengers cocooned in the beautifully finished and lavishly equipped interior.
The adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and torquey 3.0-litre diesel engine take the strain out of motorway driving but the X5 is still able to take tighter, twisting A roads in its stride.
There is no getting away from the fact that this is a tall, heavy car. Even with the adaptive air suspension set to its lowest height the body leans into corners in a way a 5 Series saloon never would but the underlying chassis is agile and grippy.
Set everything to sport mode and you can make eye-opening progress. The huge wall of torque from the straight six is spectacular and it piles on pace without you even noticing. You’ll find yourself approaching corners faster than you expect, so it’s just as well that the steering is responsive and it has the turn-in speed and grip to cope.
In a weird way the car reminds me of the late, great Jonah Lomu. Both are huge, muscular, intimidating beasts with seemingly endless reserves of power, a startling turn of speed and able to change direction unfeasibly quickly.
For all that Beemer is massive on the outside, the interior space is surprisingly tight. Those in the front are well catered for in the “Individual” seats but behind them, it feels disproportionately small. I’m quite tall but legroom in the back felt compromised even compared to some SUVs in a class below. It somewhat limits the X5’s attraction as a family car.
Still, if you’re shorter of leg or don’t care about your kids’ comfort the X5 is a glorious place to sit. Those seats are super-comfy and the real metal finish to controls and trim lines looks and feels fantastic. Go for M Sport trim and you’ll want for very little - even the cupholders are heated and cooled here and gadgets such as the panoramic sunroof, automated laser headlights and harman/kardon stereo added to our car’s plushness. At £77,000 it’s not cheap but you can see and feel where your money’s spent.
The poor legroom aside, my biggest gripe is the lack of Android Auto. Apparently, BMW sees that as a feature for low-end cars but stills offer Apple Car Play. Call me a pleb if you like but it seems like a ridiculous corner to cut and, as good as iDrive is, I missed the ease of use that comes with smartphone compatibility.
It’s a relatively minor thing to get hung up on but the fact that it bothered me so much gives an idea of how impressive the rest of the car is.
BMW X5 30d M Sport
Price: £62,620 (£77,165 as tested) Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, diesel Power: 261bhp Torque: 457lb/ft Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive Top speed: 143mph 0-62mph: 6.5 seconds Economy: 37.7-42.2mpg CO2 emissions: 175-197g/km