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New BMW X5 review: An SUV with more X factor
NEVER mind what mathematicians say. "7" is the number with the most gravitas in the BMW range, due to the 7 Series flagship, but for now, "5" is at least its equal.
That's thanks to the new BMW X5, the fourth generation of Munich's original Sport Utility Vehicle (although BMW prefers the dubious term "Sport Activity Vehicle"). It arrives in Singapore early next year at an estimated price of S$350,000 (with Certificate of Entitlement) and seven seats. Five-seater versions will have to be specially ordered.
While the 7 Series is BMW's big kahuna, the X5's newness means it trumps that car in some ways. It's the first BMW to be equipped with the latest iDrive infotainment system (version 7.0, coincidentally), for example.
"In terms of image the X5 is the most important in our X cars because it started the family," says Christophe Koenig, media relations manager for BMW's "X models", the term it uses to describe its SUVs. "It's also a major brand shaper for BMW, so it's important to introduce the latest state of the art technology with it."
BMW launched the first X5 in 1999, and since then five more models have joined the X range, with a yacht-like X7 due to enter production early next year. Altogether, the X models account for more than 30 per cent of BMW's total volume.
The iDrive 7.0 system that makes its debut on this car is built around twin 12.3-inch screens - one for driving functions, one for infotainment - and both have been re-jigged for more information to be displayed more intuitively.
They go a long way to making the inside of the X5 look posher than ever, especially alongside a gear lever and start button topped in crystal.
Open-pore wood across the dashboard of our test car also added to the gentlemen's club ambience of the car.
But it's when driving the X5 that you realise just how far the luxury quotient has been upped.
Singapore-bound cars will all get adaptive air suspension, and the system does a brilliant job of rounding out the disharmony that might otherwise arise when 21-inch wheels slap against the bumpy concrete freeways in Atlanta, where BMW held its press launch, not far from where the cars are built.
In addition to grace, the X5 doesn't want for pace either. We drove the version that will eventually reach our shores, the xDrive40i, which has a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine that's both silky smooth and tunefully zingy.
With 340hp and 450Nm on tap, the X5 is remarkably lithe for its size too. Floor the loud pedal and it swiftly hoiks up its trousers and legs it, getting to 100 kmh from standstill in just 5.5 seconds.
Elsewhere, the X5 is so smart you'd think it could do calculus, let alone basic arithmetic. The X5 has systems that will park for you, massage you, keep you in your lane, and stop for you to avoid a crash. The X5 can even see in the dark, thanks to an infra-red camera system.
While the X5 is a rugged looking car, the new features and the spruced-up cabin mean you could picture it being used as transport for boardroom types. It might not look like a traditional limousine, but it's refined enough to feel like one, especially now that air suspension is standard.
I was never very good at maths in school, but I'm pretty sure that 5 can equal 7 if you multiply it by "X".
BMW X5 xDrive40i
Engine 2,998cc, inline 6, twin-turbo
Power 340hp at 5500rpm
Torque 450Nm at 1500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100kmh 5.5 seconds
Top Speed 243kmh
Fuel Efficiency 8.5 L/100km (estimate)
Agent Performance Motors
Price S$350,000 with COE (estimated)
Available Early 2019