New design language with oversized kidney grille is surprisingly handsome in the metal. Picture: RYAN ENSLIN
New design language with oversized kidney grille is surprisingly handsome in the metal. Picture: RYAN ENSLIN

Fans of BMW’s X5 list top-notch dynamic driving qualities in their purchase decision.

When it comes to pure thrills only a few SUVs could match the ability of an X5 for athleticism. Apart from wanting to tempt people out of rival brands, BMW’s aim when building this latest, fourth-generation version, and indeed other X models thus far, is to infuse more off-road driving capability into the old recipe of luxury and performance.

For those customers who may have coveted a BMW X5 but shied away due to the farm-road impracticality, the company is now able to offer a 20-inch light alloy fitted with all-terrain tyres for more confidence and mitigation against easy punctures.

I’d have dearly loved to expand on this revelation but instead my driving partner and I found ourselves facing 40 gravelled kilometres of the Montagu Pass in the Western Cape, not in a BMW X5 armed with the new set of knobbly and grippy Grabber AT3 tyres but the other option — the very road-based 22-inch M Performance alloys covered with the thinnest of 275/35 Pirelli rubber and exclusively available to the M50d derivative.

At this point I’d like to leave this frightening entry and tell you more about the rest of the car, beginning with the interior.

A business-like ambience and also an AI voice assistant. Picture: SUPPLIED
A business-like ambience and also an AI voice assistant. Picture: SUPPLIED

The cabin quality is a particular highlight and is more than a match for segment rivals. It’s a lovelier place now, with the latest BMW innovative technology and choice materials and patterns that introduce a new premium feel. The layout has changed, not dramatically but enough to be a welcome change from the predictable blueprint of BMW interiors. There’s now a fully digital BMW live cockpit instrument binnacle, and the few buttons left are now flush in the centre console that also features a stylish new lever for the transmission. 

The now more luxurious confines of the BMW X5 are a hive of sophistication, from an intuitive, multimodal interaction between driver and vehicle through artificial intelligence, touch control, the familiar iDrive touch controller, to voice and gesture control.

These feature alongside now traditional convenience expectations such as navigation, a 20GB hard-drive-equipped multimedia system, two USB ports, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi interfaces. There’s no doubt that the new BMW X5 is, on paper, a major improvement over its predecessor on all fronts. It looks much better than the previous version too.

For better farm-road practicality, the new X5 can be fitted with 20-inch all-terrain tyres. Picture: RYAN ENSLIN
For better farm-road practicality, the new X5 can be fitted with 20-inch all-terrain tyres. Picture: RYAN ENSLIN

It’s available in the xDrive30d versions with a single-turbo diesel engine with outputs of 195kW and 620Nm.

The M50d I drove at the media launch is a six-cylinder quad-turbo virtuoso with its 294kW and 760Nm, with claimed 0-100 km/h times of 5.2 seconds and top speed of 250km/h. The M50d is the juggernaut of the range until the X5M arrives.

The M50d offers bang by the truckload and should be parsimonious with its claimed combined figure of 7.2l/100km.

Not that long ago, it would have been a calamitous and scary proposition to get under the skin of a performance SUV and drive it ragged, but these behemoths have gone through an incredible renaissance. This change of character means that the new X5 boasts amplified handling attributes, thanks to an adjustable four-wheel drive system with dynamic damper control. The newly designed xDrive chassis is honed for absolute traction not only on rough terrain but to reward with incredible communicativeness whenever you are hurtling somewhere.

It’s the model-specific kinematics and elastokinematics for the wheel suspension that lead to a newfound agility and stickiness to the ground, bringing this hulk closer to the league of something more focused such as Porsche’s Cayenne.


Pricing

X5 xDrive30d xLine Model: R1,186,200
X5 xDrive30d M Sport package: R1,245,100
X5 xDrive30d xOff-Road: R1,245,450
X5 M50d R1,493,600