Beam Me Up, Scotty | BMW X5 xDrive50i

BY Azfar Hashim

Does the flagship X5 have it all? We spend some alone time with BMW’s SUV to see whether it can be the segment leader

Photos: Azfar Hashim

If you want a complete full-size SUV, you can never go wrong with the X5 SUV (or SAV according to BMW, but who cares anyway). After all, the X5 offers a lot of car for that money, on top of having the space and proper pace.

But you cannot deny the fact that there are a few competent alternatives next to the X5. Prominently are Audi’s Q7, Porsche’s Cayenne, the Range Rover and even Volkswagen’s Touareg; they all offer the same proposition as the BMW.

And mind you, these full-size SUVs are rather popular in our urban jungle simply because it has the capability to go anywhere and most importantly, offers you practicality. Well you can look at MPVs if you still need more room, but hey, those square boxes on wheels just do not have the style. Or character. And yes, even Mercedes-Benz’s R-Class does not have any inch of style…

So, if you want the latest German luxury SUV (because you can), then meet the new X5. The version we have here today is the full-blown xDrive50i, mind you; which equates to powaaah, obviously.

The new X5 definitely looks dramatic this time around. Let’s start with the face; The kidney grill is now bigger, the front bumper detailed to (a) add more visual drama AND (b) improve overall aerodynamics, sleeker full LED headlamp, and foglamps mimicking Iron Man’s arc reactor that does not look out of place. On that front (no pun intended), BMW scores full mark.

In terms of side profile, the X5 continues the sporty theme by employing arch-filling 20-inch alloys wrapped in Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT rubbers; glossy black finish is brilliant, with the plastic fender extenders visually enlarging this SUV even further. A subtle ‘xDrive50i’ badge is a reminder to folks that this, here, means business…

Comparing new to old, this neu X5’s rear looks far more chiselled. On top of that, you get — like the front — a highly detailed bumper together with a pair of square exhaust tips. The split tailgate for access to the boot is a thoughtful touch: makes loading and unloading of items, particularly bulky ones, far easier. And if there is no need, just keep the third row seat folded to maximise storage space.

The cabin is a place of comfort, there is no defying that. And of course this being BMW, overall build quality is top-notch stuff. The seats all provide adequate support, although you do wish for more grip for your torso when you decide to drive a little enthusiastically. The dashboard layout is no different than in a 5 Series, which is a good thing (read: idiot proof). Only difference is, here you get an additional Bang & Olufsen pop up speaker on the dashboard (standard only on the xDrive50i). BMW has also stretched (by 32 mm) and widened (by 5 mm) this new X5, equating to better leg and shoulder rooms for three adult passengers on the second row.

Power comes courtesy of a 4.4-litre V8, twin-turbo’d engine, obviously from the M parts bin. However, the unit’s power output has been scaled down; if a typical M model (M5/M6/X6M, for example) churns out more than 500 bhp, the X5’s has been tuned to whip out 450 bhp and 650 Nm of torque - that kicks in from as low as 2,000 rpm - instead. Oh and before I forget, it takes only 5 seconds (no, your eyes are not playing any tricks) to get from standstill to 100 km/h; good enough to go after supercars…

The X5 employs a different transmission from its M cousins. That means you do no get the fancy 7-speed DCT but instead, the ‘regular’ ZF-supplied 8-speed automatic transmission. No complaints though: this 2.3-tonne SUV still operates efficiently and smoothly. No rude shocks while downshifting too.

It feels grippy and fast off the line, with the accompaniment of melody from the V8 powerplant making its presence heard the moment you push the engine past 3,000 rpm. If you’ve been looking for an unassuming SUV to trash hot-hatches and sports coupes, this X5 is more than up to the task; not that we’re encouraging, but #justsaying. Swap to Sport mode and everything about the X5 feels tighter; throttle response is easily sharper, the steering feels weightier and suddenly you can carve corners. Those anchors work brilliantly every single time, even from triple-digit speeds, and you do not get the car diving rudely to throw everyone in the cabin off their seats.

Hence, I am glad to report that the overall body movement is much, much better controlled than its predecessor.

As a whole, the BMW X5 xDrive50i is a thoroughly enjoyable SUV to drive on a daily basis. A very useful companion for the school and meeting runs and even for long-distance road trips. Heck, it even allows you to drive like a nutcase when no one is watching as you have power and handling at your disposal.

The only downside? The, err, uneconomical fuel economy…