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First drive: 2023 BMW X5 xDrive50e. Image by BMW.

First drive: 2023 BMW X5 xDrive50e
BMWís new X5 goes hard on tech and styling, but it retains the qualities that made it so good in the first place.

   



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BMW X5 xDrive50e

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The arrival of a new BMW X5 is always big news. Here is a titan of the premium SUV market, combining quality, space, comfort and capability with handling, power and luxury. The new model offers tweaked styling, some extra tech and revamped powertrains, but it has kept the basic X5 recipe more or less unchanged. So will it be just as brilliant as its predecessor?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 BMW X5 50e M Sport
Price: X5 from £68,165, M Sport from £72,190, xDrive50e from £79,265
Engine: 3.0-litre straight-six petrol plus 145kW electric motor
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Battery: 25.7kWh lithium-ion
Power: 490hp
Torque: 700Nm
Emissions: 18-26g/km
Economy: 256.8-353.1mpg
Range: 58-68 miles
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Boot space: 500-1,720 litres

Styling

Although BMW has clearly put some effort in with the X5's exterior design, the overall shape hasn't really changed very much. Sure, there are new headlights with a kind of chevron graphic and there's a new grille, which you can specify with an illumination feature called BMW Iconic Glow. New bumpers have been fitted, too, and there are new tail lights at the rear with a kind of X graphic. Add in some new wheels and some new paint jobs, and you've got a car that's evolved to become a little cleaner and more modern, but not one that's changed dramatically.

Interior

As with so many new BMW models, arguably the biggest difference between the new X5 and its predecessor is the Curved Display that dominates the dashboard. Incorporating both the central touchscreen and digital instrument cluster in one sweeping housing, the new design is sharper and more modern than before.

The new screens are a triumph, with a crystal-clear instrument cluster thatís more configurable than that of the old X5, and easier to read. Similarly, the new central screen is sharper and more responsive, making life a little easier. And thatís a good job, because as part of BMWís spring clean, the climate control switchgear has been eschewed in favour of a new menu in that touchscreen. We arenít great fans of such systems Ė Peugeot and Citroen have shown us how not to do it Ė but the BMW execution is better than most. The climate control panel is only ever a screen tap away, and you can change the temperature quickly no matter what the display is doing. Weíd still rather have buttons, though, particularly when youíre trying to fiddle with more complex settings on the move.

Happily, while the climate control system is an ergonomic pain in the backside, BMW has at least kept the iDrive controller in situ on the centre console. That rotary control means you can navigate your way around the touchscreen without ever touching it, and that makes it much easier and safer to use on the move. Or at least it does when youíve learned your way around it.

Practicality

The X5 is a big car, and despite BMW's changes to the dashboard, it's just as roomy as before. Interior space is more than adequate for four adults, and BMW will offer it in seven-seat form, although that third row of seats won't be quite as spacious as the second row, which offers plentiful amounts of leg- and headroom for even the tallest passengers. Stick with a five-seat car and you get a 650-litre boot, too, or at least you do if you opt for any model other than the plug-in hybrid xDrive50e model we tested. That car sacrifices 150 litres of boot space to make way for the hybrid system. Still, 500 litres of luggage space is what you get from a 3 Series Touring, so it's not to be sniffed at.

Performance

Of all the changes to the X5 line-up, the changes to the plug-in hybrid version are, perhaps, the most important. So great is the difference, in fact, that this is no longer the 45e, but the 50e, thanks in no small part to its 96hp increase in power compared with the old model.

That power comes from a 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged straight-six petrol engine, which produces 313hp on its own Ė up 27hp compared with the unit it replaces. Thatís joined by a 145kW electric motor and a larger 25.7kWh battery pack, taking the total output to 490hp and 700Nm of torque. That means itís just 135hp and 50Nm down on the range-topping X5 M Competition, which has a dirty great V8 under the bonnet.

The 50e is quick, too, getting from 0-62mph in less than five seconds and on to the obligatory 155mph top speed. But more importantly, itís incredibly efficient, covering around 60 miles on electrical power alone according to the official economy test. And assuming you can keep off the motorway or fast A-roads, you should achieve something approaching that figure, which means those who can charge regularly will probably find they can do most of their journeys without troubling the straight-six engine. Even with the best will in the world, however, the official three-figure economy is unlikely to prove realistic.

Especially if you cover a lot of motorway miles Ė something the X5 excels at. When pushed, the straight-six engine sounds purposeful without being raucous, and at lower speeds itís incredibly smooth and quiet. You know itís running, but it never intrudes.

Ride & Handling

BMW has a reputation for building smart saloons that are great to drive, yet it has to balance that with the demands of customers seeking a luxury SUV Ė namely capability and comfort. Fortunately, it seems BMWís engineers really know their business, and the X5 is remarkably comfortable on the road, although we must caveat that by disclosing that our first drive took place on the smooth asphalt of southern Germany, rather than Britainís somewhat more rugged back roads.

That said, you can only conquer the road in front of you, and the X5 did that admirably, gliding along the German autobahns with ease and soaking up the bumps nicely around town. Admittedly, the plug-in hybrid version tends to ride a little heavily in urban environments, thanks to its immense weight. Even so, itís far from uncomfortable, and it generally feels soft and absorbent over most surfaces.

Get it on the open road, however, and the X5 can transition into a sports car if you ask nicely. Thereís no disguising its size, but the steering is great, the brakes are effective and responsive and the suspension does a surprisingly good job of keeping the body in check. Of course, the X6 feels a little more stable, but the X5 has lots of grip and confidence-inspiring controls that almost encourage you to throw it around a bit. Itís surprisingly capable.

And itíll do bits off-road, too. Perhaps it doesnít have the absolute capability of a Range Rover, but if you want to tow or traverse rough terrain, the X5 will be more than up to the task. Certainly, thereís no need to worry about the odd farm track or muddy car park.

Value

The new X5 comes in at just over £68,000 for the basic 30d, making it roughly the same price as the Audi Q7. However, this xDrive50e model costs another £11,000, which is quite the price hike, but it's still about the same price as the Volvo XC90 Recharge T8. And it isn't like the BMW equipment list is stingy. Leather, climate control and the Curved Display are all included as standard, along with the reversing camera system, safety equipment and phone connectivity.

Verdict

The X5 hasn't changed all that much, but the upgrades are well considered and do a great job of making the car feel more modern. All of which means it's just as appealing as its predecessor, striking a nice balance between the more dynamic Porsche Cayenne and the wafting Range Rover Sport. The 50e version makes a strong case for itself, but we'd be more tempted by the basic 30d, which still has more than enough power and costs £11,000 less.



James Fossdyke - 14 Aug 2023



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2023 BMW X5 50e. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X5 50e. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X5 50e. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X5 50e. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X5 50e. Image by BMW.

2023 BMW X5 50e. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X5 50e. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X5 50e. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X5 50e. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X5 50e. Image by BMW.








 

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