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The new BMW X5: better, or just bigger? Image by Will Nightingale.

The new BMW X5: better, or just bigger?
BMW's original X5 is a hard act to follow, which is why this one looks so similar at first glance.

 



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#02#It's a difficult job being a motoring journalist with a conscience. Do you brush over any moral issues about the type of car you're testing? Or do you forever bring up the obvious downsides of anything with an engine greater than 1,000cc? We usually take the former option of course, as we're driving cars that people need to make up their own minds on. But when the car on test effectively started the trend for large 4x4s for the road in this country, which is so prevalent an issue in the media at present, it would be naive not to tackle the issue somewhat.

The car is the new BMW X5. The issue is the proposed eco-nasty nature of its kind - the 4x4, the SUV, the 'Chelsea tractor', whatever you want to call it.

On one hand you've got the uninformed legislators, who seem to think that if everyone traded in their big 4x4 for something smaller, the polar ice caps would, within a matter of weeks, refreeze; sea levels would drop and we'd all live happily ever after, safe in the knowledge that we'd defeated the 4x4 and saved the planet. On the other, you've got the wealthy school run mum arguing (as seems to be the most morally acceptable reason for owning a 4x4 these days) that her children will survive any accident completely unharmed, in which they would have been squished had she opted for a Toyota Prius.

The reality is that neither case stands up to scrutiny. Take the new BMW X5 for example, as we did in Athens last week. It's a big 4x4, no question, so according to Mr Livingstone it must puff out at least twice the CO2 of a family saloon. Well it's not quite a simple as that; the 3.0d X5 has a CO2 rating of 231g/km, which is less than say, a 2.5-litre Jaguar X-Type saloon. Of course, 231g/km is not a particularly eco-friendly figure, but such matters need to be viewed in context. As for the mum on the school run, her argument only stands up if she's crashing into something smaller. If everyone's driving around in SUVs then we're back to square one. And would she have avoided the accident in something lighter and more agile? No, that argument's just as flawed. #p##02# Whatever your viewpoint, the trend BMW arguably started with the original X5 in 1999, shows no signs of a significant downturn. In fact, BMW sold more X5s last year than ever, despite the car being seven years old. So, the market looks promising for the new model. Of course, there's a fair amount more competition around now than in 1999.

The sleek, well proportioned front-end gives the big Beemer an attractive face, the sort with which the X3 should've been blessed. The rear is unmistakably X5, brought pleasantly up-to-date in a risk free manner. This isn't a car BMW has been particularly daring with visually, and would you? The current model has been a huge success and sales have been steadily increasing since its release. For sure, the new car doesn't have the innovative impact of the original back in 1999. But then neither does Sergeant Pepper's today, and that doesn't make it any less great than in 1967. Only the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover better the new X5 for style in the 4x4 segment; and they've both had a fair bit more practice.

BMW calls the X5 an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle), and it's clear why the company is keen to differentiate the car from the typical SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). The original gave an uncharacteristically entertaining drive for a car of its size and the new model is no different. Faster and more agile, the new X5 also gives a much better ride than previously. Not that it's at all wallowy; we had some real fun on the twisty mountain routes north of Athens. It's no hot hatch of course, but considering its size and two and a quarter tonne bulk, the new X5 corners admirably. Apparently it's been round the N ürburgring in just 10 minutes! The optionally available 'Adaptive Drive' is no doubt partly to thank for this. #p##02# We found that the X5 also sounds awesome in V8 guise; thankfully the exhaust note isn't too muted. The only thing that lets the sporty drive down is the gearbox. The so-called 'manual' mode refuses to let you downchange early approaching a corner, but is quite happy to do so undesired when kicking down. If you haven't yet been spoilt by Volkswagen's fantastic DSG gearbox, then this isn't a bad automatic...

The new model is larger than its predecessor - both in length and width - and can now house an extra row of seats. Despite the added dimensions, the X5 doesn't appear as vast. The less vertical ends give a lower, more surefooted stance. Inside, thankfully, the size increase is obvious. The X5 can now accommodate five six-foot adults in comfort, which wasn't the case before. The optional third row of seats is only suitable for children, as you might expect, but the boot is larger. Leather is surprisingly not standard for a car in this price bracket, although unsurprisingly BMW expects a 100 per cent take-up of the £1,200 option.

The new X5 goes on sale in the UK from April next year. Two engines will be available from launch: the punchy 235bhp 3-litre turbodiesel and the raunchy 355bhp 4.8-litre V8 petrol. A 3-litre petrol unit will also be available later in the year. Performance is impressive from the diesel, with 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and a potential 134mph top speed. The V8 is even more so and gives 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and a potential of 150mph. Despite the increase in power, economy is actually marginally improved in comparison to the outgoing car, which is never a bad thing. Combined figures stand at 32.5mpg and 25.9mpg for the diesel and V8 respectively. #p##03# We're constantly being told to consider our 'carbon footprint', and I'd be willing to bet most X5s have a considerably smaller shoe size than the average 25,000-mile a year rep-mobile. Without doubt, there are plenty of greener cars on offer, and many potential customers don't really need a car of this size. Moral standpoints aside though, the new BMW X5 is a great car and puts the original 'off-roader' for the road right back up with the leaders in its class.

Will Nightingale - 21 Nov 2006









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2007 BMW X5 specifications:
Technical specifications for 2007 BMW X5 4.8i SE
Technical specifications for 2007 BMW X5 3.0d

2007 BMW X5. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 BMW X5. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 BMW X5. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 BMW X5. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 BMW X5. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2007 BMW X5. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 BMW X5. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 BMW X5. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 BMW X5. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 BMW X5. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2007 BMW X5. Image by Will Nightingale.
 

2007 BMW X5. Image by Will Nightingale.
 

2007 BMW X5. Image by Will Nightingale.
 

2007 BMW X5. Image by Will Nightingale.
 

2007 BMW X5. Image by Will Nightingale.
 

2007 BMW X5. Image by BMW.
 

2007 BMW X5. Image by BMW.
 

2007 BMW X5. Image by BMW.
 

2007 BMW X5. Image by BMW.
 






 

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