It was never going to be too difficult for BMW to convince people to buy a new version of the X5. The last one had been around since 1999 and quickly became one of the most sought-after SUVs on the planet for its blend of performance, practicality and about as much ruggedness as most SUV owners would ever need. It was never much good off-road but then few ever ventured far from the tarmac or indeed the city. More than 600,000 X5s were produced in BMW’s Spartanburg plant in America since then and even up to the end of the production run of the last X5 sales were very strong. But rather than just stick with the car for longer than they should, BMW adhered to their policy of seven-year life cycles and have given us a new X5, but this time it is bigger and crucially, it can now be bought with seven seats.
Those two extra seats were once a reason why buyers might have chosen a Land Rover Discovery or a Volvo XC90 instead. And when the Audi Q7 became available with seven seats it seemed inevitable that BMW would appear with the same. To accommodate the extra accommodation, new X5 is larger in every way of course. The wheelbase is up 113mm compared to the old one, but there is less front and rear overhang. The track has been increased to lower the centre of gravity of the car and thus improve the handling and BMW have made the new X5 stiffer than before - stiffer, they point out, than a BMW E30 M3 Group A racecar with steel roll cages!
Visually the car looks a lot more modern and is a big jump from the previous one, which was starting to show its age a bit. There is a larger kidney grille and more raised contour lines and at the rear the L-shaped taillights include LED’s for greater visibility. Inside, the X5 gets iDrive, which you either love or hate and this now includes eight programmable ‘favourite’ buttons, which makes getting to more usual functions a whole lot easier.
The overwhelming majority of customers in Ireland will choose the model you see here, the 3.0d. This is a second-generation common-rail diesel and is now eight percent more fuel efficient than the previous model and the same amount less CO2 at 231g/km, which is less than any Audi Q7 or Mercedes ML. Power, is also up eight percent with the unit now putting out 235hp and torque is up four percent at 520Nm. The X5 now comes with a faster-shifting six-speed automatic transmission that comes with a more ergonomic gear lever and changes with this are smoother and it makes the X5 feel more responsive than before.
The previous X5 was famed for its handling and this one follows the same theme. It features double-wishbone front suspension and active anti-roll bars with Electronic Damper Control. It is a very agile SUV but with the bigger wheels and run-flat tyres the ride is a little harsh, so bear this in mind if you have kids. You can choose to have two extra seats at the rear, which are not really for full-size adults but will do fine for kids and these fold out of the way when not used. They are a €2,715 option.
This car is a natural evolution of the previous version and is likely to be a no-brainer for anyone who has had one before and now with the option of a third-row of seats it might just bring in some more buyers who were undecided.
Verdict: A brilliant SUV, with excellent handling and a lot more versatility than before thanks to the extra seating. The slightly hard ride is the only black mark against it.