BMW 30d X5 review

I just returned the latest generation BMW X5 after being invited to drive it in consideration for choice in the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild Car of the Year and since the only other X5 I have driven was the very first generation X5 it makes for an interesting comparison. For a start the latest generation diesel 30d I drove was way faster than the original diesel, but you would expect that of course.
What you don’t expect is to find that this vehicle has launch control. And it’s a diesel, remember.
It’s simple to operate – select the Sport button, shift the gearlever into Sport manual and push the throttle flat to the floor while holding the car on the brake pedal. If you release the brake during the three seconds in which the system gives you the opportunity, the X5 will catapult forwards, causing your internal organs to uncomfortably rearrange themselves around your spinal column. It does prove that the Germans do have a sense of humour, even if it is deeply hidden. Then again, what would you add to a
3.0 litre diesel engine that produces 190kW and 560Nm of earth rotating torque?
So the new X5 is fast, but is it any good? It can be very good, as the test car came with BMW’s Driving Experience Control system, which adjusts the behaviour of engine, transmission and suspension according to your tastes, be it Comfort, Sport, or Sport Plus. There’s also an Eco Mode, but I entirely forgot to try it. I doubt any X5 owners will remember either.
On the road the new X5 does feel a lot like the old, being pretty large and hefty, but having the ability to corner rather like a sports car. There’s still that slightly unnatural feeling that so much metal shouldn’t be attempting such enthusiastic feats, but thanks to the combination of stability control and massively wide tyres there’s always enough grip and safety margin for most drivers.
I’m glad to say that interior quality has improved massively though. The first generation X5, while nowhere near as bad as the first Mercedes M-Class, shows its age in plastics and fabrics technology. The new X5 is so quiet on the road that the tiny creak from somewhere near the back was pretty irritating, then again it could have been the boot cover that I threw carelessly in the middle row of seats while deploying the rearmost row.
Thanks too a pretty massive increase in overall size the X5 has indeed become a seven-seater, although as usual the room in the back seats is suitable for children only. The seats themselves are easy to operate, although you need to move the middle seat backrests to pull the seats out of the boot floor.
As usual the X5 comes with BMW’s newest generation faintly user friendly iDrive system, which now has lots of extra buttons to shortcut through the optional windows, so that for example you can go straight to sat nav without having to search through four or five pull down menus. The iDrive is also good for supplying generally useless information. One is the Sports Instrumentation, which replaces the sat nav display with the display of two dials, one for power and one for torque. Apart from displaying just how little power and torque is required to drive at a constant pace this one is probably a case of information overload, as you already have a rev counter to tell you how fast the engine is going. You can also look up information on the xdrive system, which as far as I can tell is a display showing what compass direction you are headed and at what angle to the horizontal the vehicle is travelling.
And again, just as with the first X5, I have come to the conclusion that while being a good vehicle, you’d be better off with a big wagon that doesn’t tower over everyone else. The car would weigh less, handle better, and use less fuel. Unfortunately, BMW does not offer a wagon version of the excellent 5-Series, which would do most of what the X5 does, and all of that at a more competent level.

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