After seeing pictures of the new X5 and day dreaming about Range Rover ownership, my mind has continued to wander towards a car that remains just outside the realms of possibility car-wise…the current (second) generation of BMW’s talented X5. I see enough of these machines on the road that my attention is drawn to them, in fact apart from the downright common Range Rover Sport (which appears to be everywhere I look in my neck of the woods) the X5 appears to be the vehicle of choice for the well-heeled. Given a pay rise or another year or so’s saving I would be able to think about joining these ranks, but for now I shall just have to settle with over-analysing the car on my blog.
I’ve already covered the original sexy X-y (sorry!) in a number of posts and my enthusiasm about it are pretty obvious, but how did BMW go about replacing a car which was still incredibly popular even in it’s last year of sale? Well given that the X5 was so far ahead of the competition already the company clearly decided to play it safe and merely evolve the model into a more honed version of it’s predecessor. This is most evident on the outside where the E70 X5 looks like a slightly stretched and pumped up version of the E53…at a time when BMW was in the midst of it’s controversial Bangle-styling era they clearly decided to take a less risky strategy with cars such as the 3 Series and X5, which were crucially important in the global marketplace. A few more creases here and there and a more sculpted front end kept the X5 looking fresh, whilst retaining it’s aggressive looks. I was not a massive fan when the car first launched as I thought that from certain angles the car did not seem cohesive, and to be honest the very first SE models do look a bit doughy with their 18-inch wheels and black plastic bumpers. But the E70 has really grown on me in recent years, and its squat shape and chunky detailing have not dated much at all in my opinion, especially the M Sport models which have large wheels and side sills. In 2010 the X5 was facelifted, but aside from a few interior changes and a different air diffuser there is not very much to distinguish the facelift models. BMW have barely updated the design of the new car, and again I am unsure about how the car looks outside…this of course might change, but their decision to do little apart from make the car longer and taller does not sit quite right-but of course it’s hard to improve on perfection.
Inside the cabin is where BMW made most progress with the second gen X5. Not that there was a huge amount wrong with the original’s cabin, but the updated model ushered in a host of changes which had been filtering in to BMW’s cars since 2001. Most notable was the inclusion of the iDrive system; all E70 X5’s come with a version of the infotainment system and for better or for worse it marks the car out from its peers. The vast majority also come with navigation and a widescreen display, but some of the original cars made do with a pokier screen which looks abit rubbish. 2010 saw the latest version of iDrive with things like internet connectivity and app support and makes it class leading in that respect-only Audi can really come close with their MMI interface but the version in the Q7 is old. Another big change was with the gear selector; the previously available manual gearbox was not offered in the second generation car, and a quirky little lever replaced the traditional lever. This is something which has subsequently been adapted on most of BMW’s automatic cars and in fact most luxury manufacturers have moved away from the traditional design of gear selectors (and manuals too!). The rest of the cabin is pretty similar to other contemporary BMW’s in that it is excellent in terms or ergonomics and quality with a slight emphasis on the driver, although it could be said that it lacks distinction…having the same cabin as a 3 series costing half the price is nothing to boast about. Equipment levels are also good, with items such as leather, climate control and the aforementioned iDrive being standard. Most buyers also will have opted for heated seats but the more interesting options like radar cruise-control and a head-up display are a little rarer when looking at used cars. The bigger dimensions of the E70 allowed BMW to fit a pair of extra seats in the boot (as an option of course). They were pretty popular, but are often called useless for children over the age of 12 by owners; a 7 seat car does appeal but it would not be a deal breaker for me personally.
On the road the X5 again excels at offering owners car-like handling and performance in a larger body. Interestingly rather than use the 5 Series platform again, the E70 got it’s own purpose built underpinnings (shared with the X6 once it was launched). It did not have the impact of the original car’s because of the raft of talented rivals already on the market, but the E70 is still held in high regard, probably second only to the latest Porsche Cayenne in handling stakes. Adaptive suspensions offer a reasonable ride, but the 20 inch wheels of M Sport models can make it quite harsh. In terms of performance the car was given more engine choices;originally just a 4.8i V8 petrol and the stalwart 3.0L diesel 6, but a more powerful version of the diesel was launched a few months after. All engines were updated at various points, and a range-topping ’50d’ diesel was sold in LHD markets from 2010. Actually the top of the range X5 is the M version, which gets the engine from the M5 saloon…apparently it defies the laws of physics and gets to 60 in under 5 seconds; sure it drinks fuel but owners will be able to afford it.
I guess it was always going to be hard to replace the second generation X5, which is probably why the new car looks so similar inside and out. My money would definately go on an M Sport model, maybe the 30d or 40d, both of which can top 35mpg and offer perfectly reasonble performance, now if only I could find the money!