Ever since the launch of the original X5 back in 2000, BMW have always had a 4×4/crossover that is well respected and desirable – even the brand’s fiercest critics would not argue that. Since then it has introduced a number of other X-numbered vehicles, calling them ‘Sports Activity Vehicles’ (or indeed Coupes) to differentiate them from lesser-sporting rivals, but despite selling well none of these vehicles has been particularly well received by the motoring press.
However after a few facelifts and model tweaks BMW has now got a Sport-Activity line-up to be proud of, especially once the baby X1 has been replaced next year with a FWD-based successor. Leading the charge is anew X5/X6 duo as well as a facelifted X3 and a brand new X4 model; the even numbered coupes are interesting and much more competitive than in the past, but for me it is the bread and butter X3 and X5 that deserve most attention and either may end up being an eventual successor to my (currently poorly) original shape X5.
The second generation X3 launched in 2011 and almost immediately garnered praise from reviews and owners alike in regards to it’s more sophisticated looks, driving experience and interior; the original X3 had been a bit of a flawed vehicle that sold mainly on the strength of it’s badge, but BMW learned a lot from their mistakes and made it’s new car into a car to compete for class honours. Admittedly though the new car was not a major departure in terms of original concept, but the presence of lots of sophisticated rivals meant that it was not the runaway success that earlier SAV’s have been despite it’s many strengths.That said I am still a big fan of the second generation X3 and as such I greeted the recent facelift of the car with a fair amount of anticipation…you see the current X3 is pretty much the same size as the original X5 (my car) and whilst it is further down the food chain in status, it returns well over 50% better fuel economy with the same sort of acceleration – modern cars right?! The facelifted car brings a tweak front-end to bring it in line with both it’s X4 sibling and the rest of the BMW family, with headlamps connected to it’s twin kidney grills and nicer looking alloy wheels. Inside there are equally small but important changes, mainly concerned with an updated iDrive system; although the screen isn’t plonked iPad-style on top of the dash, but it does get a new controller with touchpad input and updated technology. Engines are now more efficient too and running costs are consequently a little lower, but unfortunately all these tweaks also mean that prices have increased. A base 2WD sDrive 18d with no options costs over £30k…when you consider that 10 years ago you could get a brand new X5 for that sort of money it seems a pretty steep jump, especially when a well equipped xDrive 35d can run to over £50k, which not too long ago was Range Rover money.
The other big recent arrival in BMW’s more traditional SAV line up is a new X5…this marks the third generation of BMW’s largest crossover and although not 100% new (it shares the same underpinnings as it’s predecessor) it has been significantly overhauled enough to offer something significantly different to owners of current generation cars. Although I have always been a big fan of the original X5 (so much so that I went and bought one!), I took quite a long while to warm up to it’s successor with Bangle stying cues and bloated dimensions. That said I eventually warmed up to the recently-departed design, and with M-Sport styling cues I think it’s one of the best looking SUV’s of recent times – maybe not as clean cut as the original model but still aggressive and squat enough to draw admiring glances.
This new model also faced a rocky start with me based on first impressions; it’s taller sides, tamer wheel arches and ungainly rear made the car look a lot less butch in my opinion. Seeing one in the metal did little to change my opinion, as with standard 18″ wheels it still looks a little top heavy compared to the more hankered down look of it’s predecessor. Yet the launch of the M Sport version, complete with aggressive bodykit and optional 20″ wheels make it a lot more attractive to these eyes, especially in black. Inside of course things are much improved, not that there was too much of a problem before, but now the car comes with the aforementioned 10.2″ iPad-esque screen on top of it’s dash board and touchpad iDrive controller.
Elsewhere things are pretty similar to the previous car in that it is high quality, has space for 5 with optional seats for 7, a handy split tailgate and handles like a much smaller/lighter car. But over and above what has gone before this car adds a larger chunk of efficiency with the usual range of 6 cylinder diesels offering around 45mpg, and now also a 4 cylinder ’25d’ which in 2WD sDrive guise can clear 52mpg on the mixed cycle. Still despite all of these efficiency measures the X5 has undergone similar price jumps as it’s baby brother; £43k buys a base 4 cylinder car but with a few choice options it’s easy to inflate the price of the 6 cylinder ’30d’ model to over £55k. I guess that compares well to it’s rivals but it still seems rather steep for my money…and the shame is that even by the time I am ready to get a new car, the new X5 (and come to think of it the X3 too) will be out of my price range. Good job I like the previous one then 🙂