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Revisiting the BMW X5

Revisiting the BMW X5

Hold on, you say! Didn’t I read this X5 being tested in Motor before? Yes, we fully tested it in 2016, and this year got an opportunity to re-visit it during a drive with the Prestige Automobile crew who were accompanying the BMW Car Club of Ceylon’s ‘BMW BBQ & Blues’ drive and fellowship event. Thus, we were able to drive the X5 on the highway, in traffic, on winding roads and even on soft beach sand where we took some photos just as the sun was kissing the horizon.

A quick refresher... the petrol engine is rated at 240bhp and the electric motor at 111bhp for a system total of 309bhp and 332lb ft of torque. Adaptive suspension, ventilated disk brakes and ability to run for 30 kilometres at up to 120km/hr on pure electrons alone round off the X5 40e package. The 85-litre fuel tank adds several hundreds of kilometres of range. You have eight speeds at your fingertips to play with on the tip-tronic transmission, or let the car do its own shifting.

The X5 looks imposing with its unmistakable BMW “kidney” grille (although much less a kidney now), Hoffmeister kink, roof spoiler and general imposing stance.

Driving position is on the high side but everything is (electrically) adjustable – steering and seating position. Select Comfort and drive the X5 in a docile fashion with the car riding on a wave of torque rather than revs. You can hear a hum when the engine is working. The ride is pliant but firmer than an Asian car – this is a classic Euro trait. You can do the waft on the highway in silence, relaxed and cruise control on. Just don’t fall asleep and stay alert as many other cars still think the white lines on the highway are to be straddled, not driven in-between.

Shift into Sport and things harden (literally) and sharpen. The X5 cuts through the air to a 0-100km/h dash within 6.6 seconds when prodded, with an audible engine growl in the distance. Handling is impressive for a vehicle this size, it feels a size or two smaller once you start hustling it.

Go to the other extreme, Eco Pro mode with EV button engaged. At a steady speed, you may observe the rev counter flopping to zero as if it had downed a bottle of Piriton, while speed remains at 90 or 100km/h for example. This is when the X5 is propelled by the electric motor only. Can be disconcerting the first time, but you soon get used to it. Push more on the floor-hinged accelerator for more power and the engine will restart.

We ventured to the beach for some photos, in comfort mode. The X5’s large (road) tyres gripped nicely in the soft sand (that was too soft to walk on properly). I feathered the throttle and it went smoothly, never bogging down. I then decided to be a lead foot and see how the car would respond - at which point the X5 threw up some sand but still found traction and gathered speed. Even if you operate the accelerator like an on/off switch, the all wheel drive system and electronics will (mostly) get you out of trouble.

I noticed that even in Eco Pro mode the X5 doesn’t force you to be an eco warrior. If you want to drive hard the car will allow you to use the power. You can customize some of the settings (chassis, drivetrain) too, and set an upper speed limit too.

The brakes blend regenerative with physical (disc) and hence the pedal is a bit softer than the usual meaty BMW brake pedal that needs a healthy push.

How’s it like to live with? For starters, you are cosseted with many toys. Three zone climate control, ten-speaker audio system (CD, Bluetooth, navigation in Sri Lanka, smartphone compatibility and the whole nine yards), touch screen, chilled centre console for your drinks to name a few. The options list offers much more, including B&O 16-speaker sound system, rear entertainment, heated/ventilated seats, etc...

Boot space comes to 520 litres with cargo cover, rising to 1,720 litres if you remove that and fold down the rear seats. However there is no spare wheel as the hybrid battery occupies that space. A can of filler and a pump it is, then. The boot is ample enough to keep a wheel if desired, though.

On the safety front you get a host of electronic nannies (ABS, EBD, ESC, etc...) but only six airbags (not the more common eight). You can also option more things like night vision, driving assistant plus, lane change assist and surround cameras to name a few.

Fuel economy? Let’s be realistic. 6-7km/l under aggressive driving is to be expected if you frequently deploy that 309bhp. Drive in a more sane fashion and 10km/l is reasonable to expect. On the highway you can get close to 15km/l if you are careful.

The X5 is now a more common sight on our roads as it represents a pretty decent value proposition – a 300+bhp five-seat hybrid SUV with a large boot for just under 22 milion smackers, with a two-year agent warranty and six-year hybrid battery warranty. Most of the competitors at this price point are either five or seven seaters in the 250bhp region.

To sum up, the BMW X5 represents an interesting choice. It’s large yet doesn’t feel like it from the driver seat, it’s a hybrid but doesn’t force you to accept fuel-sipping with no compromise, and it has the BMW badge on the front which is a pre-requisite for many in Sri Lanka – to have the blue-and-white propeller, the three-pointed star or the four connected rings on the front of their vehicle. If you are in the market for a large five-seat SUV with decent luggage space and thrust, give it a try!