What is it?:
The third generation of the BMW X5. Rather than presenting too many changes, the success of the previous models is why the styling of this new X5 simply ‘refines and reinforces the X5’s look of presence and elegance’ says designer Olivier Heilmer.
And, technically, the X5 is more a substantial update than wholesale reinvention, says project leader Siegfried Muller. The platform is essentially the same, but the upgrades are significant and go to the core of the X5, its body-in-white being reworked for strength and lightness. The shell is now five per cent stiffer without piling on weight, and the car itself is significantly more refined.
What's it like?:
Muller’s toughest mission was tackling criticisms of the outgoing model’s ride, refinement and aura of quality, without adding heft.
He's done well, with reductions to the bulkhead, glasshouse and wheel-well noise transmission improving refinement by a useful 2.5dB, while new seats have reduced vibration, and the subtly softened suspension smothers sharp bumps more effectively.
Steering feel changes noticeably, too, for being electrically rather than hydraulically assisted to save fuel, as does the drag coefficient which drops from 0.34 to 0.31.
More obvious, though, is the classier cabin. Its subtly curving decor, superior materials and adjustable mood lighting enhance an architecture that’s still familiar; and improved rear space, a bigger boot and the third-row option, now split 40:20:40, complete the upgrade.
BMW’s efficient dynamics mission sees the xDrive30d motor gaining 13bhp and 15lb ft of torque while sprinting to 62mph 0.7sec faster despite streaming 33 fewer grams of CO2.
You’ll also enjoy this oil-burner’s much-improved manners, its clatter and growl now buried in background hum. Lots of low-rev urge and the eight-speed auto’s excellent anticipatory skills make for authoritatively brisk and effortless performance that, at lower speeds, shades the petrol xDrive50i.
So the essence of the 1999 X5’s mini-revolution is preserved intact, and this latest edition is pleasingly nimble and precise when the going gets twisty. The keen will enjoy such roads in sport setting, which enlivens the drivetrain, girds the dampers and weights the occasionally uncertain steering to produce a well-resolved driving experience.
And the ride? It swallows most small bumps whole, as promised, although the odd clatter across ridges and potholes in sport suggests that it’s the comfort damping mode you’ll mostly want on Britain’s roads. Given how well the rest of the system performs, it’s unfortunate that in Sport mode setting the steering turns over-light - and you can’t mix and match the steering, drivetrain and suspension settings.
Should I buy one?:
The sports steering is, however, is one of the few flaws in this plush, practical and decently powerful set of family wheels. The X5 formula is unchanged and, steering apart, its mix of sporting edge and refined, big cabin comfort remains a compelling draw. Buyers will undoubtedly find this to be a very comfortable, very capable, off-road cruiser.
BMW X5 xDrive30d
Price £47,895; 0-62mph 6.9sec; Top speed 143mph; Economy 45.5mpg; CO2 164g/km; Kerb weight 2070kg; Engine 6cys in-line, 2993cc, turbocharged diesel; Installation Front, longitudinal, 4wd; Power 254bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 413lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic