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In its 20th birthday year, is BMW’s original SUV back to its very best?

Since it launched the model in 1999, BMW has referred to the X5 not as a ‘Sports Utility Vehicle’ but as a ‘Sports Activity Vehicle’.

Semantics? Undoubtedly. And yet four generations, 2.2 million sales and an amazing rise to prominence suggest Munich’s marketing department knew what it was doing.

BMW claims the beam range on the X5's ‘Laserlight’ headlights is 200m greater than standard LEDs, at half a kilometre

Now, just as it is for the Porsche 911 or Volkswagen Golf GTI, such success is why the G05-generation X5 has so little margin for error. In fact, the class-leading expectations placed on this new iteration far outweigh those of its great-grandfather, whose brand cachet, practicality and handling prowess made it a winner.

The game has moved on, and BMW has identified comfort as a core dynamic attribute for the car in 2018. Consequently, this new X5 uses acoustic glass for the windscreen and, optionally, the side windows; the suspension is now pneumatic; there is electronic roll stabilisation on some models; and passengers can enjoy four-zone climate control and an enlarged panoramic glass roof.

Naturally, BMW promises a more involving driving experience than ever, and we’ll shortly discover whether its engineers continue to defy the laws of physics in this respect.

Equally, this X5 uses a significant level of autonomous technology. The car can operate free from human input at modest speeds, and BMW has deployed its first in-cabin camera, rather than steering-wheel sensors, to ascertain whether the driver is paying attention to the road ahead by scanning their eyes.

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Luxury, practicality, involvement: it seems a contradictory blend of attributes, but it’s one BMW will need to have mastered if the X5 is to dominate its class like it once did.

First drives