The BMW X5’s chassis is certainly capable of handling the 50i, 30d and 40d's efforts. Or it does in the versions that we've tested the car in, which includes the Dynamic Handling package of air-sprung rear suspension, electronically adjusted dampers, active anti-roll bars and cross-axle torque vectoring. The standard set-up, by contrast, is specified with steel springs, conventional dampers and passive anti-roll bars.
With all this kit, it proves satisfyingly agile through bends, both sharp and sweeping, although a less-well specified diesel felt barely any less capable. This is a car that feels smaller than its bulk implies, and certainly nimble enough to entertain. It’s also stable, steers accurately, stops convincingly and rolls enough to let you know what you’re doing without turning remotely floppy and unco-operative.
A pity, then, that the new electrically supported steering takes the edge of this accomplishment by coming over curiously vague through the first few degrees of its movement on straights and in turns. It’s a faintly disconnected feel that appears in both Comfort and Sport modes, too. Happily, it does little to undermine the accuracy of the X5’s steering, but it does slightly dim the sporting appeal of this sports activity vehicle.
And the ride? The X5 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 exfoliating roads. So it’s unfortunate that in this setting the steering is a little too light – and you can’t mix and match the steering, drivetrain and suspension settings to achieve an ideal blend.
We liked the introduction that BMW gave us to its M Performance line-up (the M135i hot hatch) and understand why the maker should choose the fastest diesel X5 to tear in with another. This time around, though, it seems to have tried too hard with the M50d – turned up the volume knob a notch too far. Perhaps that’s because a baseline X5 will already distinguish itself as quite a sporty prospect.
Whatever the cause, the result is a model that doesn’t get close to the combination of comfort and easy agility of a Range Rover Sport. Even on the motorway, you’ll note as much if you’re unwitting enough to deselect Comfort mode on the Drive Performance Control. Do this and the X5 can find irregularities in the road surface in the most unexpected places, and over the bigger ones it thinks little of bump-steering its way off course and jostling its occupants.