BMW’s fourth-generation X5 large SUV launched late last year, larger than before and lavished with new interior, infotainment, safety and comically large front kidney grille.
Thought the 3 Series was the bread and butter BMW? No longer. Buyers are flocking to the X1, X3 and X5 SUVs; the bigger X7’s just arrived and then there are coupe-esque versions of each.
The X5 started BMW’s SUV revolution back in 2001, so we throw keys to the current range-topping M50d to our family of testers.
Jules: Life’s not fair.
Iain: I’m expecting a First World problem coming.
Jules: Yep. I’ve found the perfect car to satisfy my love of performance, luxury and practical space for the kids.
I ain: So let me guess, the unfair bit is the price?
Jules: That obvious? If everyone could afford the $150,000 BMW charges for its X5 M50d, the world would be a happier place.
I ain: Ours is more than $160K drive-away by the way, or $169,582 as tested.
Jules: Really? Who gets to buy these things?
Iain: Not motoring journos, obviously. But plenty of others do. To the end of April, BMW has sold more than 1100.
Jules: Hence why they clog up private school car parks.
Iain: The entry-level X5 30d can be had for a more palatable $113K and makes more sense than our range-topper.
Jules: It’s hugely imposing. I’m not sure about the rear styling but the front is excellent.
I ain: I’m the other way around. Back end looks fat and tough but the front looks as if it’s been punched in the face. The grille, blue bits in the Laserlight headlights and giant 22-inch alloys ooze bling.
The living space
Jules: Who knew I’d be such a sucker for coffee-coloured quilted Merino leather seats?
Iain: It was inevitable. It’s good to not have boring black leather or easily marked white seats. It’s a lavishly impressive cabin, isn’t it?
Jules: I know it’s expensive but the comfort, layout, dual 12.3-inch screens, massive panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled cup holders and pumping Harman Kardon audio make me want to live in here.
Iain: Hate to be a party pooper — the standard kit is generous but that roof is $1600 extra, the special leather another $2300, “Comfort” seats are $1900 and wireless charging adds $900. They don’t miss you.
Jules: It’s just money, eh? If I’ve any complaint, the ambient lighting could be brighter, like in a Mercedes.
Iain: Nope. Too bright and ambient lighting is vulgar. It’s not a disco.
Jules: There’s a crafted glass gear shifter and dial, of course it’s a disco.
Iain: Maybe. An extra $1200 for these glitter balls by the way.
Jules: I can’t believe it’s a diesel engine. It’s amazingly throaty.
I ain: BMW’s 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel has for ages been a work of magic. They’ve strapped four — yes, four — turbos to this one.
Jules: Four turbos to go wrong in future? Sounds expensive.
Iain: Cynic. Outputs are 294kW/760Nm, meaning a 0-100km/h time of 5.2 seconds for this big brute.
Jules: Effortless cruising and it’s so much fun when you open the taps and surge forward. It sounds brutal.
Iain: It’s got all the expected clever tricks, such as head-up display on the windscreen, and stays between the lanes by itself. Its low-profile tyres on the 22-inch wheels may be grippy but boy do you feel the road bumps through them.
Jules: I really wanted to take it shopping at Tiffanys but Woolies had to do.
Iain: It’s a whopping 650L boot, thanks to there being five rather than seven seats. That’s a cheeky $4000 more. They’re free in most rivals.
Jules: The tailgate electrically splits in two. That’s brilliant for convenience and to stop shopping rolling out the back.
Iain: Sensors and cameras everywhere make it virtually impossible to damage while parking. There’s even something called Reversing Assistant, which remembers the last 50 metres of your forward journey, then backs you out by perfectly retracing your steps. Witchcraft. Ideal for avoiding bollards in multistorey carparks.
Jules: Well, I won’t be taking it off-road on those tyres.
Iain: Quite. it’s hard to beat for a 10-hour road trip — it’s super smooth on the highway, cossetingly quiet inside and the audio set-up is one of the best I’ve ever used.
Jules: Plus you have Gesture Control for the entertainment. It’s a bit gimmicky but it’s very cool changing song tracks by swiping your finger in the air, or raising the volume by twirling your finger.
Iain: It’s hit and miss. When it doesn’t work you look like a clown making these mad random gestures at the dashboard.
Jules: It’s a big SUV and climbing in and out wasn’t easy for our four-year old. Once inside, you have acres of brown leather-trimmed space.
Iain: The family budget will like the fuel economy — we returned less than 10L/100km, impressive considering the power and size of the X5 — but buying it, servicing and those tempting optional extras make it the reserve of the super wealthy.
Jules: Why do rich people get all the good stuff? I baulk at the price but I’m in love with the performance and luxury. I really want one of these.
Iain: There’s better value in the loaded “lesser” X5s, but the M50d’s superb quad-turbo engine plus deep luxury trappings make it an SUV with serious theatre.
BMW X5 M50d vitals
Price: $161,682 drive-away
Warranty/servicing: 3 years/unlimited km (average); $2050 for basic service pack 5 years/80,000km
Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, rear camera, 3D surround view, blind spot monitor, active cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, steering assist
Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cyl quad-turbo diesel, 294kW/760Nm
Fuel use: 7.5L/100km
Originally published as Tested: BMW’s lavish new family SUV