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BMW X5 3.0d SE

Driven July 2007

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There's something just a tad disconcerting about German manufacturers building cars in America. Putting rumours of iffy build quality aside, it tends to mean that the initial launch is with an enormous petrol engine suitable mainly for the American market.

So it's good to get an initial impression of what the X5's like and how it handles, but the bigger picture with the more relevant engine for us only comes later. After all, Land Rover is about to cease offering petrol Discoverys to Europeans.

We initially drove the X5 a few months ago. We learnt that the car was pretty good and the 4.8-litre V8 was seriously quick. Now for the relevant one for this island - the 3.0-litre diesel. And even though the last X5 had a 3.0-litre oil burner, this version has been revised.

So you now get eight per cent more fuel efficiency, plus eight per cent less CO2 and both with the benefit of eight per cent more power. Combine that with 383lb ft and there's a good amount of power here.

It's certainly no slouch, despite it weighing 2.18 tonnes, as 0-62mph arrives in 8.3 seconds. All the usual superlatives apply here - smooth turbo entry, refined at pace, punchy low-down torque.

There's also the normal criticism of a BMW diesel, namely that it's not all that quiet at idle - there are less noisy oil burners out there, including the twin-turbos that sit in the 3- and 5-Series and will come to the X5 in late 2007. The X5 is also likely to get a bit greener from that point on, as it will get a few tweaks to drop the CO2 and put it into a lower tax band.

But, to be honest, this engine isn't the stand-out feature of this car. It's the chassis that really marks it out. The last X5 redefined what you could expect from an SUV in terms of handling, and this one pushes things on further. The way it turns in and corners so flatly is superb, as it just doesn't feel like you're sat up high in an off-roader. As you'd expect, grip is impressive, too.

What lets it down is the ride quality. Proof that you shouldn't consider this X5 an off-roader comes in the shape of the standard-fit run-flats (no Disco-esque full-size spare here), but the other trade-off with this is that the ride is firm at best.

The Mercedes M-Class and Disco are both much better cruisers than this as a result. And you can't blame the Americans for this criticism - the Merc is built there as well.

Piers Ward

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