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BMW X5 xDrive40d

Driven April 2010

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Could this be the most prolonged car launch in history? BMW has jetted us to Miami for a drive of the new X5, but unfortunately - thanks to that spewy volcano - we haven't jetted back. Which means we've had plenty of time to poke around the car.

But despite three days of gawping, we still can't spot the difference between this version and the one it replaces. BMW says there's a new bumper and repositioned foglights, but you'd have to park old-and-new beside each other to be absolutely sure. The good news is that it still looks squat and mean like a badass SUV should.

One thing that's certainly different is the new xDrive40d, the most-powerful diesel in the range (don't be fooled by the ‘4' - it's a 3-litre straight-six). Despite the confusing code, BMW is once again demonstrating the dark art of increasing power while reducing exhaust nasties - the 40d has more power and torque (306bhp, 600NM) than the 35d it replaces, yet chucks out less CO2 and delivers better MPG.

It's a strong and rapid thing that also comes with a new 8-speed 'box. It's a stonking combination and all those gears mean the straight-six diesel stays in its torquey sweet-spot for more of the time. It also means a 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds. With stats like that, it's hard to see why anyone would go for the new petrol xDrive50i - a 5-litre V8 that replaces the 48i.

Bookending the bottom of the range is the xDrive30, essentially a detuned version of the 40d. But it's no dawdler and with 245bhp it'll hit 62mph in 7.6 seconds. It kicks off the range at £43,980 and prices rise to £58,175 xDrive50i with the bells-n-whistles M Sport package.

The ‘x', as with other Beemers, means four-wheel-drive. We know the X5 can handle some off road work, but won't beat a Discovery up a slippery slope. To make sure this version works as well as the old (it uses the same 4x4 system), we drove out to the Everglades and into a 'gator swamp. Turns out it was Really Quite Deep, but as the water lapped at the doors and a prehistoric resident licked its lips, the diffs did their thing and dragged us up the other side. It might not trouble the Landie, but it's good enough to handle what most people need. Especially if alligator-aversion is top of their list.

And as for other road-testy stuff like ride and handling, BMW hasn't changed anything oily so this new car feels as good as the old X5. At least we think it does - Florida's roads are completely unbent and only meet at right angles. We promise to take it around some corners when it arrives in the UK.

And talking of which, could someone cork that volcano so we can fly home please?

Dan Read

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