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Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review: BMW X5

Overall verdict
The X5 is more of a tech tour de force than ever, but did it have to be this brash, BMW?


Dynamics on and off the road, comfort too. Engines and transmission


Too much cheap cabin bling, optional 4WS is annoying


What is it?

In a world where BMW’s range takes in every X-number from 1 to 7, the X5 barely raises a remark. Why wouldn’t Munich (well, Spartanburg) build a new version of its big smart crossover? Yet in its day the X5 was a revolution. Just before the last century ended, the original X5 became the first ever ‘off-roader’ that behaved like a car on the road.

We’re here to review the fourth generation. Where that primordial X5 went, the Range Rover Sport, Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, et al have followed.* This is busy territory.

It’s worth remembering that the X5 is now a big car, with optional third-row seats. The real replacement for the early X5 is today’s X3.

Enough history. What’s new news? Pretty well everything. Only the engines and transmissions are old friends, though they’ve had a going-over. The X5, like the X3 and X4, has switched onto BMW’s modular longitudinal platform.

On the top, we find more luxury and connectivity. Plus BMW’s fanciest in driver assistance, and a new all-screen dash. No big surprises; it’s just keeping up with the Schmidts.

Underneath, some new-to-BMW engineering: all-round air suspension. It’s easy to poke fun at people who never use their SUV’s potential (Less off-road than up-kerb! The only climbing they do is the social kind!… sorry). But for those that do use the capability, this will be a boon.

On the road, air springing helps comfort, but also brings better cornering and aero when it drops to its high-speed position. Off-road, you get more clearance and deeper wading. For load carrying, it will be self-levelling. For getting kids and the infirm aboard, you can kneel the car.

Four-wheel steering also makes its way onto the X5, and active anti-roll on the M50d version. These chassis changes are all about making a big tall heavy vehicle behave like one when you want it to, but like the opposite when you want that instead.

First engines out of the traps are a 40i six-cylinder turbo, and a 30d diesel. In the X5 M50d, the same three-litre diesel comes in quad-turbo form, for 400bhp and a fivish-second 0-62mph time. That version has steel-spring suspension, presumably on the assumption that you won’t be taking it down the farm track.

Soon after launch they’ll add a plug-in hybrid, with a six-cylinder engine and powerful e-motor, and an electric range of nearly 50 miles.