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By Mark Jones

Road Test Editor


DRIVEN: Tech-infested fourth generation BMW X5

Along with the worldwide market launch, it will also launch in South Africa from next month.


Atlanta, Georgia, the global home of worldwide icons such as Coca-Cola and CNN.

So why all the way to the other side of the world to drive the all-new fourth generation BMW X5?

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Right off the bat, this is where BMW launched the first generation X5 back in 1999. And, like its predecessors, the BMW X5 is being built at BMW Plant Spartanburg in the US.

I also guess this move was partly because this part of the country offers some exceptionally good driving roads and nothing beats good ol’ southern hospitality.

BMW SA, just like other premium brands and even non-premium brands, have to rationalise their model derivatives in order to remain competitive in an ever tightening market and offer the customers the vehicles they seem to prefer purchasing.

There’s no use stocking up dealerships with derivatives that are not popular and then make willing buyers wait months for the vehicle they actually want.

Along with the worldwide market launch, the all-new X5 will also launch here, way down in South Africa, from next month.

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We will only be getting two engine derivatives to start with, a xDrive30d and the M50d.

I am sure we should see the yet-to-be-launched X5M and depending on market demand and pricing, as our government offers no tax breaks or incentives for electrically assisted or powered cars, we just might see the high powered 45e Hybrid, but none of this is in anyway confirmed at this stage.

Local pricing is said to start at R1 194 296 for the X5 xDrive30d and R1 502 581 for the X5 M50d.

The numerous optional packages and specifications will add to this price and would best be viewed on the new car configurator on BMW SA’s website at bmw.co.za.

But let’s get to the X5s we drove on the world launch of the SUV that truly was the first to add proper on-road dynamics to vehicles in this segment, perhaps at the expense of offroad capability.

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We will get to this particular offroad point a little later, but, wow, the X5 really comes to the party when the going gets tough.

I sampled the potent M50d first on the on-road part of the drive.

This M Performance model features a quartet of turbochargers bolted onto the tried and tested 3.0-litre inline six cylinder turbodiesel engine.

Yes, that’s four of them, two high-pressure units and two low-pressure units.

This means you have a proper 294kW of power and a huge 760Nm spread of torque under your right foot at any given time.

Being an X-model means that the task of maximising traction and agility is the job of the SUV’s intelligent all-wheel-drive system.

This latest generation of BMW xDrive is now able to split drive torque between the front and rear wheels even more efficiently than before.

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The system also offers a rear-biased set-up for when you want use your SUV to hunt down a few sports cars on a mountain pass.

The electronically-controlled differential lock for the rear axle (available in conjunction with the M Sport equipment line or the Off-Road package) gives the X5 that sportier edge over the competition by limiting equalisation of the rotational speeds of the inside and outside wheels through corners.

It is therefore able to optimise and fully transfer the power to the road on surfaces that offer differing levels of grip. A

fter lunch it was time to acquaint ourselves with the other model derivative that is coming our way, the xDrive30d.

In this guise, the 3.0-litre six-cylinder in-line turbodiesel engine uses only a turbocharger and delivers a very useable 195kW of power 620Nm of torque.

Both models offer an eightspeed Steptronic transmission, which is said to offer optimised efficiency and shift dynamics, as the only gearbox choice.

Our first task was to tackle the off-road course that was available to us and, make no mistake, this was no man-made structure, but rather a proper forest with real mud and dangerously close trees.

I honestly thought that with the rain we had experienced in the area, the slippery mud would be the undoing of the off-road electronics of the X5.

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I mean, let’s be blunt, not many X5 owners would tackle what we did, as these premium SUVs are mostly considered to be Sandton and game park soft roaders.

The new X5 is no soft roader and I was impressed by what it could do.

This is mostly thanks to a host of new suspension chassis systems. These systems are there to make electronic decisions for you to optimise your off-road and onroad experience.

The new X5 comes as standard with Dynamic Damper Control, while Adaptive M suspension Professional with active roll stabilisation and Integral Active Steering (standard on the M50d model) enable extremely agile and dynamic driving characteristics as already said.

The optional two-axle air suspension allows multiple comfort or sportier settings and allows the X5’s height to be adjusted by up to 80mm at the touch of a button or using the BMW Display Key.

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And for what we did in the forest, you can and should order the Off-Road package.

Here, a separate button gives you the choice of four driving modes: Sand, Gravel, Rocks or Snow.

At the flick of a rocker switch, the X5 will electronically activate the ideal settings for the X5’s ride height, the xDrive system, the accelerator response and transmission control, and the DSC system’s corrective inputs in preparation for doing what you need to do in the dirt.

Before you get all excited and point out that the likes of Land Rover had this type of switchable mode system in their SUVs years ago, it is a first for a BMW X vehicle and it makes going bundu-bashing – should you really want to do this with your X5 – an absolute pleasure.

On the road, the X5 xDrive30d was also more than up to the task of tackling a mountain pass or two and is probably the pick of the two for the average buyer who is shopping in this high end of the SUV league.

As said, the new X5 is a tech fest.

Over and above the dynamic systems, you also get a significantly expanded suite of driver assistance systems, under what is called Driving Assistant Professional and Parking Assistant Plus with Reversing Assistant.

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In addition, BMW unveiled BMW Live Cockpit Professional, which is fitted as standard and allows the display and control system to be geared even more precisely to your individual driver-based information needs.

The new BMW Operating System 7.0 display and control concept that is making its debut in the new X5 focuses on optimising attention control.

With its clear presentation and structuring, plus customisable and personalised displays, it ensures you have the right information at the right time via large 12.3-inch display screens, and a 7 x 3.5-inch BMW Head-Up Display.

It is said everything in America is bigger and better and the all new, fourth generation BMW X5 offers you everything you could want from a dynamic, premium SUV … and some more.

What we like

  • There is a styling or tech package to suit everybody.
  • Exceptionally driving dynamics on-road.
  • Extremely capable off-road.

What we do not like 

  • Some of the off-road tech is hardly new technology.
  • Be prepared to pay forthose styling and tech packages.

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BMW BMW X5 Road Tests