The enhanced luxury SAV

"I love this car and appreciate BMW's effort to play smart," said Ershad

"It kicks off instantly with the intention to attack"

"In the past, Range Rover was the only one that existed in that breed"

"Our tester gets a TwinPower Turbo 4.4 liter V8 engine"

BMW X5 is a popular car in this part of the world. However, the idea of taking a "high performance SUV" big time to the market was new until the end of the 20th century. Range Rover was the only one that existed in that breed. Then the Germans thought, "Let's make a car, a big car mated with power and luxury."

Mercedes-Benz introduced the M class in 1997 and after just two years, BMW launched the X5. They rather like to call it a Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV), and in this category, BMW was the first to use unibody chassis. Response was overwhelming and so in 2006, the second generation X5 arrived which, for the first time, featured xDrive AWD paired with the automatic transmission. Currently, X5 is BMW's third bestselling model. So we see the potential, but they weren't alone in the market. Volkswagen didn't wait too long and threw Touareg into the lot which was then followed by Porsche Cayenne. Oh yeah, we are talking about some really big players and what amuses me still is how the segment took its shape over 15 years. 

Back to our test car; it's the all new BMW third generation top of the range X5 50i M Sport Adaptive suspension model. On first sight you may think that BMW adopted a conservative approach to refresh the model. But that wasn't the case, as we found out more in the next two days. You'll feel its presence with a long wheelbase and short front overhang; that part is special with new BMW signature kidney grill extending sideways to twin circular headlights. The shape is further defined by attractively stretched lines throughout the body. The M variant has 20 inch alloy wheels held under molded wheel arches. To enhance aerodynamics we have air curtains to resist drag. These side air intakes positioned far to its front outer edges guide the inflowing air around the wheel arches and make a controlled escape through the air breathers in the side panels. From the rear, we can see the new rectangular exhaust pipes and the aeroblades. 

No surprise inside as it's a BMW, so you'll see what you expect to see. Fine, luxury appointment of leather and wood, but wait, I am not done. There are two things to highlight. The new iDrive, which has a new feed system apart from the dial near the center arm rest, is the touchscreen itself. The wide screen can be used to feed in characters and numbers. It can show two screens at a time and simultaneously we can move from one to the other. Seating position is raised a bit and looks better. I liked the steering wheel in particular which was also seen in the M6: it is thick, leather-wrapped and has the notorious M mark in the bottom.

Our tester gets a TwinPower Turbo 4.4 liter V8 engine. The power output is 450bhp at 5500-6000 rpm to all four wheels through an eight speed automatic gearbox. Torque ratings are a big 650Nm that can tick in between 2000-4500 rpm. The model is available with a choice of new suspension packages out of which our car had the Adaptive M Suspension. Other offerings are listed as Comfort, Dynamic and Professional Packages. Then follows the obvious list of inclusions from a safety perspective: ABS and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Cornering Brake Control (CB), Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), Dry Braking Function, Fading Compensation, Start-Off Assistant, DSC linked to xDrive all-wheel-drive, Automatic Differential Brake (ADB-X) and Hill Descent Control (HDC). For visibility we have adaptive headlights with turning lights, anti-dazzle high beam assistant, park distance control, rear-view camera, surround view, BMW night vision with human and animal detection and dynamic light spot. 

Driving Impressions
Let's head on to the drive part. I still reckon my encounter with the M5 and M3 not long ago, and so was rightly curious to check if the existence of "M" logos in and around the X5 made any sense. The raised drivers' position was a good start and as we moved forward, I felt the stiffness. It kicks off instantly with the intention to attack. Don't get me wrong, but that's me being honest. With all its weight, the X5 still could manage to throw all what it's got. We had three suspension modes to select, namely Comfort, Sport or Sport+. Gearbox was excellent, always ready to go with quick shifts in a smooth way and so was equally complemented with the paddle shifters right behind the solid steering wheel. In Sport+ mode, the car tightens up and engages the dynamic damper control and rear-axle air suspension. This is a seriously tuned mode where all parameters are dead straight - be it on a track or field. On the bad side, jitters felt annoying to my driving partner as we drove pass a rough patch with bumps and gutters. Steering through was an easy exercise with great feedback. If I had to tell you what needs amendment, it's for the people who love soft comfy rides that aren't seen in the Comfort mode. The X5 has a strong grip and in corners it behaved as though it was a normal car with minimum body roll. X5's presence in slalom action was impressive and also gets back on track immediately when required. Head-up display in the windscreen was really cool with some essential readings displayed. 

BMW X5 M is right up there to scuffle with the likes of Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and even the new Jeep Cherokee SRT. Range Rover Sport looks a little way ahead. Down the road, we love this car and appreciate BMW's effort to play smart.

Pros: Performance, driving dynamics, steering feel and feedback, handling, touch screen in iDrive
Cons: Too stiff, off-road ability
Rivals: Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, Audi Q7, Range Rover Sport
Engine: 4.4 L TwinPower Turbo V8 engine, 450 hp, 650 Nm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with steptronic, AWD
Performance: 0-100 kph: 5 sec, 12 L /100 km, Top speed: 250 kph
Curb Weight: 2,250kg

One word: Stiff

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