WORDS by Brent VD Schyff
In the late ’90s and early 2000s the world bore witness to a strange phenomenon, the meteoric rise of the BMW X5 and the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV). Its ascent was underpinned by common denominators such as a high seating position, moderate levels of off-road capability and a myriad of safety features. One question around any and all SUVs that’s always boggled the mind is how and why it became so popular? I mean it all seems incredibly unimaginative and disengaging from a real driving experience. If all it amounts to is safety, all round capability and comfort; to the detriment of performance, then just how does BMW get everything, especially the performance part, so right? 20 years and three generations of X5 later, we find ourselves in the picturesque region of George, nestled along the coast of the Southern Cape, where a 500 km² area was recently guttered by runaway wild fires. It’s only fitting then that the scene is set for the latest X5 to play a starring role against such a destructed backdrop. A dramatic juxtaposition if ever there was one.
BMW has gone to launch with two in-line six-cylinder diesel variants. The first being the X50d, delivering 294 kW and 760 Nm of torque encouraged by intelligent quad turbos. That’s enough pressure to register on an early warning hurricane radar. You could easily tow your boat, caravan and house simultaneously on summer vacations but just ensure the trailer tyres are Z rated as the top speed is 250 km/h and I’m told it can get there with ease. The lesser X30d is quieter, slightly more refined offering 195 kW and 620 Nm. Don’t be fooled by the power difference though, as the X30d is punchy in a straight line. We’ve also been promised a petrol, as well as a hybrid version during the course of 2019.
Both models come packed with tech gadgets, from wireless mobile phone charging to seats with a massage function to ‘up your state of Zen’ in stressful traffic situations, to thermo cupholders that cool or heat your beverage. Novel right? And every now and again there’s a ray of sun that bounces off the symmetrically shaped glass gear shifter, catching your eye, serving as a reminder that you are indeed travelling in a something special. A doodad so impressive that I am convinced the entire car was built around it as an afterthought. The interior also boasts a distinct nocturnal presence BMW calls ‘sky Lounge’ showcasing 15 000 points of lights reminiscent to a Sandton night sky… during load shedding.
The driving experience is as dynamic as you’d expect from a BMW. You’re adequately equipped with a peripheral engaging digital instrument cluster, feeding a buffet of essential data keeping you informed throughout your journey. It serves as proof that BMW hasn’t forgotten about the driver. As a matter of fact, you’re right at the top of their priorities, only marginally beaten by the glass gear shifter of course.
The test route was out the top drawer of touring territory, with the X50d more than up to the task, effortlessly lapping up kilometres and navigating some challenging twisty sections with an almost brazen approach that yelled, ‘Is this all you got!?’ So another notch on the X5’s all-rounder belt, and all this while rolling to library-inspired road noise. You and your passengers better have good music, or plenty to talk about, or you’re going to endure plenty of awkward silences – it’s that quiet.
The X30d offers a slightly different experience with its 21-inch wheels and tyres combo, which proved to offer immense grip in varying conditions as well as surprisingly low road noise from the asphalt. That, together with air suspension, which allows you to adjust ride height, makes for a dynamic and comfortable package when negotiating mud, potholes and loose gravel that a rural road can throw at you.
Regardless of your view of SUVs, the Bavarians are indeed thinking about everything, resulting in the new X5 being anything but disengaging. They’ve obliterated the mundane and brought forward a seriously impressive solution, resetting and forging a new benchmark in performance and capability. You’d be hard pressed to fault the X5 at anything. The boss, as it has been aptly coined, is indeed back.
xDrive 30d start from R1 186 200
xDrive M50d starts from R1 493 600