Due credit goes to the V8 engine’s twin-scroll turbocharger technology, more precise direct fuel injection and Valvetronic air/fuel intake control, but the new ZF 8HP 8-speed automatic transmission deserves a lot of the credit, too. Its widely spread gear ratios allow the shift patterns to be optimised for overall mechanical efficiency, without compromising the speediness and smoothness of the gearbox.
Smooth, too, is the ride, which is greatly improved over that of the old X5. The new one glides over broken tarmac like a (tall) limo, especially when equipped with the optional air suspension for the rear axle. Switch the Dynamic Damper Control to Sport+ if you wish to “bring back” the firm ride of the old model. Despite the added comfort, there’s no penalty in the handling department, with sharp steering responses for such a heavy machine. The electrically assisted wheel is on the light side, but it’s positive and direct.
Full-time intelligent all-wheel-drive, or xDrive in BMW lingo, underpins the X5, managing its power-split between the front and rear wheels so as to apply maximum possible power to the ground, regardless of conditions. Compared to the earlier “xDrivetrain”, the latest version is 1.4kg lighter and more efficient.
The X5 buyer has three primary suspension packages to choose from: Comfort Adaptive, Dynamic Adaptive or Professional Adaptive. Optionally available for the latter two packages is Dynamic Performance Control (DPC), which adds active roll stabilisation to the two-mode damping. It works like Porsche’s PDCC, reducing body roll in corners and decoupling the anti-roll bars on straight roads for greater comfort. DPC also varies the torque-split between the two rear wheels for better grip when powering out of a turn.
The centre console’s Driving Experience Control lets the driver match the suspension mode to the motoring requirement – Comfort, Sport, Sport+ or Eco Pro (what each mode does is fairly self-explanatory).
In my “experience”, the X5 is still an interesting drive even in the “dull” Eco Pro mode, and it’s best to leave the car in Comfort or Sport for optimum driveability in every situation, short of racing on a track or climbing up the Himalayas. As for the hardcore Sport+ mode, I can see the need if it were in a Z4, but in a behemoth like the X5, it’s not really a “plus” point.
In its current third generation, the X5 has become more mainstream than ever before. It strikes the right balance between “sports” and “utility”, unlike its forebears that emphasise the sporty part of the sports-utility formula at the expense of everyday driving comfort. Yet, the new-generation X5 is still an excellent drive, offering enough sportiness without any of the rough edges.
2013 BMW X5 xDrive50i 4.4 (A)
ENGINE 4395cc, 32-valves, V8, turbocharged
MAX POWER 450bhp at 5500-6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 650Nm at 2000-4500rpm
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H 5 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 9.5km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 244g/km
We drove the BMW X5 M50d from Singapore to KL and back without refuelling
The BMW X5 xDrive50i is a hot hatch disguised as an SUV