Friday 9 December 2016

A zip down memory lane

Published 11/09/2010 | 05:00

BMW X5 4.0D
BMW X5 4.0D

Well that's it. The turf is home for the year. Nearly too dry, they said, as they loaded the last of the half-ton bags on to the trailer. Of course I had nothing to do with it, typically arriving on the edge of the bog as the work came to an end. Nor are the chunks of dried fossil fuel for me (though we might get a small sackful for Christmas -- hint, hint?).

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No, they were for the cousins' families who sweated all summer to garner them in for the chilly winter evenings.

But standing there in the Saturday afternoon balm of sun and surroundings, the memories trickled back. Half lifetimes had passed since they and I had been together at this juncture. So we took a picture, because God knows how long it will be again.

It was a bittersweet moment -- of thankfulness for those present and regrets for so many who were not.

Strangely it had all been made possible by a coincidental phone call and the fact that I was testing the 'new' BMW X540d in the area.

Talk about a trip down memory lane. As I skittled down the stoney, bumpy bog road from Kilbride in this modern icon of luxury and symbolism, I retraced the path where for the first time I sat behind, and guided, the wheel of something that moved -- my Uncle John's grey Massey Ferguson tractor. And here I was behind the wheel of an X5, skipping over the ruts, shunts and muddy spots with a machine that was, frankly, unimaginable all those years ago. Even today its concept and performance can betimes stretch credulity.

If the turf, the shorn meadow and the scent of memories rising from earthy fields were my focus, then the X5, newly revised in body and power, was the centre of attention for my hosts.

So three of us took a spin across fields and hillocks, up and down a steep incline (where its hill descent control automatically slowed its downward progress) while its leather upholstery and air conditioning kept us in the comfort to which we were not always accustomed.

We scuttled out through a couple of gaps, I squirted it (what a show off) here and there a few times to illustrate what I regard as phenomenal sprinting ability for a vehicle of this size (0-100kmh in 6.6 seconds) and then, urgently but a little wistfully, darted back up the bog road.

I didn't spare the horses on the last stretch of it. Why should I? That's what I call enjoying a luxury SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle).

Nobody in BMW will ever claim this will compete with the Range Rover on swamps and deserts. It simply isn't that kind of motor. But by golly it is one of the most surefooted on reasonable conditions and exceptional on the tarmac. The reason for this is, apart from BMW's normal sportiness, its xDrive -- a four-wheel drive function that manages to get maximum traction on each wheel.

And I really got to sample that on twists and turns out on the highways and byways, where you most enjoy the junction of speed, angle and agility.

Yes, maybe it is a bit too harsh, too sporty across rougher surfaces.

Maybe the wheels are to blame. It didn't bother me at all.

And, while I'm cribbing a little, the 540d nomenclature does not mean it has a 4-litre engine. It is the same size as the 3.0d only it has 61bhp more (and is 20bhp more powerful than the outgoing model). The latest manifestation has been tweaked here and there for looks and in equipment. I think it is probably more muted-looking now -- or maybe I am getting too used to it.

And, still cribbing, the third row (of two seats) is awkward to get at as well as being fairly small.

One passenger in particular complained of how the running boards along the side made it that bit more difficult to get in and out without rubbing off them. Not, as he pointed out, the sort of hurdle you want in party dress and high heels. In saying that he evoked the contrast which had underpinned every element of this part of my drive. His comments were made as we parked a few yards from a slatted shed for cattle. That is what makes life interesting.

By the way, if you have a few spare euro I strongly advise you pay the €1,000 or so extra for the reverse Top View facility. It's as if you had someone standing on the roof with a video camera and graphics combination. As soon as you go into reverse it kicks into life showing you the car's outline, everything around it and where you are headed if you keep the steering wheel at that angle. I was able to manoeuvre an awkward reverse-and-exit without taking my eyes off the screen.

Yes, it is that good.

I would have to say there is nothing of its ilk on the road that mixes power, pace and precise handling like this. All the others have areas where they outgun the X5, but I think it nudges more wins than losses.

And we mustn't forget that, despite the increased power of the engine, they have managed to reduce its emissions. It still costs a handful to tax it but there are few 3-litre diesels of this power out there under the 200g/km mark.

Which is one way of bringing us back to the reality of how and where we burn our fossil fuels.

There I was last Saturday with an example of one set of fossils being burned under my X5 bonnet while another, the turf, was being brought home for family warmth. It certainly was a meeting of many things for those unforgettable few minutes on the edge of the bog.

What

?BMW X5 4.0d (2,993cc, 306bhp, 0-100kmh in 6.6 secs), 8spd automatic transmission, xDrive fourwheel- drive, 7.5litres/100km, CO2 of 198g/km; VRT is 32pc. €1,050 annual road tax.

Cost

?From €88,510. Delivery and related charges extra. Test car additions and options push price to €95,844. Starts at €76,580 for the 3.0d version.

Target market

?Families, executives, enthusiasts, soccer players’ wives.

Plus

?Super handling/energy, engine power and acceleration, equipment.

Minus

?Rear two seats awkward to get at and fairly small. ‘Running board’ ledge catches your legs on way in and out, ride a bit harsh for some tastes.

As standard

?Oyster Nevada leather upholstery, big range of airbags, dual climate control, corner-braking control, hilldescent control. Options include reverse assist camera with top view (€1,011) and sport suspension/front seats.

Others to consider

?Audi Q7,

?Mercedes M-Class

?Range Rover

Star Rating: 85/100

ecunningham@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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