Monday 25 September 2017

Motoring: BMW's 'dream machine' hits the right notes

On song: The BMW X5
On song: The BMW X5
The front cabin of the BMW X5
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

For years I couldn't get enough of a certain star's songs and music (I'm not divulging the name because I'd be branded forever as a . . . whatever).

So, I was thrilled when my star gave some concerts here. Sadly, I didn't enjoy the experience. The event lacked the magic the music had woven thousands of times as I wore tapes (yes that long ago) and CDs thin with playing and 'accompanying'.

Sometimes our dreams are better left unvisited, don't you think?

I'm not saying the BMW X5 is a dream or an ideal, but I know a lot of people who would trade a bagful of aspirations for ownership of one. (I also know others who wouldn't touch one because it has been favoured by Premier League footballers – there are snobs and there are snobs).

Of late, I approached the Irish drive of this new X5 (I'd driven it abroad early last September) with that concert in mind. There is nothing more ruthless in winkling out a car's weaknesses than the good old rickety road to, from and through Woodfield Bog. Many a car has been found out on it. Would the X5 join them?

There had also been criticisms of the previous one. The cabin was dull and, as time went by, a tad dowdy. I'm talking executive SAV here (BMW insist it is a Sports Activity Vehicle not a Sports Utility Vehicle).

And it got old looking – especially at the back – quite quickly.

Don't blame me for being so picky. A motor like this costs nearly €80,000 – one has to be picky.

The other thing is that the Range Rover Sport came along with a dream cabin – with red leather upholstery.

Now, I know you expect me to say BMW have stepped up to the mark and to report I was pleasantly surprised. I can't say that. I'd have to say they have come up with a cabin that surpasses what they've done before.

The version I had is a match – in a different way – for the Range Rover Sport, and that is saying a lot. There is something about it that instantly works. Just like a concert – either there's a vibe or there isn't.

Maybe it was the blue light-line around the cabin, the wood inlay, the chrome. I don't know. Yet the vehicle itself hasn't changed that much on the outside.

Subtle differences have eradicated the fussy design bits at the back. It is more graphic and strong at the front, but in profile it is an X5, unmistakably.

What you can't see, but I undoubtedly felt, is the huge amount of work they've put into the suspension.

Yes, it can go to 100kmh in under seven seconds, and that is remarkable for a motor of its size, even if it has lost 90kg and is the first of its ilk to nudge under two tonnes. No, it is the agility and ability to wipe out bumps and clumps, sweep around bends unerringly, and make you want to drive it harder that makes it compelling.

Tap into the power from the 3-litre diesel (+13bhp), use the paddles on the steering column to change gears and hold revs to the red line in every gear, put it into Sport or (my favourite) Sport+ mode and you realise how they have evolved something special here. They've taken a decent SAV and pushed it hard to improve.

I used the Sport+ because I wanted that real 'feel' and feedback of tyres speeding over tarmac, the suspension not yielding to cornering forces. That's where you exploit the increased body stiffness and strength.

However, I would say in ordinary mode it is softer and more pliant than the edgier/taut feel from before, and the steering is a bit vague until you hit Sport – yes, I have a couple of criticisms.

The seating warrants mention: they went to serious rounds to reduce vibrations. The second row splits/folds 40/20/40 and can slide 80mm forward should you order a third row. If you fold the second row the carrying capacity goes from 650 litres to 1,870. The two-section tailgate is a boon because the bottom bit folds out to lower the loading level.

And if there is an easier tall car to get into or out of, I have yet to meet it.

If I have another complaint it is that its looks are too predictable. I hope they will age better than the old one.

That's for time to tell. Right now what you see with the X5 is a lot less than what you get.

 

BMW X5 SAV

* BMW X5 30d xDrive eight-speed automatic, six cylinder SAV (2,993cc, 258bhp), 0-100kmh in 6.9 seconds, 45.6mpg/6.2litres-100km, 162g/km (€570 road tax).

* Price from €78,600 on-the-road – delivery/related charges included. Options push test car price up €22,445.15 to €101,045.15.

* Standard equipment includes: big range of safety and comfort elements, several airbags, all sorts of brake, suspension and body control systems, automatic climate control, xDrive all-wheel-drive, Bluetooth hands-free system, cruise control, electric power steering, rollover sensors, auto stop-start and ECO PRO mode. Options include 'surround view' with 360-degree display, 19-inch V-spoke alloys, Sport automatic transmission, aluminium running boards, sport seats, ConnectedDrive Services package, panoramic glass sunroof, heated seats, American oak interior trim, third row of seating, and head-up display.

 

MY SIDE OF THE ROAD

I don't see how people can call themselves drivers when they plunge through a red light at a busy junction. They are potential killers.

Doesn't happen where you are? Just watch the next time you are stopped. Your lights will go green yet there will be one or two cars scuttling across your bows through lights that have gone red. Scary stuff and it's on the increase.

ECUNNINGHAM@INDEPENDENT.IE @ECUNNINGHAMCARS

Irish Independent

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