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BMW goes for the 'if it ain't broke, dont fix it' by making X5 more luxurious and dynamic

When it exploded on to the scene in 1999, BMW baffled the press and the motoring public alike by insisting that the new X5 be called an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) and not SUV like its peers.

But there was method in the Bavarian madness, and one test-drive would prove it.

You see, the German car giant wanted to underpin what was special about its 4X4 - its on-road rather than off-road ability.

For the first time we had a two-tonne, high-centre-of-gravity, truck-like monster that had the drive of a luxury saloon.

You no longer needed arms like Popeye to steer or the unique knack of "opposite lock" just to park the bloody thing.

The addition of little luxuries such as leather seats, wood inlays and automatic transmission made it a must-have for yummy-mummies nationwide.

Now in its third generation, the new offering has kept the original template, opting for the VW module of "evolution rather than revolution".

Basically, that means only slight tweaks have been made to the body, the interior has been made even more opulent and the engines are more efficient.

Let's start with the styling.

After notching up 1.3 million sales worldwide, only a fool would meddle with the overall design.

If anything, the X5 has been made more feminine with a definite softening of the flared wheel arches while the front is now more toned than muscular.

The rear end has had a bit of work done too - and if Kim Kardashian has any sense she'll follow this lead by shedding a few pounds - thereby creating more interior space.

Thanks to a split tailgate, the boot is now a decent 650 litres which expands to a massive 1,870, and a clever 40/20/20 split fold rear seats means carrying awkward loads is a cinch.

Most will opt for the extra two seats (option) that make the X5 a luxo people carrier - remember the yummy mummies?

Inside though, there has been a major reworking, and the centre piece is the gargantuan 10.2-inch colour screen housing the iDrive system that controls everything from Bluetooth to music streaming to sat nav, all in high-definition on a touch-sensitive screen.

It's heaving with state-of-the-art gadgets and safety kit including Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Jam Assist (if the car in front moves or brakes yours does automatically), Park Assist, Head-up Display and Night Vision which can tell the difference between animals and humans (all options).

Drive-wise, the X5 is even more refined, more dynamic and smoother than its predecessor, and the 3.0 litre, turbocharged V6 is simply sublime.

Churning out a gutsy 258bhp, it cruises on the motorway like a 7-Series, has a 0-100kph sprint of 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 230kph, making you feel like the king of the road.

And because it's lighter and more efficient, the new engine has reduced emissions to 164g/km, meaning road tax of €570 a year while returning an astounding 45mpg (6.2 litres/100km).

Any real gripes?

The optional third row of seats is really only for small children, but other than that it is clinically and aesthetically brilliant.

Prices for the BMW X5 start at €66, 860.