BMW X5 4,8i
Exterior pics by Quickpic, interior pic by the author
BMW would prefer that you do not refer to their X range of people movers as SUVs. It’s far too vulgar and utilitarian. Sounds as if you regard their upmarket creations as nothing more than pickups, for goodness’ sake.
They prefer SAV or Sports Activity Vehicle. That way, the accent is on sportiness, fun, togetherness and good clean country air.
The five-seat, with occasional space for two more little people, BMW X5 is pitched as a saloon car with attitude. It’s engineered like a street car with all the performance, comfort, luxury and safety kit one expects of the brand, but with added chutzpah. Full time, constantly variable four-wheel drive and 212 mm of ground clearance adds peace of mind for snowy or slushy conditions, with a measure of dirt cred as well.
Approach and departure angles of 25,4 and 22,9 degrees, 19,7 degrees of rampover angle and wading capability up to 500 mm may not motivate your neighbour to trade in his Cruiser, but will get you all the way to the farm.
On this note, cars like the X5 are usually disregarded scornfully as “soft roaders,” inferring that they have no off road capability at all. Not quite true, Farnsworth; Sani Pass is pretty ugly right now and I have personally seen one of these at the top. No, it wasn’t towed.
The secret is the electronically controlled, variable BMW xDrive that enhances traction on rough terrain as well as improving driving dynamics under all conditions.
In normal driving situations, permanent all-wheel drive distributes engine power in a 40: 60 split between the front and rear axles. The system responds quickly and variably to changes in surface conditions or the driving situation, instantaneously varying distribution of drive forces as required. Via a power divider with an electronically controlled multiple-plate clutch, xDrive feeds engine power to the wheels that can use it best and most efficiently.
The system also enhances driving dynamics by timeously counteracting any tendency to over- or understeer in bends.
To ensure optimum safety, the various systems interact with one another via what BMW calls Integrated Chassis Management, to coordinate drive force distribution, individual wheel braking and torque delivery to ensure very high standards of both driving dynamics and active safety.
As pretty much anyone who’s ventured off road more than twice will know, rocky terrain often contributes to punctures or sliced sidewalls. Recognising this, BMW have fitted fourth-generation run-flat tyres with strengthened sidewalls onto extended-hump rims. I hasten to add that the latter term is BMW’s – double entendres on a family web page? I quake at the thought.
That being as it may, one can safely travel fully laden at speeds up to 80 km/h for as many as 150 km. With lighter loads, you could extend that a bit. Apart from getting out of the boonies, one’s spouse and children would also not be forced to stop for punctures at night or in dodgy neighbourhoods.
X5s are available in three engine configurations – 3,0 litre inline 6 cylinder petrol or turbodiesel and a 4,8 litre V8 petrol as tested. A new six-speed automatic transmission with driver-selectable “sport” setting is standard across the range.
Electronically controlled, it shifts gears quickly and efficiently, with new converter technology and software reducing reaction and shift times by up to 50 per cent versus conventional automatic transmissions.
I could spend another page or so on the seats, the entertainment system and the satnav, but space considerations prohibit. Just accept that it’s a BMW. It’s smooth, comfortable, quick and classy.
It’s also big and heavy with a 4,8 litre V8, so it has affinity for petrol stations. Its makers claim combined cycle fuel consumption of 12,5 l/100 km, but in 400-odd km of testing I couldn’t better 16,9. Get used to it. If you are paying R739 500 for a car, the price of fuel is probably not an issue.
Price: R739 500
Engine: 4 799cc 32-valve V8
Power: 261 kW at 6 300 rpm
Torque: 475 Nm between 3 400 and 3 800 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 6,5 seconds (claimed)
Maximum speed: 240 km/h (claimed)
Combined cycle fuel consumption: 12,5 l/100 km (claimed)
Fuel tank: 85 litres
Maintenance plan: 5 years/100 000km
What We Do
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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