Despite its chunky bodywork and go-anywhere looks it’s probably fair to say that most BMW X5s were bought more for their perceived safety on the school-run than they ever were for their cross-country abilities. You get the feeling that right from the outset BMW knew that was going to be the case too; they cannily called the X5 a Sports Activity Vehicle  (rather than Sports Utility Vehicle) before standing back and watching as every WAG this side of the Bundesliga readily reached for a her gold-card and formed an orderly queue. Very quickly every other premium manufacturers followed suit, and the rest as they say…

    That was 16 years ago. Fast forward to today and the X5 heads-up BMW’s X1 – X6 four-wheel drive range, and even though it’s looks aren’t quite as chiselled as they perhaps once were it’s still capable of holding its own.  The X5’s main competition comes from the likes of Porsche’s Cayenne, Audi’s Q7 - neither of which existed when the X5 was launched - and of course the Range-Rover, not to mention a whole host of forthcoming other leather-lined luxo-mud-pluggers including the eagerly awaited Jaguar F-Pace and Maserati’s Levante.  

    Environmentally friendly types may still have their reservations about just how clean a 2.1 tonne 4x4 capable of towing 2700Kg might be, but the Bavarian Boffins have gone some way to quelling their concerns. The badges adorning this particular X5’s flanks might say 4.0xDrive – its mix of performance and economy quite possibly make it the pick of the X5 bunch in fact - but power (302bhp) and torque (443lbft) actually come from a 3.0litre twin-turbo straight-six diesel coupled to very smooth shifting 8-speed auto ‘box.  CO2 emissions amount to 159g/km whilst mpg is a not-so-bad and, surprisingly, not too unobtainable (as long as conditions are good and there’s no head-wind or uphill) 47.1 combined. 0-62 incidentally takes just 5.9 seconds – sufficient in anyone’s book for something this size.

    Ah yes, size. There’s more to the X5 than just its on-road go. Being product of the Bayerische Motoren Werke it perhaps goes without saying that the X5’s cabin, like the rest of the car, uses first class materials and is beautifully well-built, but what might come as a surprise is just how spacious and practical it is. “Our” X5 came configured as a 7-seater, which BMW says accounts for 10-15% of X5 sales, the extra chairs are fine for a journey across town or for accommodating the smaller siblings and fold flat into the boot-floor when not in use. Stow them and the X5 offers a whopping 620 litres of load-space, fold the second row too and there’s a cavernous 1870 litres awaiting your Waitrose haul.

    But practicality is perhaps not the first of the X5’s attributes that springs to mind. It may sit higher than BMW’s more usual fayre but it’s still been designed to offer The Ultimate Driving Machine experience – well a least a little of it. So, does it?

   Well, yes and no. It’s no sports-car that’s for sure, and it’s probably not as sharp as you were expecting something wearing that famous blue and silver propeller badge to be either, but it’ll still soak up smooth tarmac all day long with aplomb. Neither is it cheap (that said it’s a German 4x4 so all things are relative I guess) – especially so if you’ve a penchant for picking things from the options list. Nevertheless if you’re looking for an all-rounder with a premium badge that somehow manages not to scream look-at-me quite so loudly as it once did there’s still a lot to like about what was the original luxury Sports Utility – Sorry! Sports Activity, Vehicle.



BMW X5 xDrive40d M Sport

Engine: 2,993cc 6Cyl 24V twin-turbo diesel

Transmission: 8 speed automatic, four wheel drive.

Power: 302 bhp @ 4400rpm

Torque: 443 lbft @1500- 2500rpm

0-62MPH: 5.9 Sec

Max Speed: 147 mph

CO2: 159 g/km

MPG: 47.1 combined

Price: from £55,765 (car driven £60,795)


Many thanks to Martin at BMW’s UK press office for the loan of the X5



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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