BMW’s new 5 series is more refined, more advanced and a more impressive car than ever before. But it’s main competitor might not be from another manufacturer, but from its own blood line.
BMW’s X5 has also never offered such an array of equipment and ability but while the new 5 series is based on the same underpinnings as the incredible 7 series (and is basically a smaller version of BMW’s supremely impressive flagship model), the 2017 X5’s platform stretches back to 2007.
10 years is a lifetime in the car industry but it goes to show the longevity of BMW’s engineering abilities.
The X5’s levels of technology, safety and performance are at the cutting edge of what’s available from luxury SUV’s today. Featuring a host of tech toys like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Head Up Display and BMW’s superb iDrive system looking after everything from phone connectivity to satellite navigation to engine, suspension and vehicle settings to well, pretty much anything you want all displayed through an ultra high resolution 10.26-inch screen.
As for the levels of safety equipment, to list and explain everything here would be like presenting the complete works of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. But to give you a very brief over view, 360 degree cameras with parking sensors all round, dynamic stability control, cornering brake control, a host of airbags, autonomous emergency braking, lane assist and the list just goes on and on. Trust me, it’s safe.
Our test car was the xDrive40d which features a 6 cylinder turbocharged 230kW, 630Nm Diesel engine mated to an incredibly smooth 8-Speed Automatic Gearbox.
Sink yourself into the beautiful leather interior and while it feels more luxury than sporty, the performance of the X5 would have even some more performance orientated vehicles feeling embarrassed. That’s not to say the X5 is a harsh uncompromising performance car, far from it. But the urge and ability of the X5 just fills you with confidence on any road surface.
Not only does it pull like a freight train, it has enough room in the boot to be a freight train. One of the most appealing traits of SUV’s is the sheer amount of cargo space. Behind the powered tail gate you’ll find 650 litres of real estate to fill.
So it’s fast yet comfortable, incredibly practical, looks superb both inside and out, has more tech toys than a JB HiFi, will tackle some light off roading if need be and can fit 7 adults or an airports worth of luggage.
Why would you bother even looking at the new 5 series?
Well the answer is one of evolution, stay with me here as this will make sense by the end.
The X5 is brilliant but, even the concept of the luxury SUV as an everyday mode of transport is still relatively new. Every new model of SUV gets better and better but the passenger sedan has been around since the late 1800’s. BMW’s first sedan was built in 1920 yet their first luxury SUV started life in 1999.
Why does this matter? Practice makes perfect and experience counts. As good as the X5 is, driving the new 5 series instantly feels just right. There’s a level of balance, refinement and involvement that the 5 series achieves so naturally. Maybe its because it’s closer to the ground which means you feel more connected, but if you want to enjoy your journey as much as your destination, the new 5 series is your car.
Our test car was the 520d Luxury Line featuring BMW’s new TwinPower Turbo inline 4-cylinder diesel engine putting out 140kW and 400Nm mated to an 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with gearshift paddles.
I was worried a 4-cylinder in a 5 series might feel gutless but that 400Nm quickly destroyed any preconceived concerns. It’s not a rocket-ship by any means but it progresses with much vigour and enthusiasm while feeling in total luxury and grace. The advantages of a lower centre of gravity are instantly noticeable and the suspension is incredibly compliant and controlled.
Inside, the 5 series is gorgeous! Everything you touch feels of quality and the customisation of the interior lighting at night ads another dimension to the exquisite interior. Like the X5, vehicle, entertainment, communication and navigation controls are taken care of via iDrive through a 10.25-inch touch screen and like the X5, the options and levels of control are seemingly endless.
Levels of safety are on par with the X5 and it’s really only in the levels of practicality and off road ability that the X5 truly outdoes the 5 series. Although the 5 series does have a huge boot, the seats fold down and I’m sure it won’t go into panic mode on dirt road.
That leaves the original question, to SUV or to not SUV?
The traditional large sedan is becoming almost forgotten as so many new car buyers are flocking to SUV’s. It makes sense too as they do tick so many boxes. But ask yourself this:
How often do you drive off-road?
And how often do you need cargo ship levels of boot space?
If you answered “all the time”, get the X5. If you answered “hardly ever”, you need to drive the new 5 series.
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