Big, butch and bold it most certainly is but does the BMW X5 have what it takes to be your constant companion?
Words Aninda Sardar
Photography Roshni Manghani
It’s nearly five metres long and over two metres wide but your eyes are locked on to that over sized pair of kidneys that dominate the face of the new BMW X5. I keep staring at them, unable to decide if I like them or not. The only thing I’m sure of at this point is that the enlarged kidneys certainly look better on the SUV shape than the sedan body type. The rest of the shape of this SUV, or shall we say SAV in proper BMW parlance, is typical of the Bavarian manufacturer even though it is a new shape and doesn’t really correspond with the earlier form of the X5.
WHERE SHEER PRESENCE IS CONCERNED, THE X5 CERTAINLY HAS WHAT IT TAKES TO DOMINATE
For starters, it’s bigger than it has ever been. So where sheer presence is concerned, the X5 certainly has what it takes to dominate the road like a boss as BMW claims on its website. Yet, somehow the designers of this new X5 have managed to create an optical illusion where the behemoth actually looks more compact than it really is. A neat trick where you don’t feel intimidated by its size from a distance. So you walk into a showroom for a closer look where it overwhelms you with its sheer size ensuring that it has your full attention.
Enamoured with its presence, you start wondering what a long term relationship will be like with the BMW SUV. You tentatively decide to explore beyond the first glance and you realise that there’s something solid in the way it feels. That aggressive stance of a bull that refuses to be pushed back is backed up with solid build quality, but what really gets you thinking about the next step is the level of class you discover inside. I can’t remember of a single BMW that I wouldn’t classify as luxury but this one takes the game up a notch, maybe two, and it begins with space. If the earlier X5 was spacious, this one feels huge and there seems to be acres of room between the shoulders of the driver and the co-passenger. At the rear too, there seems to be more head, shoulder and knee room. Then there are the adornments – the unvarnished wood veneer, the brushed aluminium and the beautifully double stitched leather on the dash that is dominated by that large infotainment screen. Helping things further along are the options available to the owner. Tan upholstery for that Vernasca leather? No problem. What? Did you say brown? Sure, or is it going to be black? The cherry on top (literally) is that panoramic sunroof that also gets 12-colour LED ambient lighting along with the rest of the cabin. Let’s not disgrace ourselves with talk of the more mundane stuff like Apple CarPlay and sat nav and all that stuff. They’re all where they should be.
The sculpted bonnet hides a diesel 3-litre turbocharged straight six underneath that pumps out a hefty 265 horses and a robust 620m of torque. An eight speed transmission channels all of that power and torque to all four wheels. For a massive SUV, the engine and the gearbox work in perfect partnership. So not only do you not sense any lag, this SUV is downright quick. What is noticeable is a decided softening in the way the new X5 drives, which however doesn’t come as a surprise since all BMWs have softened over the years in their attempts to find a balance between sheer driving dynamics and luxury. The X5 errs on the side of luxury and while the average Indian owner will find that endearing, the Bimmer purist will shake his head in dismay. For him, there is Sport mode that balances things out to a fair degree but eventually there is no denying that this is no scalpel. A kitchen knife that will do the job but not the precise tool of a surgeon. The steering feels much lighter than what I remember of the old X5 and it’s brilliant at slow and medium speeds. Given that that will be the X5’s principal domain, I see the light steering as an advantage rather than an impediment.
IT WILL TAKE ALL OF THAT RUBBISH IN ITS STRIDE AND THEN WHEN YOU GET OFF AT THE DESTINATION IT WILL MAKE YOU LOOK GOOD
But where exactly will you be using the BMW X5? For laps around the Buddh International Circuit? For a journey into the unknown wilds of India? No. Not unless you’re the odd man (or woman) out in a crowd. Chances are you’ll be mostly confined to the urban jungle, shuttling between work, home and the posh club where you meet friends every weekend. Along the way there will be the usual obstacles of skyscraping speed breakers and ruts deep enough to be a well and potholes that can hide a tank. It is here that the BMW X5 will truly shine because it will take all of that rubbish in its stride and then when you get off at the destination it will make you look good and ensure all eyes are on you. Isn’t that X-y?