“The devil is in the detail,” exclaimed Karol Abrasowicz-Madej, BMW New Zealand’s new MD. A statement made even more fitting as we pawed over their new BMW X5 premium SUV, in yes, Tasmania. To the untrained eye and from a reasonable distance, the first impression of the new X5 is one of immediate familiarity and since this is BMW’s number one vehicle, this is by no means a bad thing. However, we got the in-depth tour of this fourth-generation X5 and the improvements are immense.
The X5 has been very much viewed as a benchmark in this segment and this new iteration further raises this position. From the ground up, its style, performance, dynamics and driveability have all been enhanced and the result is stunning to say the least. Physically, it’s longer, taller and wider than its predecessor with the majority of the extra size being gifted to the passengers.
There are numerous model and engine variants so I will offer a holistic view of what the new X5 has to offer. Hard to miss is the large kidney grille, this iconic fascia is now a tall one-piece configuration and houses ‘active slats’ that restrict or embrace airflow depending on what’s necessary. The headlights have been moved away from the grille and now feature laser lights (identifiable by a blue cross behind the glass). These high-emitting LEDs can offer up to 500 metres of illumination but unfortunately cannot zap slow moving traffic out of the way. Powerful sculpted bonnet lines make the X5 look aggressive from the front and new character lines that run down its profile rise towards the rear, offering an amplified look of power. Chamfered wheel-arches add to the overall stance and showcase the large alloy feet – up to 22 inches. At the rear, three-dimensional tail lights, trapezoidal tailpipe finishes and a really cool electric-split, clam-style tailgate that opens in two parts to gain entry to 650L of luggage space.
Inside, the X5 offers luxury, prestige and so much technology. Upholstery can be covered in high-grade Marino leather with sports or comfort styles. Thanks to the overall increase in size, the cabin layout is spacious and less cluttered than before, especially when you hear what has been crammed in there. The infotainment and instrument clusters are both digital and the gear-stick and control dial on the centre console are ornately designed crystal. The operating system has been upgraded to 7.0 and opens up a world of intuitive interactions. Touch and swipe, gesture (my fave) and voice all allow you to explore the X5’s functionality, of which there is heaps. Ask it to “set the temperature to 21 degrees” and the subservient system will obey, this in itself is great, however, it will also identify which passenger has requested this change and only change that specific zone. Temperature change is but one of around 15-20,000 voice commands. Tell the X5 ‘I’m bored’ and it will respond with a hint of attitude: “I find that hard to believe, have you tried out sports mode?” Although nothing mechanical changes, the screen gauges do turn red – it’s cute.
In total, the new X5 has five radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors and seven cameras (I bet your vehicle doesn’t). This allows this SUV to go way above and beyond mere lane keep assists or blind spot detection. In one demonstration, we were driven on a short and slow 50m slalom course before engaging reverse assist. The X5 automatically remembers the way you’ve just been and reverses back out – this is ideal for those of you with tight driveways or parking spots.
Tasmania has a whole host of engaging roads, bizarre cambers, undulations, and loose metal. We set out from the comfort of the Peppers ‘Silo’ hotel to explore them while on a trek out to Cloverhill Winery. It was a follow the leader adventure that included driver and car changes. My favorite vehicle of the day was the M50D. The 6-cylinder 3L engine has four, yes you heard that correctly four turbos (I remember when one was sufficient) and delivered up a fiendish 294kW and 760Nm that really got the X5 moving, while the four-wheel steer, two-axle air suspension, active sway bars and a chassis made from aluminium and high-grade steel ensured I stayed planted to the road surface, whatever that happened to be.
This was my first time in Tasmania and hopefully not my last. Its expansive territory and engaging roads make it a devil to drive around (or does it simply bring your inner one out?). The new BMW X5 lapped up every curve and bend we threw at it, embracing each and every one with style and poise. If, as Karol pointed out, the devil is in the details, then the sheer amount of eyes, sensors, radars, turbos and driver assists will have your head spinning faster than Taz’s tornado. It’s absolutely ‘loony’ how good the new X5 is.