BMW X5: Kiwi connection
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There is a special New Zealand link to the interior of the all-new BMW X5 that was just launched globally and goes on sale here next month.
The fourth-generation SUV was designed in Munich, built at the Spartanburg plant in South Carolina, and launched to the international media in Atlanta, Georgia recently. (Why Atlanta? Because each generation X5 has been launched in a city that hosts the Olympics.)
It’s been nearly 20 years since the big player for BMW was launched — and in New Zealand it plays a prominent role in the X range of vehicles.
BMW NZ has the all-new X5 on sale next month with a 30d and M50d set to dominate the market while prices and specs are set to be announced closer to sale date.
And when the X5 is in BMW car dealerships around the country, have a look inside as New Zealand inspired the interior.
BMW designer Eva-Marie Guenther created the innovative new cabin for the X5, with such plush details as cushioned seats, a crystal gear knob and new layering of materials on the door panels.
As a teenager, Guenther was an exchange student at Rotorua Girls’ High school from Germany and credits her time in New Zealand with inspiring the X5’s interior.
“Whenever I am stressed at work, I beam myself to my mental escape place, the Coromandel,” Guenther told Driven at the US launch.
So, thanks to the Coromandel, the look of the cabin of the X5 is a new level of refinement for premium European SUVs. The interior also gets BMW’s live cockpit professional display and control concept, giving a cleaner look and a more hands-free approach.
The X5 is the latest version of its iDrive operating system that has five input methods: voice, touch-screen, gesture control, steering wheel buttons or the traditional iDrive rotary controller. There is also a large 12.3in screen plus great graphics.
The head-up display is next level, too, including the navigation and speed limit on the windscreen, making getting lost or speeding near impossible.
There is soft Vernasca leather throughout the cabin, with stitching as an added layer of sophistication. The front seats are heated, ventilated and have massaging, the panoramic glass roof is heated, there are cooled cup-holders, plus Bowers and Wilkins surround sound system with 20-speakers finish the package.
One option that was in my X5 was that crystal gear knob with an ‘X’ in the middle of it that Guenther worked “for many, many months getting the right pattern”. It’s a great addition, and one that BMW NZ is considering when it brings in the X5.
Volvo has crystal gear knobs, too, but the X in the middle of the BMW adds another luxury touch.
Outside, the X5 is similar in dimensions to the previous model, with the length increased by 36mm to 4922mm, now 2004mm wide (up 66mm) and the height at 1745mm (up 19mm). The two-piece split tailgate opens up to the boot that is slightly smaller than the outgoing X5 at 1860 litres, which is 10 litres less than gen three.
Another optional feature is the powered cargo cover that is operated via a button in the boot.
At the front of the BMW are new lights with an X shape, plus the option of adaptive LEDs, while the grille carries the same genetics as the all-new X3 that was launched earlier this year.
Vehicles available for the launch drive out of Atlanta to the pop-up workshop pavilion at Painted Rock Farm, in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia were the 30d, 40 petrol and 50d, and Driven was lucky enough to drive all three – despite the Russian motoring writers ‘forgetting’ to swap into petrol models after the workshops!
The 30d will be the most popular for Kiwi buyers, and the single turbo 3-litre boasts 195kW of power and 620Nm of torque.
The new 3-litre inline six-cylinder quad-turbo diesel in the X5 M50d produces 294kW of power and 760Nm of torque. It is a stonking machine.
All models are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission plus the great off-road package option that gives you adjustable ride height plus hill descent control.
The 30d’s new steering system makes the X5 a better vehicle to drive and it showed on the often-shoddy roads and rutted freeway.
The new suspension combines a double-wishbone system at the front and a five-link setup at the rear, combined with dynamic damper control that uses the car’s electronics to change the stiffness of the X5’s ride, from comfort to sporty.
To show its off-road capabilities, we headed to a forest on the farm for an hour’s challenging drive. Encountering a clay-rutted descent past large trees meant the need to engage hill descent control so the X5 ‘crawled’ down the track.
Even in some tough paces, the X5 felt more than capable.
Back on the open road the 50d, the X5 felt stable and handled more like a sedan than a large SUV. It’s an easy vehicle to spend time in — even in stop-start freeway traffic as we entered Atlanta.
The X5 is sitting in a tough segment from when it was launched nearly 20 years ago with such premium rivals as the Mercedes-Benz GLE, that is soon to have a new look, the Audi Q7, the popular Range Rover Sport, Volvo’s XC90 and Porsche’s Cayenne. What will keep the X5 ahead of the pack will be the technology, the capable 30d engine and the Kiwi influence.