First drive: testing the new BMW X5 in Tasmania
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BMW is so assured of the strength and power of its signature kidney-shaped grille that it is massive on the new large SUV X models. It gives the front of the X5 a bold, aggressive stance, leaving no doubt that all three models are proud BMWs.
The character lines along the sides of the X5 help provide a simpler and cleaner appearance on the SUV.
The grille has become so well known that a poster campaign in Thailand earlier this month featured a 15-storeyed billboard at the top of a skyscraper, showing only the grille with the word “Joy” above it.
The X5 30d kicks off the range, powered by a six-cylinder engine that puts out 195kW of power and 620Nm of torque, selling for $135,200.
The mid-range model is the X5 40i, powered by a six-cylinder petrol engine, putting out 250kW and 450Nm, and selling for $147,900.
The top-of-the-line X5 M50d is powered by a six-cylinder diesel engine that puts out a handy 294kW and a huge 760Nm of torque, thanks to additional turbocharging. This model sells for $177,900.
We drove the 30d and the M50d on a series of twisty backroads in the hills behind Launceston in Tasmania last week, and can report the M50d is the model to aim for. It accelerates from 0-100km/h in just 5.2 seconds, with immense power delivered effortlessly from the standing start.
All models have the advantage of an eight-speed automatic transmission, but it works its magic best on the M50d, where it delivers a smooth, even stream of torque.
The large grille in the front of the X5 also acts as a cooling or warming system, with the vertical bars closing when the vehicle is operating in cold conditions, and opening when the engine senses it needs greater ventilation.
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It is the fourth generation of X5 to come to the market, and it is higher, longer and more stable than previous generations of the model. There is more space between the front and rear axles, providing greater rear passenger leg room.
BMW says there are more and newer cameras fitted to the X5, improved radar systems and other equipment which improve the driving experience.
The Tasmanian drive of the X5 M50d and the X5 3xDrive30d models showed the response of the driver assist and safety features was faster and more subtly than in previous models.
The result is less intrusive intervention from the driving assistant functions such as steering and lane control assistance, and lane keeping assist. They tend to come into play earlier to maintain the correct driving route.
BMW says the driver assistant features have flowed to the X5 models from the 5 and 7 Series sedan models, and have level 2 autonomous driving features.
Both models we drove were comfortable across a variety of road conditions, including a windy gravel road, with the xDrive permanent all-wheel drive system with fully variable torque split ensuring optimal torque is distributed to the individual wheels depending on the driving situation.
The 30d model sits on 20-inch wheels, has dynamic damper control, a hill descent control system, and electric power steering as standard equipment. There are adaptive LED headlights, high beam assist, LED fog lights front and rear, and six selectable lighting designs inside the cabin.
The baseline model travels from 0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds, and has a claimed fuel consumption figure of 7.2L/100km.
All models have a larger and clear heads up display system projected onto the windscreen in front of the driver.
The X5 40i petrol model sits on 21-inch wheels, has more chrome highlights, is fitted with the M Sport exhaust system, M Sport brakes and M Sport interior package, and consumes 9.2L of fuel each 100km.
Th M50d has 22in wheels, automatic air conditioning with four-zone control, the BMW display key, gesture control, a Harman Kardon surround sound system, and a panorama glass sunroof that is 23 per cent larger than on the previous model.
There’s an M Sport differential, adaptive M suspension, and twin turbochargers.
There is also a handmade polished crystal glass gear sector switch, along with other glass features on the volume control switch, the iDrive controller and the stop/start button. The model consumes 7.5L/100km.
A new off-road package provides greater flexibility to handle driving in sand, on rocks, on gravel and on snow, along with extended underbody protection front and rear. Though the X5 models are all five-seaters, an optional third row of seats will become available next month.
The models all feature the new-style BMW dashboard, that will also be a highlight of the new 3-Series sedan when it arrives in New Zealand in March next year.
The X5 range offers the scope to personalise individual models to suit buyers’ requirements, and offers greater refinement and driving qualities when compared to its predecessors.
A focus on customer service
Pictured; BMW Group New Zealand managing director Karol Abrasowicz-Madej
BMW Group New Zealand’s new managing director Karol Abrasowicz-Madej is leading a change he says will result in an improved customer service.
Dealerships are not only expanding and rebuilding with more modern premises, he says there will be more focus on the customer experience when buying a BMW.
Polish-born Abrasowicz-Madej has worked for the premium German marque for 16 years in Poland, Germany and Japan.
Married with two children, he has spent the last two months coming to grips with his role in this country, which he says has a “super-competitive” motor industry market.
There were new dealers in Christchurch and Wellington, and during the next 16 months five of the dealerships will be either refurbished or rebuilt and expanded.
Abrasowicz-Madej said the new facilities would provide a more pleasant environment for BMW customers, while the “product genius” or expert roles introduced with electric model I-model range, would be expanded to cover the entire BMW portfolio of vehicles.
He was speaking at the launch of the X5 SUV range in Tasmania, and said SUVs now accounted for 55 per cent of the brand’s sales in this country.
This would only increase with the launch of the new large X8 SUV models next year.
He was critical of the continued importation of “super-old cars” into New Zealand, which did not help improve the environmental impact of the nation’s fleet of vehicles.
However he was not afraid of the competition from parallel imports, because he had seen the same situation occur in his native Poland, where thousands of used BMWs were imported used from Germany when Poland joined the European Community in 2005.
Abrasowicz-Madej said dealers would remain the backbone of BMW NZ’s business, but the company wanted the brand to have greater visibility in the marketplace.