Road test: behind the wheel of the new BMW X5
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Hey Mercedes, there is a direct competitor that has also introduced its own Siri-like system in a vehicle — BMW’s all-new X5 SUV.
Both systems support many infotainment functions, such as destination input, phone calls, music selection, writing and hearing messages, and weather forecasting. They also assist with climate control and lighting.
With both systems, you just need to say “hey Mercedes” or “hey BMW” and system asks how you can help.
Best of all, the Hey Mercedes and Hey BMW systems mean you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to control many functions on your drive.
Mercedes-Benz nipped ahead with the introduction of its intelligent voice control (linguatronic) in the A-Class hatchback early last year, while BMW launched its version in the X5 in late 2018. Now the X5 is in New Zealand and we’ve just tested the M50d model.
It’s priced from $177,900 and specced up to $182,490 with metallic paint, sun protection glazing and a folding towbar.
Under the bonnet is a 3-litre, six cylinder diesel engine, producing 294kW of power and 760Nm of torque paired with an eight-speed sport transmission. My model sat on 22in M Performance alloys.
Like Hey Mercedes, BMW’s voice recognition takes a while to get used to your accent, and the speakers in the X5 were in the ceiling, quite a distance from my head so I was often forced to yell. But the longer you spend in the vehicle, the better it will adapt to your voice.
It’s also noteworthy that the X5 gets the Hey BMW system, as it’s a halo SUV for the brand.
The X5 is similar in dimensions to the previous model, with the length increased by 36mm to 4922mm, the width 2004mm (up 66mm) and the height 1745mm (up 19mm). The two-piece split tailgate opens up to the boot, which is slightly smaller than the outgoing X5 at 1860 litres, 10 litres fewer than gen three.
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The X5’s signature kidney-shaped grille is massive, and, added to a bulging bonnet, you have an SUV with road presence. The M50d stands out with the M Sport body kit, featuring a different rear diffuser, side skirts and deeper front spoiler.
The fourth-generation X5 was designed in Munich, built at the Spartanburg plant in South Carolina — and, as we said at the global launch in Atlanta last year, has a New Zealand connection.
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 a German exchange student at Rotorua Girls’ High School 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.
The X5 is the latest version of its iDrive operating system, with 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 navigation and speed limit on the windscreen, making getting lost near impossible.
A great new feature was the park assist function: if you have driven forward into a tight parking space or small garage, the system can remember the last 50 metres and back you out automatically, twiddling the electric power steering while you run the brake and accelerator.
The M50d is the power play for the line-up, not only under the bonnet but in terms of the technology it comes with.
Standard equipment includes BMW’s adaptive M suspension professional, M Sport brakes, M Sport differential, a panorama glass roof, soft closing doors and BMW ConnectedDrive.
On the road, the M50d’s engine paired with the eight speed transmission sets this SUV at performance level. Sit in comfort mode around town and you won’t notice there is a thumping big engine under the bonnet. But hop onto a motorway or country road and select sport and then you get some action.
The delivery of power sits around 4500rpm, but flick into manual mode via the paddleshifts and you get early upshift — which is especially fun on back roads with tight winding corners.