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Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

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New X5 here - first drive

2007-05-18 09:01

Wilmer Muller

Carmakers often try to justify the versatility of their SUVs, trying to disguise the fact that most owners will never use the vehicle off-road.

Not BMW. BMW is blunt about what the X5 is about - it's a "road-biased" SUV, or rather an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) to use the BMW acronym. The X5 is a car for tarmac, full stop.

And in true BMW fashion it will offer you "sheer driving pleasure", as it handles as good as any of the Bavarian carmaker's sport sedans.

The original X5 was already a trendsetter in terms of SUV driving dynamics, and fortunately BMW didn't messed with the vehicle's recipe. The newcomer still feels an X5, but it has evolved into an even better vehicle.

Current X5 owners might wonder why there is a need for a replacement as the vehicle still feels fresh and is still a hot-seller too. But as it goes in the motor industry a car can't hang on forever.

While the second-generation X5 may appear like a facelift too it is much improved in every aspect.

Not only does the X5 look fresh and more modern but, as expected, it has also grown in size.

Rear passengers benefit from an added 40 mm of legroom, while customers can also spec the vehicle with an optional third row of seats. And again BMW is honest about these extra seats, saying it was designed for children, not adults.

The new X5 comes with powerful eight- and six-cylinder engines, BMW xDrive permanent all-wheel drive enhanced to an even higher standard, and a brand-new suspension optimised from the ground up.

BMW also claims that its new X5 is again a vehicle offering a list of firsts. Not only is it the first vehicle in its class to offer Active Steering and an active suspension setup, but it is the first with Heads-up Display.

A more controversial "first" is that the X5 now comes with run-flat tyres, although a space-saver spare wheel is available too if owners want it.

On the road

Without doubt the latest X5 displays supreme agility and driving dynamics. Its predecessor's trademark on-road performance is still there, but even better now.

On the open road the X5 surprises you with the stability and poise of a large luxury sedan. It is a showcase of class leading performance, economy, great ride quality and refinement.

Drive it hard and it not only shows immense pace, it also exhibits great stability and clout even on very challenging roads.

No matter the road type, if it is twisties, highway or gravel, the X5 has the same confidence as any sport sedan, as it is easy to position the X5 with surprising accuracy.

The X5's road holding abilities are still compliments of BMW's xDrive four-wheel drive system that transfers power between front and rear wheels, depending on available grip for optimum handling, but it can now be specified with 'Adaptive Drive' and 'Active Steering'.

Adaptive Drive uses active hydraulic anti-roll bars to counteract the cornering forces of the car to keep the body from leaning too heavily and unsettling the occupants.

In addition to this Adaptive Drive incorporates an Electronic Damper Control system that uses sensors to continuously adjust the shock absorber settings for optimum comfort.

Active Steering uses an electronically operated planetary gear intersecting the steering shaft that adds more lock than provided by the driver at slow speeds to make parking effortless. When driving at speed the opposite occurs for a smoother, more composed ride.

Better engines

The South African range will come with three new engines while an advanced twin-turbo diesel will join the range in 2008.

The entry-level model gets a 200 kW 3-litre inline-6, while the range-topper gets a V8. And then there is a sweet 3-litre diesel derivative.

The flagship's new 4.8-litre thrusts out an impressive 261 kW at 6 300 r/min and a healthy 475 Nm of torque. Paired with a new quick-shifting six-speed automatic, BMW claims the V8 should reach 100km/h in 6.5 seconds.

The diesel version of the X5, the 3.0d, is also a showcase of power and performance.

Weighing 25 kg less than the former version thanks to its all-aluminium crankcase, this straight-six develops a power output of 173 kW. Peak torque of 520 Nm comes between 2 000 and 2 750 r/min.

It takes the turbodiesel model 8.3 seconds to reach the 100 km/h mark and top speed is 216 km/h.

Typically X5, braking performance is excellent and BMW has enlarged the new model's brake discs by about 1 cm up front and almost 2.5 cm in the rear.


The interior is quite pleasant and of a new design, which is not only stylish, but handsome and comfortable too. The materials are of excellent quality and the craftsmanship is top-notch.

Four interior colour options, six equipment and trim colours and five different versions of trim strips, combined with no less than nine exterior colours, provide a wide range of options in customising the vehicle.

And galvanised trim strips in Pearl Gloss Chrome featured as standard interact perfectly with the trim panels to add an extra touch of style, value and elegance. Naturally there is a host of standard and optional gizmos to enhance the interior's ambience. Although it wasn't a surprise, BMW has equipped the X5 with a revised version of the infamous iDrive controller. Yes, while iDrive has also "evolved" over the years it still adds a bit of complexity to some basic operations. However, BMW owners "living" with iDrive will tell you that the system is actually quite good.

Even better than before

BMW's X5 succeeds in redefining its class and suiting the latest market needs. It is better looking, quicker and more economical than before.

The improved performance is achieved through clever weight reduction, using aluminium for items such as the bonnet and suspension and advanced lightweight steels in other body parts.

Again suspension is top-notch, resulting in class-leading ride and handling.

Like the first X5, the newcomer stands out in the SUV crowd thanks to its build quality, road presence and on-road manners.

Yes, it might not be a 4x4 but the X5 philosophy is to give its drivers the ability to go where they want to go regardless of the road or weather conditions. As BMW, says it is about activity, not utility.


  • 3.0si - R547 000
  • 3.0d - R574 000
  • 4.8i - R662 000

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