Car Review: New BMW X5

It’s bigger, bolder and a brilliant off roader (if you want it to be)…

BMW South Africa has ended the year with a bang by launching its all-new BMW X5 and we’ve just spent some up the Garden Route, on and off road, to see what customers can expect from the bigger, better and VERY bold new X5.

New technologies, new styling, and a new stand-out cabin – there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the new X5 and although it’s all very exciting, if we had to list and go through each detail, one’s attention span might be lost. So let’s chat about what we think X5 customers really want to know and what stood out for us at its local launch…

Bigger and bolder

The BMW X5 is known as the founding father of the BMW X family, with a 20-year track record as a successful Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) and sales of more than 2.2 million units across three model generations.

Taking a look at its ancestors, the X5 has maintained that bold exterior styling, and now adds 36 mm to its length, 42 mm to its wheelbase, 19 mm to its height and there’s an extra 66 mm of width. Its increased dimensions, along with distinct exterior styling (such as a very large and prominent grille) make the new X5 bigger and bolder and arguably, “better looking” than ever. There are loads of clean surfaces and precise lines that highlight the X5’s robustness and athletic personality. I love the X5’s headlamps that feature optional BMW laser lights with very cool blue inserts.

I haven’t quite made my mind up about the new X5’s rear design. I do like the rear lights, but haven’t yet taken to its back-end that looks a tad too blunt – perhaps I’ll warm up to it the more familiar it becomes over time. It’s all-electric tail gate splits horizontally, so you have the option of keeping the bottom half closed if necessary, when opening the top half.

Luxury lounge-like interior

The interior of the new X5 is where you’ll spot the biggest difference when comparing it to its predecessor. There’s more luxury and technology than ever before – if BMW designed luxury hotel lounges, the X5 could easily be a blueprint for it. Everything feels and looks worthy of its bumped up price with brilliant high quality materials and surfaces. Soft touch materials go as far down as the door bins, in fact there is really nowhere in the cabin that’s made of anything cheap or plastic.

The BMW X5 is fitted as standard with electrically adjustable heated sports seats and you can opt for multifunctional seats with massage function and seat ventilation for the driver and front passenger.

The X5’s dashboard is sleek and elegantly laid out, with aircon and temperature controls in easy reach of the driver. BMW’s new infotainment system is ‘next-level’ with a crystal-clear 12.3-inch touchscreen at the centre of the dash. You really can’t fault the graphics on this screen, whether you’ve got maps up or the reverse camera display. Its new operating system includes a full digital driver display behind the steering wheel to show various information apart from your obvious speed and rev count.

A selection of digital services are available with the Connected Package Professional, which offers sophisticated digital services such as Concierge Service and Real Time Traffic Information.

On and off road with the new X5

The new BMW X5 enters the local market with two diesel engine options: the xDrive 30d and the M50d. The base model is powered by a 6-cylinder 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine which offers 195 kW of power and 620 NM of torque. Both derivatives are mated to 8-speed automatic transmissions while fuel consumption is claimed to be around 7.0 – 7.2-litres/100km, depending on the derivative.

We spent most of our time with the 30d option which gave plenty of power and performance, and unless you plan on defying the theory of relativity, you’re likely not to feel any sense of FOMO for not having the 50d. BMW has done a great job at combining comfort and performance in the X5’s strong and sturdy driver handling. Even in Sport mode (or when off road), it still feels incredibly comfortable. Steering is lively and feels very connected to the front wheels and the road. Its improved eight-speed Steptronic transmission (on both models) is refined and incredibly responsive – it just knows exactly when and what gear to change, but if you still feel you want more control you can make use of paddle controls behind the steering wheel!

At launch, BMW had specced our 30d test units with optional off road tyres, and thanks to this we were able to venture through some pretty bumpy forest routes for a proper adventure with the new X5. Here, ride quality on these surfaces got a whole lot more impressive, despite the crater-filled dirt roads that had me cringing at the thought of what the drive could do to any regular vehicle (or to my internal organs). The X5 really outdoes itself on any terrain and I hope that customers will opt for enabling experiencing it this way.

Also read: Car Review: New BMW X4 


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Driving the fourth generation BMW X5 on and off road. Sublime! @bmwsouthafrica

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Of course, at a starting price of just under R1,2 million you’d expect the new X5 to really ‘WOW’ most of the public with its looks, tech and refinement, but it really is its off-road capabilities that I’m favouring most.

I’ve had one of the most comfortable and impressive off road experiences this year in the X5 (and we’ve done some pretty adventurous stuff) – the versatility and dynamism of it really is a stand-out feature.


Pricing for the 2018 BMW X5 starts at R1 194 296 for the xDrive 30d, and R1 502 582 for the M50d.