The new BMW four-wheel-drive has all the technical mod cons and then some, and it’s also great to drive.

Story By Ian Glover

For a baby boomer, road-testing a BMW X5 is like stepping into Doctor Who’s TARDIS to be warped into a world populated by people with names like Spock and Skywalker. It’s a very high-tech machine. However, unlike some four-wheeled machines from the land of Wagner, Goethe and Dietrich, the X5 is user-friendly … once you’ve put aside any technophobia.
First, let’s not go into all the acronyms – DSCII, DBC, ASC-X, ADB-X, DTC and so on – and the marketing catchphrases such as Active Steering, x-Drive and i-Drive. Just concentrate on how the X5 drives: beautifully.
Besides the luxurious, full-leather and spacious interior, the initial impressions are of jet-cabin quietness, armchair-like seating and a very supple suspension. Double-track control arms on the front axle take the jolt out of even very heavily potholed surfaces, and speed-sensitive steering adjusts your inputs to match velocity. A six-speed transmission also means that the vehicle can be driven manually when desired, or just left in ‘D’ for city driving or expressway cruising.
Top of the line is a 4.8-litre petrol V8 developing 261kW of power at 6300rpm and a whopping 465Nm of torque at 3400. It will take you from rest to 100kph in 6.5 seconds. Be warned, however – despite all the computer control for optimal fuel efficiency, it’s a thirsty beast when pushed hard.
Visibility is good all round and stability control and traction control are now almost a given in modern vehicles at this price. The X5 has x-Drive, which distributes power between the front and rear in milliseconds, counteracting any tendency to oversteer or understeer. An optional performance-suspension package, where the dampers are electronically controlled, makes the X5 even more fail-safe.
At night, xenon gas headlights not only provide brighter illumination with better spread but they actually turn as you do, computer sensing the angle of the steering wheel, yaw rate and road speed. A rain sensor automatically activates the windscreen wipers, the proximity sensors make parking a breeze, and tyre pressures are monitored constantly. It’s an impressive package.

This story excerpt is from Issue #57

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2008