The X5 has always been a sturdy work horse for BMW, falling into the wide bracket that ranges from luxury SUVs to large 7-seater family SUVs It set a new tone and benchmark that the rest of the market quickly followed. Over the years it has had its ups and downs. The X5 and other models like Audi’s Q7 and Mercedes-Benz ML all started to gain the tag of soft roaders and or soccer mum’s cars. Sadly both tags are very true. We have also seen some exciting and more crazy models like the X5 M50D, a triple turbo diesel with some mind-blowing torque figures. Now in its third generation BMW show no signs of letting this model sink from the top of consumer’s checklists. Rob and myself both shared this test drive over the course of a week, two thoughts based on our different lifestyle choices.


First Impressions

John – The X5 is no small unit, and has always held a fond place in my heart due to its great styling and overall stance on the road. This unfortunately does not seem to have followed through as strongly as it was on the previous E70 model. The X5 has a very prominent face, taking what looks like the styling from the new sedan and coupe range and stretching it to fit and fill the volume of the big X5. Upon first look I am not so sure the signature kidney grills need to be big enough to suck animals and small children into them, perhaps the more aggressive models require more air and cooling than the base model we are road testing.
Rob – Initial glance I quite like the curves of the X5. I think they’ve just got it right with the nose and the lights and grille work well. The diagonal lines along the side probably give it a sportier look than a car of its size deserves. We were let down on the model we tested though as the rims really were too small, and didn’t suit the size of the car at all.


The Drive

John – The X5 felt very easy to drive, with light steering and an adequate amount of power from the inline 4 cylinder turbo engine considering the weight and size of the car. I was quite impressed with this engine as I was not aware it was a 4-cylinder before I picked it up, just that it was a 25d. My first thoughts to that were, really, such a small engine in a big heavy SUV like that, ugh this wont be fun at all. But the engines today are not like the engine of yesteryear, and this engine had more then enough power for anyone’s daily requirements. Very smooth and easily controllable power, mixed with a very smooth and almost unnoticeable 8 speed gear box.


When you are inside the X5 you can see everything, you are up high and you have huge windows all around. This is something that you seem to lose in the crossover models like the X4 and X6, as the windows become narrower and your seating position is lower in the car. I found the general seating position quite comfy, very upright, which is always a bit more comfy for taller people. The new dash feels very sleek, sweeping from one side to another with a big solid center console right in the middle. I found the majority of the interior quite well thought out, but then you do find the odd thing here and there and wonder, “why did you do that?” after so much good design work has gone in elsewhere. The storage tray at the top of the centre console was a bit of a design fail in my opinion, it had a nice area to chuck a few items in like a wallet or phone, but this is also where the cup holders are, and if you have two drinks in there and then want to get something out of the storage unit you can’t, you have to lift the bottles out of the way, which is not ideal.


The boot space is massive, and with the back seats down, it became a cave. As luck would have it I was selling two large old single-seat leather lounge suite chairs on Trademe, and thought that it’s worth testing the space in the X5. I was quite surprised when I got both of them in there top and tail, with no hassles at all. And compared to my own 550 wagon it had considerable more height in the boot space with the back seats down. This combined with the split rear door, made for very easy access and the ability to lift larger items in without having to lean into the car too much.


Rob – For the large car that the X5 is, I must say I found the steering incredibly light, yet always responsive. I may be dreaming but I was sure that when in Sports modes the steering got slightly heavier, which in my mind makes sense with the expected ‘sportier’ style of driving you’d likely be pursuing. As far as power was concerned it always had plenty when I needed it for the first X5 four-cylinder. The torque had it cruise up hills with ease, though I did notice a slight lag when going from standstill. Most cruise controls that I’ve used seem to be on a stick on the steering column. With the X5 this is found on the front of the steering wheel. I quite liked this positioning in preference to stick control. The surround view camera system is definitely a neat feature to have for nailing it between the lines if that’s something you struggle with, or are concerned about kerbing your rims. I did find at one point it stopped working completely (it came back with the car restarted), so it’s probably important to keep up the skill of reverse parking regardless.


Certainly one of the coolest and surprising features though is the blue night light strip that runs along the side doors and across the dash. It’s a mark that gives the feel that you’re driving around a mobile cinema and left me wanting to drive through tunnels and go back out again at night just to see it. I found myself as excited as my two young boys who thought it was equally as cool. The front doors even had the slightest double strip of blue, to complete the feel.

When retrieving bags of shopping from the boot, the single push button to close the boot was a godsend, and made an uncomfortable task extremely easy as anyone who has tried the manually closing boot can testify to. The horizontal split door (reminiscent of Toyota Landcruisers) was also a nice feature. The rear boot liner of the lower section left something to be desired, as I have seen far sturdier fittings on much lesser models of SUV than the plastic before me.


What it’s up against.

BMW have always been very strong in this segment, and its a segment that continues to grow and out grow many of the other segments in the NZ market. There are a lot of options out there, and I think the base look of the BMW may hinder it more than it had in the previous models, as other manufacturer’s base models do not look like an entry-level large SUV. That being said, there is a growing number of women owners who make the call on which SUV they get for the family, and the way I perceive its looks may not be a factor.


Mid Size Luxury SUV’s

Brand / Model Engine Power Fuel L/100km Luggage Capacity Price Highest to Lowest
Porsche Cayenne 3.0 L V6 Turbo Diesel 155 Kw / 580 Nm 6.8 L / 100km 670 Litres N/A
BMW X4 xDrive35d 2.0 L Inline 4 Twin Turbo Diesel 160 Kw / 450 Nm 5.9 L / 100km 651 Litres $112,500
Audi Q7 3.0 L V6 TDi 150 Kw / 450 Nm 7.2 L / 100km 765 Litres $99,900
Mercedes-Benz ML 250 BlueTec 2.2L I4 Turbo Diesel 150 Kw / 500 Nm 6.4 L / 100km 690 Litres $99,900
Land Rover Discovery 3.0 L V6 Turbo Diesel 155 Kw / 520 Nm 8.8 L / 100km 892 Litres $90,000
VW Touareg 3.0 L V6 Turbo Diesel 150 Kw / 400 Nm 7.4 L / 100km 580 Litres $89,750


The good and the bad.

Pros Cons
  • Spacious comfortable cabin, great for taller drivers, very easy to relax.
  • Great feeling of security and safety due to its size on the road.
  • Light and easy to maneuver steering.
  • Very smooth power delivery and transmission, good amount of power considering the engine.
  • Large very useable boot space, with very practical split hatch.
  • Pretty quiet diesel engine compared to other smaller BMW models.
  • Interior is very clean and well laid out.
  • Overall look is a bit bland, with the small rims giving it a very base model feel.
  • Quite pricey compared to the rest of the options out there. And this is before adding any optional extras.
  • Keyless engine start as standard, but does not include keyless entry; comfort access is an optional extra.
  • Storage areas behind the cupholder under the main dash – hard to use while cup holders are in use.
  • Rear does not look as interesting or as impressive as previous models.
  • Cheap look and feel to the interior split boot door.


What do we think ?

Overall Rob and myself both liked the X5, just not this variant. It’s a little too bland for our tastes. But this is why manufacturers offer many different versions. The X5 is no home run either, but it’s a very easy to live with SUV. Comfy, spacious, and the 25d gets great fuel consumption. If you have kids, this is close to being one of those no-brainer decisions as a daily driver. The only major problem we could see is that it’s not the cheapest option out there, and if you do have a family, a 10k gap between options is a pretty big and good reason to consider the alternatives.

Rating – Chevron rating 3.5 out of 5


2014 BMW X5 xDrive 25d

Vehicle Type Front Engine, 4WD Large Luxury SUV
Starting Price $ 112,500 NZD
Tested Price $ 115,800 NZD
Engine 2.0 L Twin Turbocharged Diesel I4, 160 Kw, 450 Nm
Transmission 8-Speed M Double Clutch Drivelogic
0 – 100 kph 8.2 seconds
Kerb Weight 2040 kg
Length x Width x Height 4487 x 1938 x 1763 mm
Cargo Capacity 651 Litres
Fuel Tank 85 litres
Fuel Urban – 6.8 L/100kmMotorway – 5.4 L/100kmCombined – 5.9 L/100km, 148 g/km CO2
ANCAP Safety Ratings Yet to be tested
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John Galvin (JSG)
It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.



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