Who in their right mind would want to kill a goose that lays golden eggs? Definitely not BMW. Bringing the cycle of expectation and disappointment full circle, the third generation of the Munich carmaker’s X5 Sports Activity Vehicle that broke cover last week is a conservative, “deliberately evolutionary” update. But that was expected as the SUV, in its current iteration, is one of the company’s top sellers.
Although not immediately apparent, there are a handful of styling changes, like the wider and more upright kidney grille, extended headlights like the ones on the 3 Series, LED fog lamps, X-shaped contours within the front bumper and a rather squarish and more box-like rear.
Measuring 4,886mm in length, 1,938mm in width and 1,762mm in height, it is longer, wider and taller than the current X5, while the wheelbase remains the same at 2,933mm.
The cabin also gets styling changes that are in line with those seen in recent models from the brand, with an instrument panel with four round gauges and a 10.2in monitor taking pride of place on the dashboard.
BMW says the new cabin offers more space and practicality than before, with the second row of seats splitting 40:20:40, and the boot offering 650 litres of cargo space with the seats up and 1,870 litres with the second and optional third row of seats folded away. That’s an impressive 120 litres more than the current model.
The major changes however, are the ones under the skin, the biggest being the rear-wheel drive option that makes its debut in the X5 that had always been all-wheel drive since its launch in 1999.
But this will only be made available later this year. The flagship petrol model will be the X5 xDrive 50i, powered by a 4.4-litre V8 engine producing 450bhp and doing the 0-100kph dash in a claimed five seconds.
Two other models available at launch (for Europe) are the xDrive30d powered by a revised six-cylinder inline diesel unit making 258bhp and the M50d M Performance version with a tri-turbo six-cylinder inline oil burner that’s good for 381bhp. All these powertrains are mated to the new eight-speed auto ‘box, which will be the only transmission available across the X5 line-up.
There are a host of tricks to make sure the X5 continues to live up to its reputation of being a sportscar on stilts. There is a choice of four different suspension settings — the Adaptive Comfort suspension, Adaptive M suspension, Adaptive Dynamic suspension and Adaptive Professional suspension. Combined with aerodynamic features like Air Curtains and Aero Blades, these help keep the mammoth SUV well planted even when driven hard.
BMW has managed to make the X5 more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly than before while still offering top performance, thanks to a combination of auto stop-start, brake energy regeneration, on-demand use of auxiliary units, electric power steering and low rolling resistance tyres.
Other features include Attention Assistant that senses driver fatigue and sends out audio-visual alerts, BMW Night Vision, which now detects not only pedestrians but also animals, the Parking Assistant that will find suitable parking spaces and park the X5 for you and a new version of the head-up display.
Whether you think these changes are enough or not, what matters more to BMW is that it has kept the equation between the goose, gold and eggs intact.