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Motoring: BMW makes SUV worthy

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Leisure | March 30th, 2009

For most people, a vehicle that can hit 210-km/h and sprints from 0-100km/h in 7.4 seconds is very impressive. Most vehicles after all, cannot accomplish such performance numbers.

To find an SUV that can achieve those figures is even more rare, so imagine the surprise most people get, when I tell them that a BMW X5 diesel (yes a Diesel) is capable of such performance numbers. On top of which, I found that on my week long test, which involved both city and highway driving, I averaged 10.6-litres/100km. Almost sounds too good to be true, but then this X5 is a very good vehicle.

The engine responsible for accomplishing these amazing stats is a 3.0-litres, in-line six-cylinder engine with a two-stage turbo, which produces 265 hp and a colossal 425 lb/ft of torque. That's an immense torque figure that truly impresses out on the highway, as this SUV just lunges forward at a rate that can shame many sports coupe's.

Handling all that power is BMW's familiar six-speed automatic with Steptronic, for some manual control fun. All this works very well indeed to translate the power to its xDrive (all-wheel drive) system, and it actively sends the power to whichever wheel can best use it.

So you can imagine, its on-road feel is spectacular, and being a BMW, it handles very well too. My test vehicle even came with the optional Active Steering, which very quickly changes the effort required to carry out certain maneuvers. So when you are in a parking lot, the steering is light and doesn't require many turns to do a full u-turn, while on highway speeds, it has a firm feel.

I did notice that it has very little on-centre feel, would have liked more feel there, and the active steering does feel unusual when you are trying to carve through some country roads.

However the biggest complaint I heard was from my passengers, who felt the ride was a bit too bouncy. Personally I didn't mind the ride quality, but I will admit that Range Rover's do ride the bumps better. Although everyone did love the interior, which still looks good, despite the fact the X5 in its current shell, is a few years old. With the optional extra-large sunroof, it can double up as a sun lounge.

Too bad I had it during a cold, overcast, and snowy February. However, in the cold months you really appreciate its heated seats, and its heated steering wheel (now standard).

In winter you also appreciate its high ground clearance, which makes it easy to drive over anything mother nature decided to place in your path, and how safe an active all-wheel drive vehicle is in winter.

So how does this compare to the X6 I tested a month ago? From the handling point of view, the X6 is certainly sharper, but the X5 does have a better ride. The X5 xDrive35d might not have the pace of the X6 xDrive50i I had, but then the diesel did much better on fuel economy. Plus the X5 is more practical, as it is shaped like a normal SUV, and not some SUV pretending to be a coupe.

Perhaps the best part about this X5 diesel is its price, which starts at $62,200. Trust me, that is a bargain compared to what this vehicle has to offer. In fact, I would go as far as to say, if I could have just one vehicle to drive for the whole year, I'd pick this X5 diesel.
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