The X Factor

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January 15

When BMW launched the original X5 back in 1999, it suddenly became a topic of hot debate. Unlike Mercedes Benz who has a history of making legendary SUVs like the G Wagon and all terrain commercial vehicles like the Unimog, BMW had never made anything remotely similar to an SUV. It had a reputation for driver oriented cars with rear wheel drive and here it was, making a tall SUV with four wheel drive. However, fifteen years and 1.3million sales later we now know that BMW’s early push down the SUV route has turned out to be a brilliant business decision. The third generation of the X5 (F15) was launched in India some time back and we now got our hands on one that has been tastefully modified to look like an X5M.

The new X5 has an identical wheelbase as its predecessor, but is 5mm wider, 29mm longer and just a tad lower. BMW has also managed to get the coefficient of drag from 0.34 of the predecessor to 0.31 as part of increasing overall efficiency. The front end styling is similar to the one in the new 3 series, with the headlamps stretching to the twin kidney grilles for a wider look. There is also less of a height difference between the wings and the bonnet as in the previous model and this makes it feel wider. The creased rear styling is shared with the smaller X3, but overall proportions make it look a lot sweeter.

The one we got our hands on, belongs to Mr.Shemil – a businessman from Kannur. Shemil was clear that the moment he got his hands on the X5 that it is going to get modified. First up were these SUV spec 20 inch BBS SV wheels in Satin black with polished face. Wrapped in 275/40 R20 and 315/35 R20 Bridgestone Dueler H/P tyres, they add to the chunkiness of the X5. As a Quarter Mile reader you see more of a gap in the arches than ideal, but that is because Shemil didn’t opt to lower it and reduce the practicality of his SUV. The X5M body kit adds to the depth of the front and give it a meaner look. The black colour and the blacked out grille is total gansta. The bigger grilles on either side of the trapezoidal front air dam give it massive presence. It is interesting how the reflectors on the rear bumper pushed out to the edges and placed vertically, make the rear look wider in the X5M. The cosmetic enhancements in this X5, such as the wheels and the body kit were carried out by Lap 47.

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More spacious and better designed than the outgoing model, the new X5’s cabin is well executed.  This particular car is finished in a combination of black and Dakota brown leather. An un-lacquered wood trim runs across the dashboard and door trims, while the 10.2inch screen for the iDrive takes central place on the dashboard. This particular car has the full digital instrument cluster retrofit from VAG Tune, the specific coding and tweaks done for it. The cluster which resembles the one the new 7 series has awesome graphics to suit various driving modes and offers added functionality. The steering wheel has also been replaced with a meatier M Sport one with paddle shifts.

The X5 runs a sweet remap developed by Red Band Racing in association with Tune-o-Tronics . The familiar 3.0litre straight six now displays considerably better performance than the original 255bhp and 57.1kg-m of torque suggests. Mated to an 8 speed automatic transmission and four wheel drive, it is very easy to set off in this one. There is massive shove and a bit of chirp from the tyres as they scrabble for grip. We didn’t time it, but the stock X5 despite it girth, can get up to 100kmph from a standstill in a shade over seven seconds. This one should at least be a second faster to 100 even with the new wheels. The bigger difference is however in the part throttle acceleration and beyond 120kmph where the car feels relentless. The eagerness of the sport and sport+ modes and the difference in steering assist, makes for an immersive driving experience.

The body control is great for a car of its size and that is one of the reasons why you pick the X5 among other cars in its class that are better off roaders. The Indian car comes as standard with self leveling rear suspension and electronic damper control. The steering feels precise and you can feel the inherent balance of the chassis, every time you attack a corner with gusto. The new xDrive system along with improved dynamic stability control can deliver up to 100 percent torque at front or rear axle.  Although it is firm, the ride quality is acceptable even on those 20 inchers.

Now, as an ending note, we must say, the X5 did come to us looking rather dirty and no matter how much camera trickery we use here, it does take away some of the sheen from the paint work. But look at it this way. This is a car that is used regularly for long distance trips and as a matter of fact, Shemil had just driven it from Kannur for a weekend in Kochi when we caught up with him. And rather than wait for it to be cleaned, we got it even dirtier and got the cameras clicking. Some say, that’s the way an SUV should be driven. The others are busy cleaning theirs.

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