From Mordor to Metropolis; Grant Edwards Treks to Middle-Earth for the Jewel in BMW's Crown

Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia), November 16, 2013 | Go to article overview

From Mordor to Metropolis; Grant Edwards Treks to Middle-Earth for the Jewel in BMW's Crown


SOMEHOW, staring Mordor in the eye was serene.

Inching towards the doom and gloom of Middle-Earth was undertaken with a delightful spring in our step.

Perhaps it was because the site from Lord of the Rings in New Zealand was basking in a beautiful November day, or it could have been the plush outlook from the new BMW X5.

Yet the jewel in BMW's crown was shining in unnatural terrain.

You see, the X5 is not a sports utility vehicle. It is designed for the road, but can step off the bitumen - hence the Bavarian lot call it a "sports activity vehicle".

During the launch of the a[approximately]F15' X5 line-up, we tackled terrain the majority of BMW owners would dare not tread. A river crossing with water lapping at the doors, sharp climbs, difficult descents and all on dusty, slippery dirt roads were accomplished with ease.

The new X5 comes in a seven-strong line-up, but only three are currently available.

There will be the full complement in March next year, including a rear-wheel drive version, which starts from a sharp $82,900. For now, the entry-level offering is the $99,900 xDrive30d, with the range-topper the M50d that will set you back $147,900.

Comfort

BMW has raised the quality bar with the finishes and inclusions, although the X5 continues to follow the typical propeller brand blueprint.

Offering space and grace, the X5 cabin is a wonderful place to spend time. Five adults can be accommodated with room to spare.

The pews are Dakota leather and feel supple enough. You can opt for the Nappa upgrade, but it will require some extra coin.

Brimming with high-tech gadgets, the iDrive system, which controls all sat nav, stereo and other wide-ranging functionalities, takes some initial tuition, although are easy to scroll through and operate once you know your way around.

There are buttons for the most used operations, including individual fan and temperature controls for the dual-zone air-con.

On the road

This new trio is faster yet more efficient than the outgoing models.

Sampling the three about to go on sale, all impressed with varying degrees of appeal.

During a testing off-road track, the 1984 LandCruiser parked in a nearby shed was a telltale sign of what is usually required to pass through the tracks. But the X5 surprised with its ability to negotiate the challenging conditions.

Most buyers would never dare step onto anything more challenging than gravel, but the experience did show off the X5's true ability.

Yet it was on the road that the high-riding wagon shone.

Easy to drive and luxurious, it's a joy to pilot on the open road or around town. For its size and weight, the X5 is a surprisingly easy car to navigate.

It seems to shrink around you when attacking bends with an impressive athletic ability, able to shift its hefty weight with aplomb.

The steering on both the 50i and M50d was interesting, with a strangely vague feel around centre. It was uncharacteristically BMW due to a weightless and artificial feel.

Our choice would be the 30d for its more direct steering, although across the range it feels far more sensitive than what we have seen previously from BMW.

Although, given this market is heavily skewed toward families and female buyers, many will like the lighter feel in the pilot's seat. …

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