Customers swimming in the SUV segment are usually conservative and thus most carmakers won't make radical direction changes from one generation of their SUVs to the other. This is a true statement and so is the fact that Europe has learned to love SUVs, with this kind of vehicle being used by a wide range of customers, from those who really need to take their cars offroad, to soccer mums and young people who want to bee cool.
However, neither one of the aforementioned statements were true back in the late 1990s, when the premium German automakers started making SUVs.
BMW made a difficult bet when it launched the first X5 in 1999 - how could a large, heavy vehicle like that be driving machine? However, the Bavarians had an ace up their sleeves and that ace was called... Mercedes ML. Mercedes had launched the ML two years before and the model quickly became a hit, so the Bavarians knew that they could take advantage of this booming market. And they fully did, mainly thanks to the fact that the X5 was superior to the ML in many ways.
BMW also tried to compensate for not being the first at this table and invented a new segment when it launched the X5, calling it an SAV, which stands for Sports Activity Vehicle, a designation that would be used for all its vehicles of this kind.
However, the first step was the only revolutionary one, so the second generation of the X5, which landed in 2006 followed the footsteps of its predecessor pretty closely, even in terms of design.
The X5 received a facelift in 2011 and is now speeding towards the end of its life cycle, which means multiple things, one of them being that, if you want to buy one, now is a good time, since the vehicle was already refined over the years of market presence.
However, since the X5 is no longer a fresh vehicle, you'll have to dig deep in the list of optional extras to make sure that your car looks right. This is why we chose to test an example fitted with the M Sport package. Under the bonnet, we chose the most powerful non-M diesel, the twin-turbo 40d version that offers 306 hp and 600 Nm (442.5 lb-ft) of torque.
Don't worry about anything, we are going for quite a long trip, but this is an SAV, so it should be able to handle anything. Let's see if it does in the following pages.Continue reading