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X5 marks the spot for luxury
The new 2014 BMW X5 range has not cut prices but rather added value.

I've counted $15,000 of added features in the new BMW X5.

Yet pricing has only increased by half that figure, with the entry 30d rising by $7500 to $99,900 plus on-roads.

That's the way luxury carmakers work these days.

Rather than cut price tags, which only upsets current owners, they're more into adding goodies that were previously options.

So the 30d will now pass with your passengers as a high-luxury variant.

Still, $99,900 is a high entry point, especially as Mercedes-Benz kicks off its rival SUV range with the $82,900 ML 250 and Audi with the $90,500 Q7 3.0 TDI.

So the big news from BMW is that next March the German car maker will launch two cheaper X5 models, including an $82,900 two-wheel-drive version. (See adjoining story.)

My New Zealand test drive covered winding, undulating country between the breathtaking Lake Taupo and Napier, an Art Deco city built from the ruins of a Depression-era earthquake.

Given the X5 is a tried-and- tested product, the third- generation models did everything expected of them.

They were as car-like in their road manners and cabin refinement as physics can allow from 2.2 tonnes of machinery.

They also reminded me the xDrive off-roading technology is brilliantly intuitive and capable.

But these are all givens.

It was the no-compromise luxury spec of the 30d that impressed.

For example, it comes with roo-spotting bi-xenon headlights, leather upholstery, electric front seat adjustment with memory, 19-inch alloy wheels and an array of high-tech driving aids.

These include a head-up display, which projects important information, such as speed and sat-nav, into the driver's line of sight.

Warnings if the car drifts from the lane or if a collision with a car or pedestrian is imminent are also provided.

Perimeter cameras give a virtual bird's-eye view of the car and surrounding obstacles on the big main screen.

Myriad other additions include LED front fog lights, automatic high-beam dimming, an auto tailgate, the Professional sat-nav system, internet functionality and high-end audio.

Car makers are continually extracting more power yet less fuel use from their machines, and BMW is particularly good at this.

For example, the 30d's 3.0-litre diesel engine adds 10kW and 20Nm while cutting fuel use by 1.2L/100km to 6.2.

The 35i turbo-petrol six cylinder's 0-100 km/h sprint is 0.3 seconds faster at 6.5 seconds, while fuel use is sliced by 1.6L/100km to 8.2.

The 50i's 4.4-litre bi-turbo petrol V8 provides 10 per cent more power yet is 16 per cent less thirsty. The range's pinnacle model, the tri-turbo M50d diesel, trims its 0-100 km/h time by 0.1 seconds to 5.3 and fuel use by 0.8L/100km to 6.7.

All engines are combined with eight-speed automatic transmissions, which come in a faster-shifting version for the high-performance 50i and M50d variants.

The new models provide more flexible people-cargo options though, surprisingly, still come with "short-sheeted" curtain airbags.

Rather than a 60:40 split, the second row of seats is now 40:20:40.

So, if seeking to stow a long object such as surfboard, the new model could also accommodate four occupants rather than three in the previous set-up.

A pair of third-row seats, which come with air-conditioning but not side head and neck protection, the curtain airbags ending at the second row, are optional.

Cargo space, with the third row folded flat, lifts by 30 litres to 650, and by 120 litres to 1870 with the second row folded as well.

Some buyers will be able to afford pinnacle models or tick long lists of options.

But, what's most impressive is that models like the 30d are not wanting at all in luxury feel or performance oomph.

  • BMW 2014 X5 RANGE*
sDrive25d: $82,900
xDrive25d: $87,900
xDrive30d: $99,900
xDrive35i: $106,900
xDrive40d: $115,900
xDrive50i: $133,900
M50d: $147,900