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BMW Unwraps Advanced New X5

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Story by Justin Couture

For the BMW brand name, building the X5 SUV (in BMW speak, SAV), was initially a calculated risk; the sport sedan brand had never built something like this before, and it went against many of the company’s norms. But BMW’s experience with the Land Rover brand and four-wheel drive systems, plus its overall engineering prowess, allowed it to create a vehicle that had the look of a sport utility vehicle with driving characteristics never before seen in an SUV. Having sold more than a quarter-million in North America, that risk was obviously worth taking, and now building on the ‘X’-series nameplate to include the X3, the German automaker has focused its efforts on creating an all-new X5.

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With the arrival of the junior albeit extremely roomy X3, BMW had the freedom to expand the X5’s overall dimensions. The new model maintains similar design “hard points” such as its profile, high ground clearance and overhang lengths, but on a larger scale. Therefore the overall appearance of the X5 is quite similar to the previous generation, no doubt a good thing to the vehicles many ardent fans, although its body panels feature exaggerated curves and creases, while its bumpers and fascias sport a more intricate look incorporating matte plastics.

Altogether the X5 has grown in length by 190 mm (7.4 inches) and 60 mm (2.4 inches) in width, which allows for greater rear leg, shoulder and hip room, improved cargo capacity (now 620L) as well as the option (for the first time) of having a third row of seats, enabling it to rub shoulders with rival seven-occupant crossover SUVs. That interior has been re-worked according to BMW’s modern design language.

The dashboard’s position is very close to the wind shield, and features the same concave look on the front passenger side, with the navigation screen taking centre stage. Of course, the iDrive infotainment interface is standard, although it should be mentioned that the system has been further improved upon to feature six programmable memory buttons for individual menus.

Also new is an electronic gear selector for the automatic transmission, which features no mechanical linkages in a similar fashion to BMW’s turn signal and windshield wiper stalks. It uses optics signal movement to select the different gears; the net effect being similar to the movement in BMW’s sequential-manual SMG gearbox. Not just bigger, the new X5 is a significantly more capable vehicle on the road. BMW increased torsional rigidity by 15 percent, improving crash protection and reducing NVH levels.

It also reworked the front and rear suspension systems for better road holding. The X5 also benefits from a new steering rack, with optional Active Steering and AdaptiveDrive, which incorporates active damping and anti-roll bars to raise the bar on handling and ride comfort simultaneously. The new SAV features all the usual electronic aids too, including stability and traction control, cornering brake control, automatic differential brake, trailer stability control and more, all of which are linked together by FlexRay high-speed data transmission.

There will be two versions of the X5 for North America, starting with the 3.0si. It’s powered by a 260-horsepower version of BMW’s

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3.0-litre straight six, which is an increase of 35-horsepower over the previous 3.0i. Next up, the 4.8i, featuring a 350-hp 4.8-litre V8 engine, up 45-horsepower over the old 4.4i. Both drive all four wheels through the rearbiased 40:60 split xDrive all-wheel-drive system, and a new six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. While it will be hard for the upcoming X5 to make as big a splash on the market as the original, the shock value of combining BMW luxury and agility in a sport utility package having worn off over the half decade since it debuted, the updated model will no doubt prove to offer a significant improvement in

interior roominess and functionality. The brand’s legendary performance will be maintained, along with upscale ambience and better-than average-reliability. This will allow BMW sport utility owners with growing families to merely step up to the all-new X5 in order to enjoy the extra capacity they need. Look for the new X5 to debut as a 2007 model.

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