BMW showed many new vehicles at the Bangkok International
Motor Show, with the 1 Series, the 3 Series and the updated 7 Series. Also on
the stand were the X3 and the X5, and it is this last vehicle that caught the
imagination of some of the testers from Australia, who gave the good points as -
Performance, grip, handling, exhaust note, six-speed auto, equipment list,
safety features, stability, steering, build quality, and exclusivity. Not a bad
sort of wrap!
What they didn’t like was - Aerodynamics (eh? It has all
the aerodynamics of a house brick), no manual transmission, no third-row
seating, some gear hunting in the auto mode, and needing premium unleaded fuel.
Tim Britten, the tester for GoAuto in Australia, began his
report by writing, “This is the sort of car that demands superlatives. BMW
reckons so anyway. In three brief paragraphs containing a total of 132 words,
the X5 4.8is was introduced at the 2004 Sydney motor show using terms like
“fire-breathing”, “steroid-enhanced”, “benchmark-setting”,
“tarmac-melting” and “driver-thrilling”. That the X5 4.8is is a mighty
force among SUVs (sports utility vehicles) there can be no doubt.” Down under,
only the Porsche Cayenne Turbo has more grunt and it is more expensive, though
in Thailand they are about the same price - around 10 million baht, though what
we get is the 4.4 litre version of the X5.
According to GoAuto, and to put it into perspective, the
4.8is is basically a pumped-up version of the 4.4i X5. However, this vehicle is
not really an off-roader that you can drive on the road, it is more of a bitumen
burner that you can drive on the dirt. (It’s the old is it a pub that sells
food, or a restaurant that sells beer, situation.)
Again, GoAuto says it all, mentioning that testing and
development of the X5 included time at the famous Nurburgring. “That’s why
acceleration times (zero to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds) are more important than how
it goes in the bush. This is an AWD one could use to joust with a sporty V8
265 kW are massive enough, but the 500 Nm of torque are even more impressive,
exceeding the Nm-per-litre output of just about any other regular, on-road
“The X5’s suspension has been re-worked, and there’s a
set of new wheels and tyres, larger at the back than at the front, that give the
BMW some really workmanlike contact patches on the road.
“A bodykit underlines the intentions of BMW’s
high-performance team in developing the 4.8is, as it is aimed at improving
aerodynamic stability at high speeds. The Cd figure is reasonable for a big AWD
“The 4.8 litre gets things like a new engine management
program, as well as modified inlet and exhaust systems with a quadrupled array
of pipes thrusting out of the rear panels. In addition to providing all that
extra power, this ensures an omnipresent, thundering V8 exhaust note.
“All the torque and kiloWatts are directed through the
familiar six-speed ZF automatic used widely across the range (and by other
car-makers). There’s no manual transmission option.
gear includes adaptive, see-around-the-corner bi-Xenon headlights, full leather
upholstery, power front seats with memory settings on the driver’s side,
power-adjusted steering column, climate-control air-conditioning, multifunction
steering wheel, 10-speaker sound system with boot-mounted CD stacker, on board
monitor with TV, and park distance control.”
With this car (and most BeeEmms) you have to memorize the
acronyms! Try Automatic Stability Control and Traction (ASC-X), Dynamic
Stability Control (DSC-X), Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS), Dynamic Brake Control (DBC),
Automatic Differential Brake (ADB-X), Hill Descent Control (HDC, which helps
keep things under control, without driver intervention, on a steep off-road
slope), Corner Brake Control (CBC), self levelling suspension and park distance
In the safety stakes, just in case you do fall off the road,
despite the numerous electronic systems to keep you on it, the X5 also gets a
five star Euro NCAP crash test safety rating with standard passive safety
features including 10 airbags - dual front, four side, and four front and rear
Tim Britten gave the driving side the thumbs up too. “The
driving experience is pretty familiar X5. The inside feels quite massive, with
plenty of stretch-out space even for beefy passengers. There’s no third row
seating, of course, but the load area behind the rear seat is quite spacious and
covered with a roll-out blind.
“With all-wheel drive (AWD) constantly available via the
new infinitely variable xDrive system, there’s always traction to control any
wayward kiloWatts, even on slippery surfaces. The xDrive favours the rear
wheels, where it can send up to 100 per cent of the power if needs be, but also
apportions some of it to the front wheels when necessary. It’s also connected
into the electronic stability control, meaning it can juggle the power so it
goes to the wheels where it will have most effect in controlling an imminent
slide. And the tyres - 275/40 R20 at the front and 315/35 R20 at the rear - are
what’s needed for the task, even if they are clearly not intended for even a
whiff of off-road work.
“The 4.8is feels as quick as virtually anything on the
road, which in fact it is. A non-turbo, massive vehicle like this that
accelerates like a Subaru WRX is something to be experienced. And, like all X5s,
the handling and road grip is something to be experienced as well. The top-heavy
feel of just about all 4WDs, soft-road or off-road, is hardly noticeable here,
apart from the fact you’re always aware of the elevated seating position.
“The BMW, which basically uses 7 Series self-levelling
suspension, steers with a sharpness and a sense of agility that it rare in this
segment. Only the Porsche Cayenne shares the BMW’s sense of stable, high-speed
security. The ride is firm, but quite comfortable, making the 4.8is feel quite
regal on the road, pretty silent on a country cruise where the sight of an
appealing back road is sure to entice, remembering always that the tyres may not
like too much sharp-edged stuff.
“It’s all a quite thirsty business though. Our test car
averaged around 14.4 litres per 100km on test, which admittedly isn’t bad
considering the weight, size and power of this vehicle but would have been worse
had we covered more urban kilometres. At least it is offset by a decent size, 93
litre fuel tank. Premium grade unleaded is a prerequisite, however.
“The six-speed auto, as in the 7 Series, is a smooth
shifter with plenty of ratio options to choose from although, surprisingly, it
will hunt through the gears at times when left in drive mode. The sequential
pattern is standard BMW (forward to downshift, back to upshift) but non-standard
compared to just about everyone else.
“In the end, the X5 4.8is is a hell of an indulgence. If
you want a really fast SUV, you won’t do any better - unless you start
thinking about the people from Stuttgart.”
Will we get the 4.8 litre version here? I somehow doubt it, but the 4.4
isn’t a poor relative in any way either!