2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i Review

Is it an off-roader, is it a road-racer, or is it the BMW X5?

By Shahzad Sheikh

2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i

One upon a time a fledgling germ of an idea was beginning to form in the minds of BMW engineers – they thought it might be good to build a practical SUV with off-roading abilities, but they were all track-heads infused with the DNA of racers and some part of them just couldn’t help itself when it came to trying to execute that idea.

This becomes apparent as we buck and weave through the twisty Rocky Mountain roads, somewhere near Lillooet well north of Whistler in Canada as swathes of pine forest blur past in our periphery. Up ahead is a well-driven Porsche Cayman S, piloted by someone clearly boasting local knowledge.

2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i

We’re keeping him honest, shadowing his every move, doggedly sticking to his tail. But we are not in a Porsche. We’re not even in a sports car. We’re in a hulking great SUV! Except that this has the blue and white propeller badge on the nose, ‘X5’ tagged onto its rump and ‘xDrive 50i’ emblazed along its door.

We’re in the new 2014 BMW X5 in full-fat 4.4-litre V8 guise. This thing is capable of hitting 100kph from rest in just five seconds (gulp!) and it is happily putting that thunderous torque into devastating effect, with the accompaniment of an orchestra of riveting grip from its four-wheel drive chassis.

2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i

What’s more, whilst the Cayman driver must have been slightly indignant at this heaving SUV bearing down on him, the cabin of the white xDrive 50i was a picture of serenity and smug satisfaction. The driver was barely breaking a sweat, the passenger was placid and the car was rejoicing the brief respite from the leash, restraint having been tossed into the stiff, fresh wind.

And that’s the thing about the X5. It’s always been a bit of a caged lion – a car that feels, like most other BMWs do, that it just wants to go, hard, everywhere, all the time. And of course this is the latest edition of one of the hardest charging SUVs this side of a Grand Cherokee SRT8.

2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i

The V8 is new and power is up from 402bhp to 450bhp and torque increases to 479lb ft from 442lb ft, with adaptive suspension, and a whole load of performance packages to add to the already whizz-kid clever dynamics of the X5.

So it’ll cruise easily along the highway, well planted and riding smooth at speeds which are way less than what it would be really happy with – again you get the feeling it wants to be back on the delimited Autobahn and the lowly limits in Canada were neither to its liking or ours.

2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i

But then most SUVs do the high-speed cruising thing very well nowadays. It’s when things get tight and twisty that the X5 really impresses. It serves up accurate steering, alert responses, subdued body roll and lean, quick direction changes, taught ride and strong linear braking.

Although after 20km of working them brutally hard, the brake fade did become rather obvious and they needed cooling down. And whilst we’re here, I could also add that the electric power steering just doesn’t have the tactile feel you’d like, and that the mid-corner understeer can surprise, although you can either lift-off to tuck in, or simply bully it through with more power.

2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i

But these criticisms are somewhat moot as this is not a low-slung sports car, but a practical and comfy family-friendly SUV that can, indeed, handle some degree of off-roading too. We had a chance to go play in the wilds of the Whistler Olympic park along a gravel path with a little bit of mud thrown in, along with a couple of deep dips.

The X5 shrugged this off thanks to its clever tech and auto speed-adjustable hill descent, and even showed us what the electronics were up to in a nifty display illustrating the torque distribution to all four wheels as well as the angle the car was at to the horizontal.

2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i

Frankly the route could have been negotiated in a small car with decent ground clearance. Nonetheless the four-wheel drive gives you added reassurance on and off-road in the X5.

As does the brilliant build and unburstable quality of the somewhat staid but very familiar cabin. They’ve added an extra strip of trim – which of course you can personalise – the dash joins the doors a bit better and the central monitor is bigger and closer – so close in fact that I kept poking it expecting it to respond to my touches, but instead you have to use the admittedly quite intuitive control knob next to the gear lever.

2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i

On the outside, there was some criticism over its ‘face’ to be overheard at the unveiling in Frankfurt a few weeks back. They’ve made it a little more upright, less rounded, the kidney grille is lower and wider, jutting forward, and the headlights extend to the grille. I actually prefer the new front, and the rear too, I find is much cleaner and sharper, if perhaps less distinctive.

It’s in the profile view that the X5 has lost some of its beefiness, the higher swage line, flattens out the sides and whilst the side scoop on the front fender is cool, I miss the concave surface and muscular wheel arches which defined heftier stance of the old car. The new version is sleeker and more modern, but comes across as somewhat dainty, perched as it is, above those massive wheels.

2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i

In any case it’s still very much recognisable as a BMW X5, as is the rest of the car and indeed the drive. Overall it’s all just evolved and improved, and still pretty much stays on script. Those who owned or liked the previous X5 will flock to this new car without hesitation.

It’s not quite as focussed or as agile as a Porsche Cayenne when pushed hard on the road, and of course it can’t deliver the multi-terrain master antics of a Range Rover Sport, but it is solid, dependable, will startle many a sportscar just for kicks, get you to the farm on time carrying your family and all their gear in its bigger-than-ever boot, and turn up looking utterly classy at the poshest of nightspots, not even needing an invite.

The X5 just got even better.

2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i

2014 BMW X5
Price: AED395,000 ($108k) Est
Engine: 4.4-litre V8 twin-turbo, 450bhp @ 5500rpm, 479lb ft @ 2000-4500pm
Performance: 0-100kph 5.0s, top speed 250kph, 10.5L/100km
Transmission: Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Weight: 2250kg

Which fast SUV would you have, this new X5, the Porsche Cayenne, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, Range Rover Sport or Mercedes ML63 AMG? Tell us below



One response to “2014 BMW X5 xDrive 50i Review”

  1. Khedr says:

    I’ll take the porsche if I am aged between 28-40. If take the rover however if I were 40 and above.

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