Most men have their own dream garages. I know I’ve daydreamed about this countless times before, even limiting myself to ‘just’ a total of five cars. One of the five parking bays in my dream garage is reserved for an SUV; although I’ve yet to decide on which one and am swaying between a Porsche Cayenne, or a BMW X5. I recently approached BMW Malaysia and expressed interest in taking their 2011 E70 X5 for a small road trip over the long weekend, and they graciously agreed.
Cayenne or X5?
I’m a fairly visual person, so I’ll admit right now that I was never a fan of the first generation X5. In fact, I never quite liked the first generation Cayenne either. In 2006, the new E70 X5 was launched, and I was in love. Its imposing looks was a plus to me, finalizing it as a contender for a spot in my dream garage. What has changed in this facelift? The front bumper has been redesigned, with a larger kidney grille to allow for better airflow. The halos are now full LEDs in white (previously yellow), and fog lamps now sit slightly higher on the bumper. On the rear, the taillights get the signature L-shaped LED design and the exhausts are now circular instead of (previously) oval; all this helps to add points in the visual department. Wheels are 19” alloys; a bit small – 20” would have filled the wheel-arches better, in my opinion.
Halo lights look fantastic - night or day.
Clean L-shaped LEDs on the rear.
Exhaust tips are now circular, and look much better than before the facelift.
The 19" wheels do look a little small; I think 20" or 21" wheels would fill up the gaps nicely.
Looks aside, the numbers were also quite impressive… the X5 pictured is an xDrive 35i unit that has a new N55 twin-scroll, single turbo 3.0L in-line six that produces 306PS, 400Nm and completes the zerotohundred sprint in 6.8 seconds. These numbers are hot-hatch territory; an Mk6 Golf GTI in comparison completes the sprint in 6.9 seconds. So how exactly does a twin-scroll turbo differ from a conventional turbo? In short, two exhaust headers, located 180 degrees apart, feeds two separate streams of gas into a single impeller. The impeller is said to be able to spin in a smoother flow which also helps with efficiency. Mated to an 8-speed Steptronic automatic ‘box, fuel consumption is said to average only 10.1L/100km. Similar to the KERS system in F1, the X5 comes with BMW's Brake Energy Regeneration. This system is programmed to disengage the alternator and charges the battery when coasting or braking and BMW claims this can save 1-2% in overall fuel consumption. In the real world, I was only able to achieve an average 15L/100km; not too horrendous for such a large vehicle, especially considering how I was stuck in an hour long traffic jam, and I had quite a few sporadic ‘outbursts’.
Some say this is the 'claw' stance...
Huge nostrils equals more air.
Twin-scroll turbo, not twin turbo.
Stepping into the X5 for the first time, I realized how small I felt. The X5 is enormous! I’m a stocky 5’10” and the X5 swallowed me whole and if I had to be honest, I quite liked its supersized everything. The seats up front are large and very comfortable. In the rear, seating positions were a little less accommodating – there was plenty of legroom, but the upright position meant long distance travelling would be slightly uncomfortable for rear occupants. The X5 actually has a 2-3-2 seating position; there are two collapsible seats in the rear which, when not in use, frees up a lot of space. I’ll be honest; there are occasions when the extra seats come in handy, and I faced that exact scenario one afternoon when I had 6 occupants and just the X5 to travel down 1000m to scourge for food.
Plenty of space in here. Button placement angled ever so slightly towards the driver.
Even the side mirrors are bigger than the average Joe!
Large sun-roof extends all the way to the back.
Power, ride, and handling are strong suits of the X5 and in these aspects, it really delivers. The X5 35i is a real athlete for such a big, heavy vehicle. The six-cylinder powerplant provides plenty of grunt; linear in delivery, well balanced, and finely tuned...and what an engine note! Handling is pretty great too; I was able to take quite a few enthusiastic corners, but you’re always aware of how much mass your carrying. Ride is however fairly harsh, and while road pimples will pose no issue, imperfections can still be jarringly felt. Enthusiastic driving is perhaps best when you have no passengers… at least not in the rear. I tried to carve just one corner (with five passengers) before they ganged up on me, twisted my arm and told me to drive slow... and in moments that I had to slow down, the massive brakes work well to provide plenty of stopping power.
2011 BMW X5 (E70) - YouTube
Perhaps the only disappointing issue I faced was with the bland interior. Very business-like, with all the leather and wood-grain trim, but utterly boring. There is no zing in here and every detail is monotonously straight to the point. Ultimately, it didn’t take me very much time to figure out where all the buttons for miscellaneous controls were. The large screen above the A/C vents displays a lot of relevant, useful information – navigation, music, vehicle settings, etc – all controlled via the intuitive iDrive system. Boring interior aside, one gripe I had was with the two-tiered A/C vents on both sides of the car. I suppose this could come in handy during those times you wanted air blown into your nose and ear at the same time…
iDrive system very intuitive to use.
Everything is electronic; the handbrake has been reduced to just a button now.
Two-tier A/C vents don't make a lot of sense to me.
With such a huge vehicle, there are bound to be bigger blind spots and this is where the parking sensors really came in handy. Engage the parking assist button, and a holistic view of the car is displayed. Engage reverse, and the rear cameras turn on, plotting your path as you turn the wheel. I spent some time in some cramped basements and I’ve got to say these sensors really saved the day. The heads-up-display (HUD) was another thing that really impressed me. I’ve always thought HUD systems were gimmicky, but I’ve come to realize that having vital information (speed/warnings, etc) displayed on your windscreen actually does reduce eyesight travel time. This is very useful, especially when travelling at higher speeds, thus allowing the driver a quicker response time in case any ‘obstacles’ appeared on the road. There is one other reason why I preferred to use the HUD rather than the conventional instrument cluster – the slightly annoying fuel consumption gauge. Perhaps it was my driving style, but I found the constant movement of the needle to both extremities a distraction.
Parking sensors are a life-saver; especially with a vehicle this massive.
Reverse camera also helps greatly, plotting your path as you turn the wheel.
HUD impressed me the most, surprisingly.
See the FC gauge on the bottom of the right-side instrument cluster? I tried very hard to ignore it...
At the end of the day, I’ve got to say I really enjoyed driving the X5. It is one of those cars that make you feel really good about yourself, even though I’m not exactly sure why. Most owners in Malaysia will likely never use their luxury SUVs for any off-roading activity, so I struggle to see the real purpose of ever getting one. I do, however, have an inkling of how they might feel in one of these... elevated seating position, ability to transverse an array of terrains (or parking on kerbs, depending on the situation) and the sensation you get when other cars scramble out of your way on the highways… as the Internet meme goes, you really do feel LIKE A BOSS in one of these. And that makes all the sense in the world to me.
Good enough to turn heads, and make you feel good about yourself...
To view all pictures of the BMW X5, please click here.
2011 BMW X5 35i (E70)
• Zerotohundred: 6.8secs
• Top Speed: 242km/h
• Engine: 3.0L turbo in-line six
• Power: 306PS / 5,800 rpm
• Torque: 400Nm / 1,200 - 5,000 rpm
• Weight: N/A
• Fuel Economy: 10.1L/100km (claimed)
• Wheels: N/A
• Tyres: N/A
• Price: MYR588,800
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