The BMW X5 transformed the luxury SUV sector when it was launched 20 years ago.
A smooth ride, luxurious interior and car-like driving dynamics were all prioritised above off road ability.
The result was a car that has sold 2.2 million units over its lifespan and inspired everything from the Audi Q7 to the Volvo XC90 and the Range Rover Sport.
The fourth generation model is more efficient and luxurious, with more technology on board. You might not guess by looking at it but it’s new from the ground up. Although some engines have been carried over, they’ve been thoroughly fettled with to provide more power and better fuel economy.
You can get some fairly bonkers engine options, such as the 530bhp, petrol powered M50i or its diesel counterpart 400bhp M50d. There’s even a plug-in hybrid which returns a claimed 135mpg – though if you don’t charge it up religiously and stay within its battery range, that return will drop precipitously.
By far the most popular engines will be the 30d I drove and its slightly more powerful counterpart, the 40d. With 265bhp, my 30d got from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, meaning it will leave most hot hatches in its wake.
So it’s fast. It also handles better than almost any other large SUV. Grip is superb – though at well over two tonnes you wouldn’t want to push it past its limits – and the X5 stays flat through tight corners.
What the X5 does best though is eat up miles in supreme comfort. All models now have air suspension meaning comfort has improved across the board. We took ours up to Glen Affric for a weekend exploring. It cruised up the A9 in virtual silence, while even on narrow Highland backroads the X5 didn’t feel too bulky or unwieldy.
The interior is superb, with quality leather and and soft-touch plastics. BMW’s excellent iDrive control system is paired with at touchscreen for the best of both worlds. The 650 litre boot is capacious and there’s room for three adults in the back, with an option of seven seats for those who need it.
Prices start around £57,000 and my M Sport trim model cost just over £60,000 , though a wealth of options brought the end price tag past £74,000.
Well heeled buyers of luxury SUVs are now spoiled for choice. The X5 was the car that started the craze, though, and it remains amonst the very best of them.