BMW says it has made significant improvements to the ride quality and driveability of its fourth-generation X5 SUV as a direct result of customer feedback.
The fully redesigned X5 made its motor show debut in Paris this week following its unveiling in June.
It is now set for an Australian launch in November this year, very soon after its global rollout.
BMW head of the X5 project Johann Kistler told Australian journalists in Paris that he was keen to ensure the new X5 was a true driver’s car, adding that BMW engineers worked hard to make improvements to driveability.
“BMW is not a computer with wheels,” he said. “It is a car, with connected functions and with driver assistant functions.
“I am now 40 years with BMW and my first car was a 323 in 1979. So I personally stand for this driving experience. If you drive this car, you should have this feeling. Not to drive a large and heavy car. To drive it on the road with driving pleasure.
“And so that was the target and, of course, now … we have two 12.3-inch screens, we have all the safety conditions, we have all the connected functions, driving assistances, which is necessary. But for this car, driving experience I think it is one of the core targets for BMW.”
As previously reported, the new X5 ushers in a four-wheel ‘integral active steering’ system, a two-axle air suspension setup with automatic self-levelling and an optional off-road package that includes underbody protection, four-mode terrain select and a rear locking differential.
BMW Group corporate and government affairs spokesperson Cristophe Koenig said driving comfort was also a key area of improvement for the new X5, with the company obtaining feedback from customers.
“At the end of the day we are not completely changing the concept of X5, you are just bringing this stuff in a better way,” he said. “You are improving it but you are not doing a radical change on the car. That’s why you don’t have a bigger car. It is only 3cm longer than the previous one. The track remains the same.
“We had to work on driving comfort because we knew the car was good for driving dynamic in terms of a sporty engine, but customers said it would be great if the car was more comfortable.
“And this is the point we improved a lot. Of course, by improving driving comfort, by adding the air suspension, we also opened the door to the off-road package because it helps us that way.
“It is a BMW. The driving dynamic is a key thing we have in every car.”
Mr Kistler said BMW only increased the length of the X5 marginally because the X7 seven-seat upper-large SUV will fill a gap in its line-up above the X5.
“We always think about what is the best way, so it is not possible or doesn’t make sense to make it longer, because we are thinking about the X7,” he said.
“X7 will be a different concept but it will of course be longer. And therefore the length was not really too important to do it more.”
He added that despite the shared underpinnings of the X5 and X7 – both are based on BMW’s CLAR architecture already used by the 3, 5 and 7 Series and X3 – the two models will have distinct characteristics to further differentiate themselves.
“You have the same architecture, but it will be not only be a longer car, it should be a different feel and look,” he said. “It is a complete own car with its own identity.”
The X7 was presented in concept form at last year’s Frankfurt motor show, and the production-ready version will likely be uncovered at the Los Angeles motor show in December.
BMW Australia has confirmed that it will be offered Down Under and will hit dealerships in 2019.
Following the initial launch of the X5, BMW will roll out the plug-in hybrid version, and a full-fat X5 M is also expected to be offered. Meanwhile, the next-generation X6 may not surface for another 12 months.
One version of the X5 that will not be coming is an all-electric version – similar in theme to the upcoming iX3 – with Mr Kistler saying it makes more sense to wait for the next-generation ‘i’ architecture, which will underpin the production version of the X5-sized iNext that was revealed last month.
“We think about this but … we will do a lot of investigation (into) products that are fully electric. But at the moment for the X5 we have combustion engines and availability with (plug-in) hybrid.”
BMW has sold more than 2.1 million X5s globally since the launch of the original in 2000 and Mr Kistler said he expected the new-generation version to be the best-selling iteration of the model yet.
“So far every generation was selling more cars than previous one and of course it is one of our targets,” he said.
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