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With improvements for 2014, BMW can justify the increase in sticker price for the X5. (BMW)
With improvements for 2014, BMW can justify the increase in sticker price for the X5. (BMW)

2014 BMW X5

2014 BMW X5: It's worth the wait for diesel Add to ...

First, the diesel. Think about the diesel if your plans include the reinvented 2014 BMW X5 SUV.

And if it looks like a diesel X5 will be in your future, you will have some time to mull your choice. That’s because BMW Canada won’t begin selling the diesel version of the reinvented X5 until the spring of next year – as the 35d. Gas models, the 35i and 50i, go on sale at the end of this year.

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This brings me to pricing. Pricing is often the last thing the sales people want to discuss, but it is the first thing on my mind every time I take a test ride – especially in a premium one such as the X5.

So here we go: the X5 xDrive 35i, powered by the TwinPower Turbo 3.0-litre-inline six-cylinder (300 horsepower), will go for $62,900 plus fees, taxes and the cost of a few deliciously pricey extras. (By the way, the TwinPower moniker is an odd one and perhaps even a little misleading. TwinPower doesn’t signify twin turbos, but a two-stage turbo system. Call me crazy for thinking like this, but for me, twin means a pair, not a process.)

Then there’s the X5 with the 4.4-litre TwinPower Turbo V-8. Oh, my goodness. What an engine: 445 horsepower, 479 lb-ft of torque, buttery smooth and quiet, but not exactly a premium fuel-sipper at 14.1 litres/100 km in the city (9.2 highway). This one will set you back $76,900, plus.

If you’re keeping score, you’ll have noticed a price increase. The 2014 X5 with the six is up $1,100, while the V-8 jumps $1,200. I am surprised by that. In such a competitive market, how does BMW Canada find room for a price increase – especially given the outgoing X5 is on offer with thousands and thousands of cash incentives on the table? The end-of-year clear-out sale, if you will.

Well, BMW can go for a bigger sticker because the larger, more powerful, more entertaining, more comfortable, more fuel-efficient and safer 2014 X5 is a better rig. It’s that simple. True, the new X5 is not really any better-looking; the design is strictly evolutionary, not revolutionary. But after spending some wheel-time in this X5, I was floored by the small-car handling of a big-time truck with three rows of seats and a list of doodads that stretches out so far I need binoculars to see the end of it.

That’s the housekeeping out of the way. Here’s what else you need to know. Lovely as the gasoline X5 versions are, the diesel trumps them all. So good is this SUV, I cannot understand why anyone would want a gasoline X5. Certainly pricing won’t be a barrier. The outgoing X5 diesel lists for $64,300, so we can expect the next-generation 35d to come in around $65,400 – way less than the gasoline V-8 and only slightly more than the inline-six.

Consider some facts. The inline-six diesel is rated for Europe (we’ve yet to see Canadian specs) at 258 hp and a healthy 413 lb-ft of torque. And the torque, the twist at the wheels, is almost all there at 1,500 rpm, versus 2,000 rpm for the gas V-8.

You will love the pure responsiveness of this engine. And you’ll embrace the performance (0-100 km/h in 6.9 seconds, top speed of 230 km/h) and fuel economy (European average fuel consumption of 6.2 litres/100 km or 45.6 mpg in the imperial world). Really? Truly? For a rig that tips the scales at more than 2,300 kilograms? I ask you again: Why would you want the gasoline version? Because you don’t. Transmission options don’t even come into play; all X5s get the same eight-speed autobox.

They all look the same, too. If you like the current 2013 X5, you’ll be happy with the design updates for the third-generation 2014 X5. BMW coyly says the exterior has been given a “contemporary and eye-catching update” and that’s true as far as it goes.

The days of radical change coming out of BMW’s design house left several years ago with former design boss Chris Bangle. Love him or hate him, Bangle pushed his designers to be daring and different – and somehow he convinced the suits who run the company to go along with him. He’s now running his own design house and, as I understand it, making wines in Italy. BMW’s loss.

This new X5 certainly has the right stance and proportions. The short front overhang is right, the long wheelbase makes for a powerful look and decent cabin room, there is a nice new take on BMW’s twin kidney grille out front – they're set between the dual round headlights – and rising character lines in the sheet metal draw out to the flanks where they define the classic wedge shape. Nothing wrong here, but nothing overly imaginative, either.

2014 BMW X5
 

The cabin? Handsome, but not elegant or astonishing. What is obvious is the spaciousness. This is a big truck, no question. Big people will be comfortable hauling around their big things and pulling their big trailers. All the pieces fit together perfectly and while the materials don’t feel exactly rich, they are of high quality.

I am no fan of the TV-style display screen sitting atop the dashboard; I am amazed BMW hasn’t found a way to integrate this “freestanding 26-cm Control Display Monitor” – an important source of information – into the dashboard so that it doesn’t look like a Sony mounted on your media room wall. Alas, this sort of screen mounting is becoming commonplace with certain German car companies.

Nonetheless, I love the look of the interior trim and accent strips, which extend into the front door panels, only to be picked up again in the rear door panels. This sort of design precision is laudable. As for gadgets, you still access them through iDrive, but I am done complaining. I’ve figured out iDrive after a decade of trying. The standard navigation system is now fairly easy to program and it comes with a touch pad. Some of the more frequently used controls – radio volume, basic climate control – can still be managed the old-fashioned, pre-iDrive way with knobs and buttons. Hallelujah.

BMW has also joined the competition by conjuring up a folding backrest of the second-row seat. This one now can be split 40:20:40. The designers point out that the new seating configuration allows the cargo hold to open up capacity in stages – 650 to 1,870 litres. At the rear, you access the cargo hold via the X5’s traditional clam shell, two-piece tailgate. Throughout there is plenty of storage space and cupholders that, in some cases, hold a bottle of up to 1.5-litres. Surely that’s a nod to North American sensibilities.

Most of all, you’ll like driving this rig. I’m sure of it. There is both engineering and art behind the work of engineers tuning this and every BMW. This all-wheel-drive truck manages to be sure-footed on paved and unpaved roads, yet entertaining in the corners and comfortable on long, straight stretches of tarmac.

Drivers of the X5 can also dial up chassis settings based on taste and the driving conditions. A Driving Dynamics Control switch on the centre console allows you to choose Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Eco Pro modes, all at the press of a button. Depending on your mood and the need at hand, this allows you to customize the throttle response characteristics, power steering response, shift quality and more.

The extras available include the $3,500 Dynamic Adaptive Suspension, a $4,000 M Sport Line package with Adaptive M suspension and a $6,300 group of options bundling Active Roll Stabilization, Dynamic Performance Control, self-levelling rear (air) suspension and Dynamic Damper Control.

Some of this will sound foreign, but each allows you to fine-tune the ride and handling characteristics of the X5. Choice? The paradox here is that so much for some might be too much. At the very least, take your time ordering.

The truth is, even the most basic suspension layout is good. So is the powerful braking system. The latter delivers strong, stable and predictable braking that seemingly defies the laws of physics.

Best of all, always remember that the diesel X5 handles just as confidently as the gas version. As I said, of course you want the diesel.

Send your automotive maintenance, repair and buying questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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