BMW has developed something of a knack with its bigger saloons for combining sharpened directional response and cornering balance in a rounded and refined overall package.

This fourth-generation X5 pulls off this combination just as impressively as those saloons, and although it doesn’t quite dominate every rival with its outright body control and road-holding like its predecessors once did, it’s certainly an amicably poised and comfortable steer.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
I’d heartily recommend the air suspension and I wouldn’t warn you off integral active steering if you park regularly in tight spots. BMW’s four-wheel steering system is quite a subtle execution.

With the adaptive air suspension set to Comfort, the X5 cruises along with a cushioned sense of rolling refinement you wouldn’t have associated with it a decade ago. At pace, over undulating roads, it deals with compressions fluently but allows the body to rebound more than fans of a connected, taut road feel might prefer.

But given the impressive cabin refinement we mentioned earlier (which is marred only when you encounter surfaces coarse enough to excite the sidewalls of those runflat tyres – and that’s not too often), it’s unlikely the prospect of a drive from one end of the country to the other would cause even the slightest apprehension.

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From a rolling refinement perspective, it’s just a bit of a shame that at town speeds the X5’s softer set-up can permit enough unchecked body movement to create some head-toss in the car’s cabin, which doesn’t suit the car too well; and that the 21in alloys fitted to our M Sport-spec test car were tripped up by the occasional sharp edge.

On faster, flowing roads, the X5 comes into its own, as you’d hope and expect it might. Swap from Comfort to Sport mode and the suspension brings the BMW’s underbelly 20mm closer to the Tarmac, and the X5’s mass is even more adroitly kept in check particularly through tighter corners. Coupled with steering that usefully takes on weight and is increasingly direct off centre, the car has abundant, confidence-inspiring grip and traction. There’s more than enough of a dynamic edge about what’s on offer to appeal to the more enthusiastic driver.

The car’s ‘Adaptive’ drive mode ought to be the perfect everyday compromise between the two states, but isn’t quite. The testers tended to mix and match individual preferences for the car’s steering, engine, transmission and suspension systems via its ‘Sport Individual’ setting to arrive at their personally perfect combination. But, having done that, most ended up happy that they’d found a luxury SUV with a deal more dynamism and handling appeal than most they could think of.

Through the myriad fast corners that populate Millbrook’s Hill Route, the abundant grip generated by the X5 seemed to be something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the car never felt anything other than planted and secure. On the other, though, this tenacity with which it held on to the road’s surface near the limit of grip seemed to emphasise just how heavy a car the X5 now is. You could feel the car’s mass testing the damping authority of the suspension, and the progressive give of the tyre sidewalls – and in neither respect was the tidiness and poise of the car’s handling quite preserved when it came to it.

The 30d’s torque-rich motor was also well-suited to the numerous elevation changes, capable of providing more than enough pulling power almost regardless of the gear selected.

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