BMW X5 review - how does it compare to the Porsche Cayenne? - Ride and Handling

BMW’s original SUV is still its best, still handling like a big 5-series. It’s just a shame it means so much less today…

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Ride and Handling 

The first X5 really was the first high-riding SUV with any semblance of saloon car-like handling, but as the market has expanded, the X5 now instead merely errs on the side of sporty. It must be said – the new X5 is just too big to be a giggle on twisty roads; refined, sophisticated and capable, yes. But fun? Not so much.

Once you climb a ladder and peer beyond the X5’s mass, you’ll find a steering set-up that is entirely free of any tangible feel, but it’s accurate and relatively confidence inspiring. Available as an option on all models is a rear-wheel-steering system, also known as Active Integral Steering in BMW speak. It does seem to have a positive effect on the car’s agility. You find yourself applying less lock than you imagine necessary. I would hesitate to go as far as calling it agile, but more agile than expected seems to be a fair assessment.

Start throwing the car around and its air-suspension system doesn’t fall over itself either, although all of the cars we drove on test were fitted with adaptive dampers. All models ride well, especially considering the enormous wheels on offer, but go to 21- or 22-inch wheels and there is a brittle edge to the ride quality, owing to the lack of sidewall holding all that weight up off the tarmac.

Be greedy with the power and the BMW’s slight rear-bias becomes more apparent, with a tenacious front end that will hold on to the tarmac longer than the rear seems willing, although it never quite achieves the transparent body control that keeps the Porsche Cayenne on a large SUV pedestal, nor is it anything close to throttle adjustable. I liken it to seeing a hippopotamus run at full speed towards one of its foes: powerful and controlled, but only just. In reality, the X5 drives 75 per cent as well as a 5-series saloon, it’s just a shame that means so much less than it did 20 years ago.

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