Delhi to Jaipur or vice-versa is a populated highway route and it isn't a visual treat till the time you enter the Rajasthan border. However, Jaipur in itself is a beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage and a rapidly growing modern infrastructure. The distance between my home and my destination in Jaipur turned out to be 286 km according to Google Maps. While it's ideal to have an early morning start in order to avoid traffic, I had no option but to start only at about 11:30 am from Dwarka in Delhi.
I'd received the X5 a night before and this wasn't my first time behind its wheel. The present X5 was introduced in the Indian market in 2014, but it has been one of most 'driver-friendly SUVs' around in its segment. Also, since it's locally-assembled, it offers more value-for-money as it was launched at a price close to Rs 10 lakh cheaper than the model it replaced.
The X5, compared to its predecessor features updated styling, which gives it a wider and raised stance. There isn't any element that stands out entirely in a good or bad way but all of them put together, offer a dynamic and muscular design. Owing to its large proportions and the design, the X5 commands a more dominating road-presence compared to its two key German competitors.
Inside the cabin, one is greeted to a typical BMW interior with the colour screen sitting on top of the centre console. Below there are the usual climate control buttons and the joystick type drive-selector. As far as the material quality and ergonomics are concerned, there isn't much scope to criticise. However, the dashboard design itself looks dated when compared to that of Mercedes-Benz. The Volvo XC90 sits in another league altogether in terms of cabin design and this is the only area, where we found the X5 to be trailing the competition. That said, space and comfort are generously available and even taller occupants won't have a problem with the headroom and under-thigh support.
I was heading to Jaipur with a lot of luggage, courtesy long-time pending demands from some friends for various stuff from old Delhi. The boot easily gobbled up all the luggage and still had space for a couple of bags so full marks on the boot space.
Behind the driver's seat, one has access to all features associated with this segment. The infotainment system offers access to USB, Bluetooth, CD and navigation. The iDrive system allows one to input destination address or contact name using the touch pad on the circular selector. Having driven BMWs over last few years, it's good to see the iDrive interface simplifying. The X5's unit is fairly easy to use and getting through to desired menus isn't hard.
With the luggage stashed in the boot and after completing some pending bank work, I started driving from Dwarka. The drive from my home to Rajiv Chowk in Gurgaon was smooth as traffic was light but just after Rajiv Chowk, all hell broke loose. People driving in opposite lanes, badly parked cars, poor road maintenance and some more usual Gurgaon traffic scenarios meant the traffic was only crawling by now. Closer to Hero Honda Chowk, the pace slowed further and almost after the crossing, I was moving a few feet every few minutes. A quick check with Google Maps revealed that the jam extends to a point a few hundred metres ahead of the Manesar crossing and the suggested delay was over an hour! This surely was worse than it looked because my previous experiences have made it clear that when stuck in jams, the time to get out is 10 to 15 % longer than suggested by Google. I inched a few times over the next 10 minutes and Google Maps extended the time to more than 80 minutes now. This was getting worse by the minute!
A couple of minutes later I stopped next to a steep incline from the highway, right into the sand and bush infested area. I was thinking about this being a possible exit, considering I had an SUV with all of its wheels deriving power from the engine. However, I wasn't sure of where this path would lead to and just then a motorcyclist turned towards the incline to roll down. Quickly I rolled the windows down and shouted to check where does this path open and to my delight, the biker said, well ahead of this jam. While his words brought a smile to my face, I couldn't help notice some doubt on his face. He then said, this is an expensive vehicle and a few metres ahead there is no road and only loose sand and stones left from construction. I told him the X5 should be fine and checked if there were any nasty pits or other things to watch out for, for which he said 'none'. Quickly, I turned towards the incline and the X5 easily rolled into the sandy path below.
As expected, a few car and two-wheel drive SUV owners followed me and those in the sedan were greeted to their cars underbelly being scratched as the cars arrived upon their break-over angles. Momentum ensured, the sedan didn't get stranded and the other SUVs managed as well. Unsurprisingly, a few metres ahead, the sedan, two of them, both got their wheels buried in the sand and the occupants resorted to pushing. The same happened a little ahead with the rear-wheel drive SUVs. This meant only the X5 and a Mahindra Scorpio 4x4 trailing me were accompanying the motorcycles moving along this path. The 209 mm ground clearance of the X5 meant overcoming the stones leftover from construction wasn't a problem. On loose sand, the all-wheel drive system was quickly shifting the torque between the four wheels in order to maintain traction. All I had to do was maintain a gentle throttle input to ensure the wheels don't dig themselves in the sand due to wheel spin.
Eventually, the X5 reached the end of the off-road path and the exit required me to go around a residence block, right onto NH8, well-ahead of the traffic jam. Around 20 minutes of off-roading ensured I saved more than hour from being stuck in the jam.
Thereon, the drive to Jaipur was smooth and quick except for a couple of bottlenecks due to ongoing construction of flyovers. On tarmac, the X5 shone and made it clear that while it may be lagging in terms of cabin design, it continues to be at the top of the game when it comes to handling and dynamics. This X5 also sports a softer suspension than the earlier generation, which translates into a better ride quality despite the run-flat tyres.
Dispatching kilometres is an easy task due to the 3.0 litre inline six-cylinder diesel engine, which develops 255 hp and 560 Nm of torque. The engine is mated to an 8-speed transmission from ZF, which is quick between the gears and complements the powerful character of the engine. There is almost no turbo-lag off the start and once above1,500 rpm, the motor moves with ease and once past 2,000 rpm, the engine becomes ready for a pushing the occupants firmly in their seats at the press of the throttle.
On an empty stretch of the highway, I was able to do a couple of acceleration runs of which, the quicker one was done in 7.1 seconds according to a handheld GPS device. For an SUV of this size, the number is pretty impressive. Along the highway to Jaipur and then on the way back again, the X5 surprisingly returned a fuel-efficiency of 15.8 km/l, despite a loaded boot and a couple of days' driving in Jaipur city.
Once back in Delhi, I was left impressed with the X5's experience and was glad I decided to take it for the journey. I was already aware of its on-road capabilities but what impressed me more was its off-road capabilities, which were put to test out in the real-world and not on a custom-made off-road track.
The BMW X5 then is a strong contender in its segment for those looking for a muscular SUV that offers a good balance between on-road and off-road performance. It has a spacious and comfortable cabin with a generous list of features and safety kit. It does, however, need an update in terms of design to bring it up to speed with the cabins being offered by Mercedes-Benz and Volvo Cars. That said, once it comes to performance, the X5 leads the way in its segment and offers an impressive driving experience. While an SUV that is fast and handles well around corners sounds like an oxymoron, technology has made it possible and the X5 is a good example of that. Those looking to buy such an oxymoron should look no further than the X5, which is priced at Rs 76 lakh, ex-showroom, India. In case you have the earlier-generation X5 and are wondering why the new costs lesser, it's now being assembled in India.