A new decade had just started with the onset of 2020 and with almost a week done I thought it was best to start the year with a memorable drive. The destination I zeroed upon was Jodhpur since I had been to the Blue City many times earlier but always for work. Having heard a lot about Jodhpur’s history and the city’s beauty I wanted to explore the city at length. The drive from Delhi to Jodhpur is more than 600 km so this meant it was best to choose a vehicle that can devour miles with ease and be comfortable to drive. With these requirements, the choice was fairly simple as it had to be a BMW and the new X5 it was.
Fast forward to the day of travel, which was a Wednesday, we left from West Delhi at 6 am. The distance we had to cover to our hotel in Jodhpur was 609 km and Google Maps showed an estimated time of 11 hours. At 6 am, there was darkness all around and this was where the Laser Lights really helped as the illumination was excellent and this meant that we were able to maintain a good average speed right from the start.
Helping us power down the fairly smooth NH8 after crossing Gurgaon was a 3.o Litre six0xylinder turbocharged diesel engine. With a power output of 265 hp and a mammoth 620 Nm of torque, just a dab at the throttle was all that was needed to reach triple-digit speed effortlessly. Off the line, there is a hint of turbo lag and some vibrations too, which can be felt through the pedals but once the turbo is fully spooled up (around 1700 rpm) things smooth out. Thereafter, the NVH levels are appreciably in control and the motor runs silk smooth while cruising at highway speeds.
The X5 offers different driving modes – Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport Plus and Adaptive. Switching between these changes the throttle response, steering and suspension as per the name of the modes. Adaptive mode automatically senses driver inputs and switches to the best-suited mode for that time. I found the Sport Plus to be the best mode to drive as the new X5 feels a tad too soft in Comfort mode at highway speeds.
This brings us to one of the biggest changes in the character of the new BMW X5 as it isn’t as sharp or driver-focussed as the older model. Is that a bad thing? Not really because if you’re a thorough enthusiast an SUV most likely wouldn’t be your choice of wheels. With the new X5 more inclined towards comfort I find it more appealing for a wider set of audience.
Power is sent to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, which does a damn impressive job. Shifts are quick and depending on the drive mode shift points are pushed higher or lower. The best part about this gearbox is that it adapts extremely well to any style of driving, leading to a positive experience for most types of drivers.
Coming back to the journey to Jodhpur, we had crossed the Jaipur bypass and turned from Nirman Nagar on to the Jaipur-Ajmer expressway. With about 270 km dispatched in three hours, we took our first break for breakfast at Hotel Highway King and some hot parathas with tea was the obvious choice to fill ourselves. After about 40 minutes we were back on the highway and this was when the comfortable cabin of the X5 started proving its advantage as all occupants had been sleeping blissfully in the car for almost three hours before we stopped for breakfast. Even after breakfast, it took everyone just about 15 minutes to go back to sleep while the X5 effortlessly dispatched kilometres.
The wide and comfortable rear seats offer good legroom and headroom, translating into a great place to be in during long journeys like this one. The rear climate control ensured the cabin was pleasantly warm while the one at the front was adjusted by me to keep things a bit on the cooler side.
In another couple of hours, we had crossed Kishangarh and were close to bypassing Ajmer city. The road condition on the Ajmer expressway is great and with mot too heavy traffic on a weekday, I was able to engage Cruise Control, leading to a relaxed and stressfree drive. Soon we bypassed the city of Ajmer and were on the highway to Jodhpur. Roads started to narrow a bit hereafter and one notable thing was the ineffective implementation of Fastag on these highways. Although there was a separate cash lane, vehicles were randomly entering lanes and paying with cash without being fined. On almost every toll I came across people having issues with automatic scanning of the Fastags as well leading to chaos and long vehicle queues. While this did slow us down considerably I must say that with time the system should get better and Fastag ultimately is the right way to go for improved future traffic management on highways.
As we continued to Jodhpur some locals suggested us not to take the turn after Beawar due to roadwork. Based on local intelligence, we drove to Pali and tuned from there to Jodhpur. The road after turning from Pali was also under construction but the good thing was that there was almost no traffic here except for the construction vehicles. At times, the X5 was the only vehicle on the road for minutes. On these roads, we came across patches where detours went around flyovers under construction. This meant we had to go off-road through some slopes onto a dusty and rough surface. The X5 with its high ground clearance and all-wheel drive handled this without a fuss. Honestly, this wasn’t a challenging off-road environment but any sedan going through here would have surely scraped its underbelly more than once.
Once past the construction zone, we were close to the Jodhpur cantonment area and military planes flying over Jodhpur skies greeted us in the city limits. Our hotel was inside the military area so we were soon at the hotel, 3:09 pm to be precise. This meant that despite not having a Fastag and wasting time in queues we had covered the 604 km distance in about nine hours (two breaks) with an average speed of 72.5 kmph. During the entire nine hours, we didn’t to constantly push the X5 hard as maintaining legal speed limits was a cakewalk for it. On a few occasions, we did push it to check what it’s capable of and the X5 proved that while it has softened it still can be an engaging vehicle to drive.
During our stay in Jodhpur, we visited the Mehrangarh Fort, Umaid Bhavan and the local markets and loved every bit of it. One thing that really stood out was the cleanliness maintained throughout the city and not just in or around popular tourist spots. The local food including the Kachoris, Lal Maas and Dal Baati Churma left us with a satisfied soul and an unforgettable experience. It was during the stay in Jodhpur only that we came across many onlookers and some SUV owners enquiring about the X5. With the new design philosophy, the X5 has a large kidney grille which some dislike but I think it grows on one with time. The SUV is larger and more spacious than its predecessor but the new design means it doesn’t look as aggressive as the previous model. The new BMW X5 looks more sophisticated and upmarket and that I think is precisely what most luxury SUV owners in India want.
A couple of days later it was time to bid goodbye to the lovely city of Jodhpur but not entirely since we were heading out to Khimsar for a day before returning to Delhi. The drive from Jodhpur to Khimsar is about 90 km and involves smooth roads mostly translating into a good driving experience. One thing you need to watch out for on these roads is frequent road occupancy by cattle so it’s best to stay within legal speed limits here.
Having spent a day at the beautiful Khimsar Fort, it was time for us to head back to Delhi. We left at around 10:30 am from Khimsar and drove on the Nagaur-Didwana-Sikar-Neemrana route leading us back to the familiar Jaipur-Delhi highway. Once again the return journey involved smooth roads but on this route, the roads were narrow on some stretches through villages and there was a lot of cattle found frequently on the highways. Our return journey was fortunately uneventful and once again the BMW X5 powered down the highways and occasional bad stretches without any complain.
While the roads during our drive were mostly straight we did encounter some curvy bits where we pushed the X5 to test its handling and it did not disappoint. It surely is not as sharp and stiff around corners as the last model but it does have a lot of grip. Body-roll is more noticeable than the previous generation but only if you push it really hard, which is not something I see most X5 owners doing in their vehicles.
I keep hearing some people constantly complaining about the new X5 not being as driver-focussed as the older model and they aren’t factually incorrect. However, I believe that you can ignore these rants entirely as the X5 now actually offers a better balance between everyday driving, practicality and luxury. It’s loaded to the gills with convenience features making it a great place for occupants. Most importantly, even though it has softened it still is more engaging to drive than most of its competitors.
With all these changes the new BMW X5 surely is a vastly improved vehicle over the previous generation. However, this progress doesn’t come cheap as the X5 range starts at Rs 73.30 lakh. However, for the money, you get an SUV that delivers exceedingly well in almost every department and for these reasons, it is a vehicle you cannot ignore if in the market for a luxury SUV. Just like you cannot ignore Jodhpur if you want a taste of Rajasthani royalty.
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