The Range Rover Sport may be the Swiss Army Knife of cars but does the BMW X5 have the edge? we find out
What is it? Judging from its size and sheer bulk, you’d guess the new X5 is a big, thirsty machine designed for family space rather than sportiness but car enthusiasts know otherwise. This is as much a performance car as any other BMW. Following the phenomenal success of the Evoque and the critical acclaim for the new Range Rover the Sport is Land Rover’s latest entry in a line-up
Who is it aimed at? There’s stiff competition for the wallets of SUV buyers and both cars will appeal to anyone looking for a premium SUV
Styling? Longer than the model it replaces BWM have finely tuned the X5 rather than redesigned it. Restyled headlamps now slide the whole way across the front and the chrome slated kidney grille has been adjusted in keeping with the rest of the family. Overall though it’s not as well proportioned as before and the effect is quite drab. The macho bulging wheel arches and wide tyres that gave the previous model an almost menacing presence have given way to a more estate car-like stance.
In contrast, the new Range Rover Sport is strikingly different from the model it replaces. With styling details borrowed from the Evoque and full size Range Rover, the chiselled exterior gives it a hot hatch like stance.
Under the bonnet? Armed with a stunning 510bhp 5.0 litre V8 the Range Rover Sport shoots from standstill to 100 km/h in just over 5 seconds. Its velocity achieved by a formidable 625 Nms of torque. There are three other engines in the range; two diesels and one petrol. A hybrid will join the range next year.
The X5 range starts with a 215bhp BMW X5 sDrive25d, powered by a four-cylinder diesel, there is also a four wheel drive option of the same. Those looking for more power should opt for the 254bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder xDrive30d which starts at €78,600. BMW also offer a 5.0 litre petrol, the xDrive50i, that bolts from standstill to 100 km/h in five seconds.
What about inside? What the X5 lacks on the outside it makes up for on the inside, sit behind the wheel and the dashboard is beautifully uncluttered with a variety of materials and textures that exude quality. From the black gloss and white leather to the ambient lighting our M50d test car is pure luxury. The seats are both supportive and soft and visibility all round is excellent. Room is good front and back and even middle seat passengers won’t feel like they have drawn the short straw.
The 40:20:40 split in the middle row is new and allows for much greater flexibility than before. With the seats upright there is 650 litres of luggage space. There is also an optional third row of seats making it a seven-seater.
The inner beauty of the Range Rover Sport nearly eclipses its stunning exterior, inside it is richly luxurious. The seating position is lower than the model it replaces but every bit as commanding. For the first time there is also an option of two extra seats in the back. The business-class aura extends to the rear where there is a huge amount of space and a host of gadgets to keep all entertained or distracted on long journeys. Overall it makes passengers feel a little more special inside than when in the X5.
On the Road? The on-road manners of the X5 are subtly different from the Range Rover Sport. It feels more like a performance model and almost defies gravity with no body-roll in the corners. It is remarkably agile for its size and it tackles bends like a car half its size but it is cornering at speed where you truly appreciate the effort and expense that went into the X5’s development. On the downside the steering fails to impress, it’s unnecessarily heavy around town and feels numb and disconnected at faster speeds.
Press the start button on the Range Rover Sport and the exhaust delivers a deep and resonant note that pairs beautifully with the car’s excellent acceleration and overall performance. Beautifully controlled on bends the suspension is transformed and is both forgiving and stiff in equal measure. The new torque vectoring system means the wheels remain firmly planted when cornering at pace. On the road the Sport feels nothing like its predecessor and while it is still a huge vehicle and tips the scales at about two tonnes it is light and agile. Switch to dynamic and the dash dials go red and the character of the car changes completely.
Off the Road? Off road, the Range Rover Sport is mind bogglingly good and is unmatched by any of the German competition. At the launch, the X5 reassured through a wet and slippery forest and over small hill dunes but while it was all accomplished with ease , we were left unconvinced that a road car wouldn’t have achieved the same. But it is on road which is the true battle ground and despite the very similar weight of both vehicles, the X5 feels the lighter and is the most agile of the two.
And Safety? As expected both are well equipped with the latest standard safety technology and on a day to day basis their sturdy construction is enough to inspire confidence.
Options? The BMW X5 is available in a variety of trim levels, the basic being the SE model. Three packages can be added to SE version to add a variety of interior and exterior trim finishes; they are Design, Pure and Experience. BMW also provides an M Sport package, which ads M-inspired body styling, sports seats, adaptive M suspension, quad exhaust pipes and lots of M badges on the exterior. Our range topping test car the M50d , costs €109, 630.
Prices for the Range Rover Sport start at €84,360 for the entry level 3.0 TDV6 S rising to €144,900 for the range topping V8 5.0 SC – Autobiography Dynamic. It is available in four trims: S, SE, HSE and Autobiography.
What about fuel economy? The BMW X5 may be huge but it’s deceptively frugal. On a mix of urban and motorway it will return 42.2mpg which is impressive for both its size and velocity. The Range Rover Sport, with a 3.0 litre turbodiesel returns 37.7mpg.
Okay so the Verdict? So if you were buying a premium SUV which would you choose? If elegance is defined by speed, power and space than the answer is probably the BMW X5, it is the most complete SUV currently on the market and is a compelling combination of economy, performance and dynamic handling. But if I was opting for a remote rural idyll, probably not, the muscular Range Rover Sport is engineered to take on the most gruelling off road travel you can imagine without ever compromising on road performance.
The Range Rover Sport is the Swiss army knife of cars and is packed with an astounding range of driving aids but in reality most of us will never appreciate its endless mud-plugging abilities. The X5 on the other hand has everything you will actually need, it is slightly bigger, faster and more efficient than before and crucially it does it all for less.
|BMW X5||Range Rover Sport|
|Version||xDrive M50d 5dr||4.4 SDV8 AutoDynamic 339 5dr|
|Body style||4 X 4||4 X 4|
|Engine Size cc||2993||4367|
|Power bhp||381 at 4000-4400||339 at 3500|
|Torque lb ft||545 at 2000-3000||516 at 1500-3000|
|Transmission Type (MT/AT)||Automatic||Automatic|
|Number of gears||8-spd||8-spd|
|CO2 Emissions (g/km)||177||229|
|Max. speed||250 kph||225 kph|
|Boot capacity Seats Up (litres)||650||784|
|Boot capacity Seats down (litres)||1870||1761|
5th March, 2014