Mercedes-Benz M-Class ML63 2012 Review
There's something really intimidating about a vehicle that looks, sounds, goes and weighs as much...
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Small changes make a big difference to the top-selling prestige SUV in the country. BMW’s third-generation X5 is effectively a major update on the current model but it represents small but tangible improvements in every area from power to fuel use and interior refinement. The end result is a demonstrably better vehicle.
You pay more for the privilege of owning a new X5. For the three models that will go on sale in mid-November, the diesel-fuelled 30d is -- for now the entry car – is $7655 more at $99,900, however the petrol-powered 50i is just $245 more at $133,900 and the $147,900 for the triple-turbo diesel M50d is a rise of $735.
The base car adds aluminium exterior highlights, bi-xenon headlights with automatic high-beam dipping, a satnav system and internet connectivity on a 10.2-inch display and lane-departure/ forward-collision warning software. The top-tier duo adds adaptive LED headlamps, adaptive suspension damping and a Harman Kardon sound system. The first rear-wheel drive X5 will arrive mid-next year as the price leader, fitted with a 2.0-litre turbodiesel.
The launch engines are carryover units but all have been massaged to give more power while using less fuel. In the case of the 30d, power and torque are up while fuel use is down by 1.2 litres/100km to 6.2 litres. The twin-turbo 50i grows from 300kW to 330kW while using 16 per cent less fuel. Outputs in the M50d are static but at 6.7L/100km the vehicle now uses more than 10 per cent less diesel.
BMW saved its best work for the look of the X5. It’s hard to put your finger on it but the car looks better in front and profile views, courtesy of revised panelwork that smooth the proportions of the big SUV. Afficionados will note the wider kidney grille and the revised shape of the headlights but it will take a keen eye to see the panels now incorporate the rear spoiler, rather than leaving it as a separate element as it was on the previous model.
The two-piece tailgate is practical and the top section has auto open and close on all models. The interior now has a capacitive touch screen on the iDrive infotainment controller, letting drivers or passengers scribble addresses with their fingers. The bling has been extended from the dash through to the front of the doors and the overall fit and finish looks a touch classier than its predecessor.
The BMW hasn’t been crashed yet but history suggests it will earn a five-star rating like its forebears. There’s more standard software in this generation, from the lane departure warning system that flashes a triangular warning light in the side mirrors to the collision warning system that activates the brakes to mitigate a collision with a preceding car -- or pedestrian -- at speeds up to 60km/h.
The X5 has always benefitted from a taut, responsive drive and that’s been improved again on this vehicle. The base 30d packs all the performance most buyers can use into an SUV that will carry five in comfort. The 0-100km/h time comes up in 6.9 seconds and mid-range response is better again.
Those who want to hunt sports cars -- or prefer the growl of a V8 -- need to spend an extra $34,000 on the 50i. It is quick in Comfort mode, taking only a heartbeat to respond to throttle inputs, but becomes a genuine hard-charger when the transmission and accelerator response are sharpened via the Sport setting.
The M50d wasn’t available to test at the international launch in Vancouver, Canada, but the figures show it’s the one to buy for those wanting to tow a flotilla of horse floats. Boot space has grown to 650 litres and the rear seat now folds in a 40/20/40 split for added versatility. All seats are comfortable, the heads-up display is handy and the look -- while not as flashy as an ML -- is subdued elegance. Just like the car, really.
A good thing done better, the new X5 is hard to argue with as a luxury family hauler. The improvements are minor but they only had to be to keep the big Beemer at the top of the pack.
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