The original BMW X5 made quite a splash when it hit UK showrooms in 1999.
It wasnt the worlds first upmarket 4×4 the Range Rover preceded it by nearly 30 years but its arrival, more than that of any other model, helped to kick-start the surge in popularity for full-size SUVs.
The X5s blend of desirability, sporting attitude, BMW quality and class-leading road manners made it the first choice for more than 50,000 British buyers.
Environmental concerns mean the SUV sector is less fashionable now than it was eight years ago, but that hasnt stopped BMW predicting great things for its second-generation X5. The larger newcomer is cleaner and more efficient than its predecessor, has revised front suspension to improve dynamics and, perhaps most importantly, now offers family buyers the option of seven seats. However, the premium 4×4 market is flooded with talented machinery such as the Audi Q7. The manufacturer took its time to jump on the SUV bandwagon, but its seven-seat offering aims to be all things to all men, combining space, comfort and quality with real driver appeal. Yet its unlikely the Germans will have everything their own way in this test. Our current class champion is the Land Rover Discovery. It makes no pretence at being sporty, but its sheer versatility has won it a legion of fans.
The original X5 surfed the SUV wave when the market boomed, and sold in huge numbers as a result. The second-generation model wont have such an easy ride. Its still a fine car, though. Its increased practicality is welcome and it drives with the same verve and agility as its predecessor.