SITTING atop the large sports utility dais, BMW's X5 has been the premium pace-setter for years.
Yet with the coveted number one position comes pressure.
The plush opposition is circling, with Audi recently releasing a schmick new Q7, Volvo its long-awaited XC90 replacement, and Mercedes-Benz is close to unleashing the GLE range.
But the X5 is remaining steadfast in its segment-leading positioning.
We sampled the 3.0-litre turbo diesel which starts at about $100,000.
Expansive and generous dimensions are welcomed by a growing family and adults alike.
Five burly mature folk can fit with ease via generous space for heads, legs and knees in both rows.
Our test vehicle had the $4600 optional third row but they are pews best left to kids.\
The seats are relatively flat and could do with some additional contouring to avoid sliding around when the driving gets willing.
The look and feel doesn't change much throughout the propeller-badge range nowadays, but the X5 has some extra spunk, courtesy of the gigantic 26cm colour screen which adorns the dash.
All the driver's instruments and gauges are easy to read, although we've been impressed with the groovy new digital display we have seen in the new 6 Series or the little i3 electric hatch which will no doubt flow through to all models in the future.
On the road
Living up to the dynamic driving mantra, the big X5 hauls with enthusiasm and surprising performance.
The 3.0-litre six-cylinder has twin-turbo technology which means there is always abundant mumbo at the ready.
When you plant your right foot there is immediate response throughout the rev range and it's even accompanied by a lovely engine growl - very un-diesel like.
This is quite a large car, and despite feeling small on the open road courtesy of direct steering with a wonderfully planted feel, you do experience its bulk when parking.
Using the cameras was vital in tight spots, while the aerial view is brilliant for ensuring you are perfectly within the white lines.
The turning circle of just under 12 metres is impressive for a car of this size, but compared to a smaller offering it will require three-point turns in many streets.
What do you get?
Standard features are alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, leather trim, automatic lights and wipers, sat nav, dual-zone air con, smartphone connectivity for audio streaming and internet access, nine-speaker stereo, 26cm colour screen, Bi-Xenon headlights, LED front fog lights, high-beam assist, and anti-dazzle interior and exterior mirrors.
Peruse all the optional extras and you'll be reading for a while, but there are no-cost internal and external "Design Pure" packages called "Experience" and "Excellence" which deliver different colours and finishes depending on your preferences.
Safety is five-star with a head-up display, as well as functionality that warns of unintentional lane departure, forward collision and pedestrians, along with a rear view camera and 360-degree surround view.
Also worth a look are the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Volvo XC90, Audi Q7, Infiniti QX70 and Porsche Cayenne.
Given the get-up-and-go of this twin-turbo six, the fuel efficiency is outstanding. Our week in the X5 returned less than seven litres for every 100km.
Servicing costs more than your mainstream offerings, but BMW does have some packages available which makes pre-purchase bundling attractive, such as $1440 for the basics for five years or 80,000km.
Family duties are a cinch within the X5 confines. There's acres of space, excellent storage spaces, two large cup holders in the console and bottle holders in each door.
The test offering was also equipped with a third row of seats…but they cost an extra $4600. Boot space is generous at 650 litres, and a brilliant function is the 40-20-40 split folding rear seats. With them dropped flat into the floor you get a cavernous 1870 litres of space.
The kidney grille is prominent, and in profile the sharp lines and concave designs capture attention.
Big, yet well proportioned, the X5 is brimming with a premium presence.
During recent years the X5 has become somewhat of an icon. Distinctive and coveted, it's appreciated by successful executives and high-flying families.
While the opposition is making ground quickly, the X5 maintains what it does best - offering space, luxury and a great drive.
But most importantly for many, it wears the propeller badge proudly front and back, with a design which is instantly recognisable.
What matters most
What we liked: Fuel efficiency for a vehicle of this size, fun to drive for such a big car.
What we'd like to see: Improved turning circle, extra bolstering of the seat bases.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. BMW has condition-based servicing, but intervals are usually annually or 15,000km. BMW Service Inclusive costs $1440 and covers the vehicles for five years or 80,000km and includes engine oil change, replacement of microfilter, fuel filter, air filter and spark plugs, brake fluid change and vehicle inspection.
Model: BMW X5 xDrive30d.
Details: Five-door large luxury all-wheel drive sports utility vehicle.
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo diesel generating maximum power of 190kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 560Nm @ 1500-3000rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Consumption: 5.9 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance 0-100kmh: 6.9 seconds.
Bottom line: $99,900.
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