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Expert opinion

Car makers (or at least their marketing departments) love creating new acronyms. And with the X5, BMW’s branding gurus came up with a doozy: SAV. Standing for ‘Sports Activity Vehicle’, it meant the X5 was kind of like an SUV, but a bit more lifestyle oriented. 

That was a load of marketing nonsense, of course. What was far less nonsensical was that BMW created a large, luxurious SUV that, for the first time, was deliberately designed to be entertainingly sporty to drive on the road. This was in 1999, we should point out – years before Porsche attempted a similar trick with the Cayenne.  

The first generation cribbed extensively from the well-regarded E39-generation 5 Series, including engines and many interior components, making the X5 a great car to drive, and a generally enjoyable experience in terms of interior ambience. Subsequent iterations have continued the theme, and today the X5 remains one of the best-driving large SUVs around, whether you’re plumping for a simple diesel or a plug-in hybrid petrol (sadly the thumping petrol V8s have been relegated to the M performance models in latter model years).

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