Looking for a used BMW? X marks the spot
It's not often that a new car is launched that completely rewrites the parameters for a given class.
In the last fifteen years it's probably fair to say that possibly the Mercedes A-class, the Lotus Elise and the Renault Scenic have done this.
Whilst they have innovated to succeed, BMW's X5 has just used sheer excellence to steamroller all before it in a way only matched by the eye-popping all-round competence of Ford's Focus.
Before the X5 was launched, we all thought a Range Rover or a Mercedes M-class boasted sweet road manners. To be quite frank, the X5 made them look clumsy and agricultural. If you want the best luxury 4x4, this is it. No ifs, buts or maybes and as a used proposition it's even better, but if you're thinking of picking up a bargain, prepare for disappointment. X5's don't come cheap. If you want the best, you're going to have to pay for it.
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This is the Munich company's spin on luxury 4x4 motoring.
Before this BMW arrived, a Range Rover was always the most car-like all-rounder you could buy in this class, but if you were used to the responses of a sharp sports saloon, that wasn't saying much. In contrast, the X5 moves the game to a different level.
Owners of other luxury 4x4s may have a different view on this of course.
They will point out that unlike its opposition, the X5 isn't built on the kind of separate ladder-framed chassis previously deemed necessary for heavy-duty work.
They will point out its lack of a low ratio gearbox and the fact that its ground clearance (just 180mm) is less not only than off road rivals but also of some car-based 4x4s. In short, they will suggest it to be a 5 Series in a trendy new suit.
Even if that were true – and it isn't – the X5 would be a truly excellent car. The cabin is so car-like that it makes other rivals' efforts seem positively utilitarian.
You sit in the required lofty position (180mm higher than you would in a 5 Series) but somehow the feeling is more of being in a sports saloon than in a 4x4.
The all-round visibility helps too, making this car feel smaller than a 5 Series Touring, despite its much greater luggage space (465 as opposed to 410 litres).
That space is accessible too, thanks to a horizontally split rear hatch split in electronically operated sections.
You can open the upper window to put in smaller items or fold down the bottom to extend the floor for longer objects or to facilitate tailgate picnics.
Unless you're into serious off roading – or pale at the asking price – it's hard to think of many reasons not to buy one.
You'll need to square away at least £16,900 to get your hands on one of the first X5 4.4-litre models with Sport versions holding their value slightly better and commanding an additional £1,000 premium. 3.0-litre petrol models are currently being sold at prices starting from around £16,300.
Expect to pay Group 17 insurance for the 3.0-litre cars and 18 or 19 depending on who you approach for the 4.4-litre models. Ouch.
The BMW X5 is so far ahead of the rest of the pack it's scarcely credible. If you can afford one, buy one.
A silver 4.4 Sport would sit alongside a blue Skyline GT-R in my fantasy garage.