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April 27, 2014

New BMW X5 moves luxury forward

There was a time when construction alone distinguished luxury cars from ordinary cars. Luxury cars were big, sturdy tanks that felt like a substantial presence surrounding you. Ordinary cars just didn’t get as much attention during their engineering. They didn’t get the same care in manufacturing. They weren’t built with materials of the same quality as luxury-car materials. Therefore mass-consumer cars felt more flimsy, much less substantial.

That’s not as true anymore. Manufacturing processes and the engineering arts have advanced so far, and competition for consumer dollars has grown so intense, that today’s car companies make many consumer-class cars that rival the construction of upper-crust autos. You can almost feel sorry for luxury-car makers today, because it’s become much harder for them to distinguish their chariots from the carts that transport common people.

One of the primary ways they do it is by slathering so many spiffy gizmos and high-tech gadgets into contemporary luxury cars that you wonder if computer scientists contributed more to the vehicle than mechanical engineers.

The BMW X5 wagon offers a good example of that. Make no mistake, the contribution of mechanical engineers still stands out, because the X5 is clearly a sturdy and substantial vehicle. Like luxury cars of old, it has the poise, presence and road command to make you feel cossetted and secure. But at the same time, boy, is this model ever filled with modern features.

In fact, the X5 acquired a load of additional high-technology and convenience features when BMW brought out the 2014 model late last year. The 2014 X5 is all new, a re-conceived, third-generation version of the sporty, fleet-footed wagon that appeared in its first-generation form in 1999. This year’s model has a new body, a new interior, improvements in its power systems and driving mechanisms, and more equipment for aiding and assisting drivers, and for making motoring more comfortable, convenient and productive.

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