Awhile back, I personally had a BMW X5 xDrive40e press car for about a week. It was a great car and I loved having it, but one thing I distinctly remember saying that it could handle a gravel driveway at most, in terms of off-roading. My press car’s 20″ run-flat Dunlops and M Sport suspension just didn’t seem up to the task of driving off-road. However, BMW clearly disagrees with me and has proved me, as well as any other doubters wrong, by sending the BMW X5 through Namibian Desert and the way BMW’s biggest SUV handles it is nothing short of remarkable.
Carfection was fortunate enough to take on BMW’s Driving Experience in Namibia, where the Bavarian brand puts X5s through the most grueling of tests to show customers just how capable they are. Admittedly, those X5s look a lot more capable than the xDrive40e model I sampled, but it doesn’t prevent the X5 from proving me so unbelievably wrong.
In this latest video, Carfection takes this BMW X5 through deserts, mountain roads littered with rocks and boulders and even drives up and down dunes that would make Jeep Wranglers nervous. It’s unbelievable what this X5 was able to do with no upgrades done to it, with the exception of beefier tires. The X5 was able to plow, crawl and slide its way through some genuinely treacherous conditions and do it all without fault. The only problem that occurred was one shredded tire that was fixed in no time at all. Remarkable.
The biggest reason why so many people, myself previously included, doubted the X5’s ability to tackle rough terrain is its drivetrain. The BMW X5 uses BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system, which isn’t the best for off-roading. Essentially, it’s able to send power to all four wheels by having an electronically-controlled clutch engage the fronts when necessary, otherwise it’s mainly rear-wheel drive. Given that there’s no locking differential to route power permanently to the front wheels, it seems as if the X5 would struggle when traction is low. SUVs like Land Rovers, Jeeps and even the Mercedes G-Wagon have locking diffs that can permanently send 50 percent of the torque to the front wheels, making them great off-roaders. But the X5’s system is a pretty basic all-wheel drive system that isn’t designed for such off-roading business.
However, watch in the video as the X5 crawls up rocks and mountainous hills and one wheel will often be up in the air. When that happens, you can actually see the computers working out that that wheel has lost traction and it routes power to the other axle to push the X5 up the hill. It’s genuinely staggering to watch what is typically a soccer-mom SUV get through this scary terrain. This is the kind of stuff people jack up Jeeps for and this luxurious, comfortable and expensive SUV is able to do it without breaking a sweat.
While we wouldn’t suggest trying to tackle Moab with your X5, as they had professional help, backup trucks and guides during this video, it’s genuinely more capable that most of us previously had thought. BMW has proven me wrong and I couldn’t be more impressed by it.