Returning X5 customers might notice a slightly more perched driving position in this new version than there was in the outgoing one, a move likely made to create space in the car. It’s only a very marginal change, however – so you still feel as if you’re in something roughly midway between an executive saloon and an old-school SUV here.

But alongside the sense of familiarity you get in this car come new, tangible parallel senses of richness, of high-design style and of real material class. With its electroplated chrome garnishes, its neatly corralled button consoles, its visually appealing trim and its imaginatively shaped features, this is a luxury cabin of greater ambition than we’re used to from a big BMW. A less understated one in some respects too – but one clearly intended to retain people who might otherwise have their heads turned by the ambient splendour of a high-end Range Rover Velar or Audi Q7.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Latest-generation BMWs retain physical controls for the air conditioning system. We approve, and this is a fine place for them, but they’re fiddly at this size

And, without going over the top, the X5 cabin ought to achieve that with ease. There’s a striking air of expensiveness about BMW’s combination of chrome and ‘aluminium tetragon’ trim in our M Sport test car; an agreeably tidy look to the dashboard and centre console; a really upmarket feel to the cabin after dark, courtesy of BMW’s ambient lighting features; a sumptuous and special quality about its optional ‘BMW Individual’ Merino leather seats; and plenty of technological razzmatazz created by the widescreen infotainment and instrument screens.

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The car’s second-row seats offer enough room for adults both large and small, although taller ones will find that their thighs float slightly unsupported above the seat cushions. For parents, the bugbear is that, unlike in the Audi Q7, the X5 only provides Isofix child seat anchorages for the outer seats. A seven-seat cabin layout is available at extra cost, with electrical folding also of the middlerow seats to make entry and exit easier (our test car didn’t have them).

The X5’s boot has grown from 500 to 650 litres – fairly big, but not quite as big as some of its SUV rivals (the Land Rover Discovery, Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 all offer more carrying space). The car retains its useful split tailgate, however, which can be left in place to retain large loads or, once opened, will close electrically with the rest of the hatchback.

The X5 is the first BMW with the firm’s latest combination of infotainment and digital instrumentation screens to undergo an Autocar road test. Both screens are a sizeable 12.3in, and both display impressively clear and attractive graphics.

The digital instrument screen displays both an engine tachometer and a speedo in an analogue style around half-octagonal scales on either side of the binnacle. And partly because the tacho is on the right and therefore has to run anti-clockwise, the ‘dials’ are a little bit hard to read.

It’s also a slight disappointment to find that the configurability of rival digital instrument screens is missing here – so, although speed is displayed numerically elsewhere, you’re stuck with those octagonal half-dials whether you like them or not.

BMW is rolling out a new voice-recognition system on its latest models called ‘Hey BMW’. It hadn’t been fully activated on our X5 test car (likely coming as an ‘over the air’ software update) but, when tested on other models, we’ve found that it works well.

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