Nine days, 50 people, four bulldozers, four trucks, two graders and two compactors. That’s what it took for BMW Italy to create a one-to-one scale, earthen version of the famous Monza circuit on the floor of the Sahara Desert at a remote location near Merzouga, Morocco. Every turn, twist, straight and chicane of the 3.6-mile, nearly 100-year-old course has been faithfully replicated in the sand, all in an effort to form a unique and memorable environment for the new X5, so it can show off its fresh, optional xOffroad Package for its worldwide launch, which can adapt to a myriad of different conditions at the touch of a button.
The first generation X5, released nearly twenty years ago, was BMW’s first foray into an upright SAV, and every iteration since has offered respectable off-road capability. The upcoming fourth-generation is a big step forward for the model and the X lineup as a whole, making strong advancements in the areas of technology and luxury when competitors are increasingly judged in these areas, but it also takes things a step further in terms of its ability to tackle difficult terrain. Those that have been following along will recall that BMW just recently announced a healthy collection of M Performance Parts for the upcoming mainstay SAV, which includes a set of all-terrain tires mounted on specialized wheels.
The beefy shoes seem like a perfect complement for the all-new xOffroad Package, which is a first any BMW. The system works in conjunction with the two-axle air suspension to control ride height, along with xDrive, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), throttle response and the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission to optimally cope with and react to varying terrain and surfaces like gravel, rocks, sand or snow. The air suspension alone can adjust ride height by 80 millimeters, and is controlled either by buttons on the center console or the BMW Display Key.
Although not specifically mentioned within the press release, keen eyes will have likely noticed that both of the X5 SAVs photographed tearing things up in the Moroccan sand are wearing the twenty-inch M light-alloy style 748M star spoke wheels, which come wrapped in 245-section square General Grabber A/T tires as part of the M Performance part lineup. Also containing an array of other, largely aesthetic offerings, the collection will be available when the X5 itself goes on sale. In addition to the aforementioned systems, off-road prowess can also be bolstered by an optional locking rear differential, something that seems perfectly suited to this desert version of Monza.
BMW knows, however, that only a small percentage of X5s will ever experience the joy of spinning their tires in the dirt. That’s why the SAV can also be ordered with an impressive list of technology and options to improve performance and drivability in places as varied as the mall parking lot or multi-lane interstate junction ramp. The video below is narrated in Italian, but a number of the individuals who provide commentary offer their words in english, and if you watch the entire thing, you’ll see just how at home the X5 can be in two vastly different environments.—Alex Tock
[Photos and video courtesy BMW AG.]