Packing a punch in style

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014


THE Philippines is now home to one of Asia's most dynamic economies. A quick look at the new cars on our roads is ample evidence that the country is booming like never before.

And it's not just in Manila where one sees luxury car after luxury car. The good times have reached the provinces, too. And Negros Island is no exception.

A major player in the local luxury car market is BMW. In 2012, Autobahn Negros Isle took the bold step to open a showroom in Talisay. This is the sole BMW distributor for the whole of Negros.

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Since then, the company has witnessed steady but positive growth in the sales of this much-admired marque.

Apart from offering luxury cars and top-of-the line BMW motorbikes, the company also offers a full service center so owners no longer have to ask a BMW mechanic to leg it over from Cebu when it comes to repairs and servicing.

Autobahn's latest offering is the new BMW X5. This was the German automaker's first entry into the luxury SUV segment.

Now in its third generation, the highly successful X5 continues to be one of the top midsize luxury crossovers for those who really want driving enjoyment.

And what a joy it was to drive! Last week Autobahn invited me to try out this new model. I was impressed.

It's a well-designed and rugged car, but with all the creature comforts you'd expect from a luxury brand. And the 3.0-liter turbo-diesel inline-six engine, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, really packs a punch.

Realizing that most SUV buyers rarely, if ever, venture off-road, with the X5, BMW decided to really focus on what we need for everyday driving-comfort, good handling, useful gadgetry and that extra power to quickly pass slow-moving vehicles.

On the other hand, with the X5, when you're on the open road and want a bit of a sportier performance, then simply switch the car from “Comfort” mode to the aggressive “Sport” mode, which heightens shift and throttle response, firms up the optional adjustable suspension, and remaps the steering.

Oh, and for efficiency-loving drivers, there's also an “Eco” mode.

Road handling is excellent. There's a big reduction of air turbulence at the front wheel arches, thanks to the Air Curtain on the front apron and the Air Breather at the front wheel arches.

I was fascinated by the BMW iDrive interface which features a 10.2-inch infotainment screen. Among other things, this displays the sound system, climate control and navigation. It looked a bit complicated to me, but the Autobahn staff said it's easy to master and it's really very user-friendly.

As I have a back problem, parking is not my strong point, but with the X5, I simply turn on the Surround View camera system, which provides a 360-degree bird's-eye of the crossover and its surrounds, along with a BMW Parking Assist that can actually parallel park the X5 with no input whatsoever from the driver.

There are three X5 variants available. The 30d Standard, 30d Pure Excellence and the 30d Pure Experience. The prices are not for the faint-hearted, but given all these beautiful car's many virtues, it deserves serious consideration.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 11, 2014.

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