UNTIL recently, the biggest 4 x 4 that BMW could put up against the might of Land Rover was the X5 – and it remains one of the mainstays of the marque’s UK offering.

As a now smaller ‘brother’ to the massive X7, it still manages to hold its own against bigger and more expensive opposition. A recent sojourn with the latest fourth generation X5 as my travelling mate brought it home to me just what a well-mannered ‘boy’ this is.

Believe it or not, it is some 20 years since the X5 first appeared on the scene and it has always kind of held second sway to the Range Rovers of this world. Now that there’s a myriad of RR products to fill various gaps, BMW has responded with the X7, the revised X5, the X4, X3, the X2 and the X1 – what size sir? – and now the German maker probably has more 4 x 4s to offer than any other SUV manufacturer?

But, while the X5 was always perceived to be a lesser machine off-road than the Landies, it always made up for it with a real driver’s ride on the road, plus a luxurious interior and some nifty interior benefits, and the public thought so too – it has sold more than 2m units in 20 years.

So, what can this next gen offer? It certainly has a crisper front and side visage from the outside, including an impressively sized BMW signature kidney-shaped grille, but there’s also more luxury and definitely more ‘technology’ – that one modern asset you can sometimes do without.

That latter 'stuff' means that many drivers don’t have to think much now, what with lane departure warnings, getting too close to the car in front alarms and the likes – but fortunately, the BMW X5 allows you to quite easily dispense with that and allow you access to what it does best ... drive like a BMW seven series on stilts.

For the really serious, there is the availability of the 530bhp, petrol powered M50i TwinPower turbo eight-cylinder, though the more sensible boy racers will choose the M50d which has an M Performance in-line six-cylinder diesel engine of 400hp that can propel you from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds.

However, for most buyers – and the one on test – the most sensible option is the 265bhp 30d model which does that timed run of 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, which is plenty quick enough. The big surprise is that it is easily possible to get mid-30s mpg and the quoted figure is more than 38 mpg.

That is partly down to a truly superb eight-speed auto gearbox. Match this up to the iDrive and you can just about go any where the Land Rover products will go (except, maybe, the legendary Defender).

As you always expect from BMW, comfort is the main aim and – once a teenager has explained how to get the most out of it – the truly excellent iDrive control system is an effortless way to select just about anything when paired to the touchscreen.

For the practical, the boot has 650 litres of luggage space, upped to a whopping 1870 litres with the rear seats flat. And, depending on the model, the towing capacity can be as low as 1900kg, or up to 2.7 tonnes (braked), which is a good way short of the Range Rover competition

Prices start around £57,000 and the M Sport trim model tested cost just a

little more than £60,000 – though the options brought that price tag past £74,000.