When BMW introduced the X5 in 1999, they didn’t call it as Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) but chose to describe it as a Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV), differentiating it from the new breed of dual-purpose vehicles other carmakers were rushing into production to meet growing demand. SAV emphasised that while the X5 had off-road capability, it did not lose the character that had validated the line ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’.

This year sees the fourth generation going on sale and the as a way of re-emphasising what SAV means, BMW Italy created a unique driving course which has the layout and iconic bends of the Monza circuit but it is on the sands of the Sahara Desert.

The historic Italian circuit was reproduced in Merzouga, Morocco where a layout of 5,793 metres was set among the sands and rocks of the Sahara. Every bend, every straight section, every chicane has been faithfully reconstructed on a 1:1 scale, both in the radius of curvature and in the distances.

The left picture shows the Monza circuit in Italy (large oval is no longer used for racing) and the right picture shows exactly the same layout in the Sahara Desert.

It too more than 50 people – engineers, surveyors, technicians, workers and even pilots – two weeks of worked to prepare for this incredible project. This includes 4 days of study and preparation with surveyors, engineers and architects, with 8 days post for topographic design and simulation. Then, for 9 days, 4 bulldozers and 4 trucks dug 24 cubic metres at a time to prepare the soil and remove excess sand which amounted to over 3,500 cubic metres. 2 graders and 2 compactors then defined and compacted the track.

As the track was being finished off, a fleets of new X5s was heading south from Milan along the highways of southern Europe to the circuit of ‘Monza, Sahara’. When it arrived, it was able to take on the unique challenges of the circuit with the same capabilities and performance as when it was on the highways.

The new chassis systems improve the off-road performance, sportiness and comfort and, as standard, there is Dynamic Damper Control. The Adaptive M Professional suspension with active anti-roll stabilization and Integral Active Steering (making its debut in a BMW X model) guarantee extremely agile and dynamic driving characteristics. The air suspension of the two axles satisfies those looking for maximum driving comfort and allows the vehicle height to be adjusted by 80 mm by pressing a button or using the BMW Display Key.

An absolute novelty for the model is the possibility for customers in certain markets to choose the xOffroad package. A specific button gives the driver the choice between 4 off-road driving modes (xSand, xRocks, xGravel, xSnow), which automatically determine the ideal vehicle height settings, xDrive system, acceleration response and transmission control, and corrective inputs of the DSC system when you need to drive on sand, rocks, gravel or snow.

The following videos tell the story of the Monza circuit in the Sahara and show the new X5 racing around the track…

Click here to read more about the new X5.

[Chips Yap]

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