Rediscovering Tagaytay via the BMW X5 and X7

IT’S BEEN a long while since I last frolicked around Tagaytay. Last year’s volcanic unrest, and the subsequent imposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) have left me with little opportunity to revisit this weekend favorite. So, I was happy to finally have the chance for a quick rendezvous to the lovely Escala Hotel there; and even happier that the vehicles I had to drive back and forth were the handsome 2021 BMW X5 and X7 SUV siblings.

I set out from BMW’s Libis dealership driving the X5 luxury midsize SUV, which I’ve always found to be a model with a good blend of luxury and practicality. From the get-go, it is self-evident that the car is made with good workmanship, and with quality materials — one of the main reasons why I would ever consider paying extra to acquire a premium vehicle in the first place. The car has a classy, leather-wrapped dashboard, boasts Vernasca leather design-perforated upholstery, and is equipped with a plethora of technology. It now supports wireless Apple Carplay and offers power-adjustable front seats with memory (for the driver), among others.

Moreover, the X5 has a nice, strong engine. Its 3.0-liter BMW TwinPower turbodiesel powerhouse, mated to an eight-speed automatic tranny, will not disappoint — offering an athletic 265 horses, combined with an impressive 620Nm of maximum torque at 2,000-2,500rpm. While you might think that this diesel powerplant could compromise vehicle NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness), you’ll be delighted to know that BMW really did its homework when it built this car. It has very good insulation; you’ll forget you’re driving a diesel, and hardly hear any outside noise, for that matter. This afforded me a relaxed and pleasurable drive through C5 and into the SLEX, en route to Tagaytay.

Oh, and remember that one particular lane along C5 with those horrible patches of bad pavement (because they’ve been constantly pounded by heavy trucks)? I occasionally found myself driving over them in morning traffic, but the X5’s suspension soaked them up easily. I also took the liberty of experimenting with the X5’s different drive modes, depending on the situation: Eco Pro, for that morning traffic crawl; and Comfort Mode, for the rest of the faster-moving stretches of C5. Needless to say, Sport Mode was my favorite — the SUV’s anticipation to go faster was especially fun on the highway. It also allowed me to overtake vehicles easily and with greater confidence. Furthermore, I noticed the X5 did not lose its poise even when going through fast corners.

It took us about two hours to arrive at Escala Hotel, where we had a satisfying lunch (that came in big portions) amid cool weather and a dearly-missed view of Tagaytay Lake. After our pleasant meal, the X7 was waiting.

Now, I knew the X7 would be good. But frankly, I didn’t expect it to be this good. For starters, I am not someone who gravitates towards large, full-size vehicles, and the X7 is the largest luxury SUV that BMW has. But the X7 is just exceptionally comfortable and luxurious — it actually got me thinking why the phrase “woman cave” was never coined to describe large wonderful vehicles. That is, until I realized that the combination of words didn’t exactly sound appropriate. Nevertheless, you get what I’m trying to say here — it felt like the X7 had everything I would ever need to be happy while on the road.

As a driver, I was delighted with the X7’s quick bursts of acceleration and ultra-smooth power. The car sailed like a boat, and that must have been its adaptive two-axle air suspension at work. There was nothing to complain about NVH; the cabin was quiet as a reading room, but only more comfortable to be in. Opulent appointments constantly reminded me that I was aboard a luxury vehicle. Attractive Merino upholstery and fine wood trim accents give the cabin sophisticated flair; while the panoramic sunroof and other bells and whistles — such as the crystal shifting knob, that exudes that extra bling — all come together to pamper the driver and its occupants. I wouldn’t mind getting stuck in traffic for long hours in this car, I remember telling myself. And if some vehicles, in the words of a friend, were meant to “Manila-proof” you from the inconveniences of the city, well, this sure is one of them.

The BMW X7 is packed with technology (including a rearview camera with surround view and the like), a suite of safety systems, a BMW Live Cockpit Professional, and BMW laser lights. It shares the same twin power turbo inline six-cylinder diesel engine as with the X5 but, for some reason, just feels ever so much smoother to drive.

Sure, there was more traffic on our way back to Manila. But with the X7’s Harman Kardon surround sound system, I savored every minute driving it back, while tuning in to ’80s music and enjoying the entire drive experience. It really does make a huge difference, after all. A luxuriously pleasurable car can help keep your spirits high, as you navigate through your daily drive in our otherwise high-stress environment of the city.