BMW X5 Review

OUR TEST CAR: BMW X5 (E70) xDrive 40d 2012

BMW X5  - Page - 1
Customers swimming in the SUV segment are usually conservative and thus most carmakers won't make radical direction changes from one generation of their SUVs to the other. This is a true statement and so is the fact that Europe has learned to love SUVs, with this kind of vehicle being used by a wide range of customers, from those who really need to take their cars offroad, to soccer mums and young people who want to bee cool.

However, neither one of the aforementioned statements were true back in the late 1990s, when the premium German automakers started making SUVs.

BMW made a difficult bet when it launched the first X5 in 1999 - how could a large, heavy vehicle like that be driving machine? However, the Bavarians had an ace up their sleeves and that ace was called... Mercedes ML. Mercedes had launched the ML two years before and the model quickly became a hit, so the Bavarians knew that they could take advantage of this booming market. And they fully did, mainly thanks to the fact that the X5 was superior to the ML in many ways.

BMW also tried to compensate for not being the first at this table and invented a new segment when it launched the X5, calling it an SAV, which stands for Sports Activity Vehicle, a designation that would be used for all its vehicles of this kind.

However, the first step was the only revolutionary one, so the second generation of the X5, which landed in 2006 followed the footsteps of its predecessor pretty closely, even in terms of design.

The X5 received a facelift in 2011 and is now speeding towards the end of its life cycle, which means multiple things, one of them being that, if you want to buy one, now is a good time, since the vehicle was already refined over the years of market presence.

However, since the X5 is no longer a fresh vehicle, you'll have to dig deep in the list of optional extras to make sure that your car looks right. This is why we chose to test an example fitted with the M Sport package. Under the bonnet, we chose the most powerful non-M diesel, the twin-turbo 40d version that offers 306 hp and 600 Nm (442.5 lb-ft) of torque.

Don't worry about anything, we are going for quite a long trip, but this is an SAV, so it should be able to handle anything. Let's see if it does in the following pages.

The facelift received by the X5 in 2010 was fully in line with the level of changes brought by the appearance of a new generation, which reads "minimal".

The designers went to get a beer, but before the exited the building they remembered that they had to put some new lines on that sheet of paper, so they called the engineers, who told them that LED technology is needed these days. Thus, the X5 received LED daytime running lights, as well as LED taillights. A few front and rear end fascia changes here and there and the revamp was ready.

Speaking of the second generation's arrival, an event that took place in 2006, we have to tell you that this brought along a weight increase of 15 kg (33 lbs), which is a nice achievement.

No, BMW didn't fail to make the new generation lighter, as the insignificant extra kilos hide a body that's 18.7 cm (4.7 inches ) longer, with a wheelbase that was increased by 1.7 cm (0.4 inches ), as well as 15 percent stiffer. In addition to that, the tracks are now wider. To achieve this ,the engineers used aluminum for the bonnet and suspension arms and thermoplastic for the front wings.

Our test car was also fitted with the M Sport package. For those of you who are not familiar with it, this brings that balance between sportier looks and still keeping an OEM look (read: not displaying the heavily-loaded aftermarket appearance of tuning kits).

This means that our test car prided itself with beefier front and rear fascias, a rather small roof spoiler and more muscular wheelarches. The M pack usually includes 19-inch wheels, but in this case the car was wearing 20-inch M-branded rollers.

All in all, the X5 is a bit confusing in terms of looks. It gives you the impression of a car that's not new anymore, since the design has become so familiar, but the smart LED details at both ends, as well as the extra-muscular lines, come to contradict that and manage to catch the eye.

Cavernous, this is the word that perfectly describes the second-generation X5's interior. Even the spaces created for the various goodies in the dashboard are so generous that these can be used with gloves on. And while this is funny, the word turns to "comfort" when we're talking about the rest of the cabin. The space in the front is generous, but in the back you feel that the X5 is not just spacious, but opulent.

You get the typical combination brought by BMW's SAVs in terms of driving position, which means that you can enjoy both a high point of view and a bit of a sporty feeling.

Moving past the driver's seat. we can't help notice how the X5 has such a generous interior, that it basically invities you into the world of menage-a-trois. Seriously, it has a boot that's so generous and accesible (the tailgate can be splitted and we'd advise you to go for the optional power close) that it could easily cater to the shopping needs of two female friends at a time.

And when you become a serious person, get married and have children, you'll be happy to find out that you can order an optional seven-seat configuration. The all-round visibility is good, but you really have to order at least a rear-view camera if you want to park this SAV without looking like a son that's borrowed his father's car.

The creme de la creme of our car's interior was the M Sport package, which brings a sportier steering wheel which shows the magical letter, which is also found on the door entry sills, as well as on the footrest, aluminum trimming, as well as sport seats.

Modern society has turned ideas that were once more than ironic into an accepted reality that nobody even questions anymore. Thus, a modern SUV must, by definition, be able to play the urban game well, since the majority of the customers will drive it inside of the city, most os the time.

Our X5 40d test car passed this test in a pretty relaxed manner, mainly thanks to the multiple faces shown by its powertrain. Inside the city, you won’t get to use the 0.4 seconds that the 40d shaves off the pre-facelift 35d’s 0 to 62 mph time of 7 seconds, but the extra muscle allows you to nicely squeeze in the gaps formed in the traffic, with your passengers being kept in the relaxed mood.

But the most important part is, of course, the efficiency, which, in our case sat at around 10.5 liters per 100 km (22.4 US mpg).

You just need to take a look at how large many of the interior elements are and you’ll realize that the car can’t be an urban player. However, the X5’s body doesn’t come with too many extremities elements that are hard to predict and if you add the right optionals you’ll have no problems sliding it though the busy city traffic.

By “the right optionals” we’re referring to the active steering, which is simply a piece of engineering genius on urban roads, turning parking jobs into a lighting-quick moments, as well as at least a rear-view camera. We’re saying “at least” because you can also opt for the surround view system, but while this is superior to the singe-camera setup, it does leave certain things to be desired.

People are familiar with the X5’s design, so you won’t turn heads on the street, despite the new light units. You will get some attention though, if you go for the 20-inch rims and the M Sport package, like in the case of our test car. As for the trip to those glass-covered spaces called “shops”, the generous cavernous luggage compartment of the X5 will be your lady friend’s best companion, but don’t forget to order the power closing, or else broken nails will become your biggest nightmare

Our test car was fitted with the M Sport package, but ditched the 19-inch wheels that came along with this for a set of 20-inch rims and while this meant that the car lost points for the “comfort” chapter, it did motivate us to see what happens when we turn the wheel while taking full advantage of the 600 Nm (442 lb-ft) that the two turbines squeeze out of the three liters of the diesel powerplant.

The only reason for which the BMW X5 doesn’t take the segment’s crown in terms of handling is an SUV wearing a Porsche badge. The Cayenne is superior in terms of tackling bends, but the X5 takes the second place, as it easily outhandles the rest of the players in this segment. However, this is shared with the Mercedes ML, due to the fact that the X5 loses serious points in an area that's supposed to be important for cars in this segment: offroading.

BMW's xDrive was never meant to work well off the road and... it doesn't, it just doesn't. The M Sport pack makes the car even sloppier when the tarmac runs out and the X5 can only defend itself by telling you that most SUV buyers never their their cars to areas that would be a problem for it. Ever tried to impress a girl without having a clue about what you're doing? Now you're starting to understand how the X5 feels on really rough terrain.

Time to get back on the road playground now - The massive tires just grip and grip, with the firm suspension and the xDrive all-wheel drive system making sure that understeer doesn’t make its way into the driver’s vocabulary. And when the grip runs out, the back shows a slight tendency to step out, which could scare inexperienced drivers, but the DSC steps in just like a lioness protecting her cubs.

The X5 also brakes with the same level of confidence and gives you a feeling of safety whether we’re talking about stopping power or fading resistance.

On those parts of the road where the wheel is mostly kept straight, you begin to believe the lie included in the car’s designation (read: a 4-liter engine), as the 306 hp and 600 Nm (442 lb-ft) of torque, together with the eight-speed auto manage to keep the needle climbing fast up to about 210 km/h (130 mph). The X5 does accelerate past that point, up to its top speed of 235 km/h (146 mph), but not in the same vigorous manner.

The car is not set up for thrills, so you won’t quite feel the acceleration, but here is where you’ll get stuck between emotions if you chose a setup similar to that in our test car. We’re referring to the combination between the M suspension and the 20-inch rims, which takes away that comfort that was built into the car. You can keep the stiffer suspension if you’re good friends with the pedal on the right, but go for the 19-inch wheels included in the M Sport pack.

The X5 is a fine companion for long trips, as it mixes all the right ingredients: it packs enough of a punch, it has an interior the size of a small bedroom and it manages to offer a pleasant experience.
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autoevolution Aug 2012
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62user rating 137 votes
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