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2014 BMW X5 Review
We’ve yet to meet a carmaker that regretted joining the SUV club, and the BMW X5 is a perfect example of why. Originally considered a “heretic” by us in our review of the first generation more than 13 years ago, the vehicle became an instant sales success. Its sporting credentials were strongly upgraded with the second generation for 2007, which was also given the full-fledged M treatment and, in Europe, as a tri-turbo M Performance diesel version.
Claimed to be aerodynamically slipperier and about 200 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, the new 2014 X5 launches with two gasoline engines: a 3.0-liter, single-turbocharged inline-six with 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque in the sDrive35i and xDrive35i, and a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 with 445 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque in the xDrive50i. BMW claims 0-to-60-mph times of 6.2 seconds for the six and 4.9 for the V-8, but they’ll likely be slightly quicker in our testing. The last six-banger X5 we tested—a heavier piece, remember—did the deed in that same 6.2 seconds. In early 2014, a 3.0-liter diesel six will return to the lineup and again be badged as the xDrive35d. It will offer 255 horsepower, 413 lb-ft of torque, and a 0-to-60 time of less than seven seconds.
For the first time in the history of the X5, and right from the market launch, BMW will also offer a rear-wheel-drive model—that’s the somewhat clumsily named sDrive35i. This version breaks with the dogma of offering only all-wheel-drive versions on the X5, as BMW seems to have realized that the off-pavement activities of most X5s are restricted to the negotiation of gravel driveways.
All engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Its behavior—as well as that of the chassis—is governed by a number of settings bracketed by the efficiency-loving “Eco Pro” and aggressive “Sport+” modes. The former can decouple the driveline when the driver lifts off the accelerator without hitting the brakes, as well as tailor the climate control and heated seats for maximum energy savings. Sport+ heightens shift and throttle response, firms up the optional adjustable suspension, and remaps the steering. There are also Normal and Sport modes.
By default, the chassis is tailored to please those who like a little spice in their driving experience, but it can be further enhanced. As mentioned, adjustable dampers are available, as is an M Sport suspension. But the pinnacle of performance is reached with the Dynamic Handling package, which incudes an active anti-roll system and, on xDrive models, a torque-vectoring function for the rear diff. The standard electric power steering is available with an active steering program that adjusts the steering ratio according to the vehicle’s speed. With the X5, autonomous driving has essentially arrived: Traffic Jam Assistant will be available starting in December and not only controls the vehicle’s speed during stop-and-go traffic but also keeps it centered in its lane.
Being a modern BMW, an ultra-sophisticated telematics and driver information system is par for the course. It features a navigation system with real-time traffic info and suggestions for when to take your foot off the accelerator; mobile-office functions and BMW’s own apps are also included. The apps allow the driver to access essential motoring tools such as Twitter and Facebook, but only if he or she owns an iPhone. In BMW’s world, Android-wielding lowlifes need not apply. When equipped with all-wheel drive, the X5’s screen informs occupants of vehicle roll and pitch and displays a compass, lest you get lost in the galleria parking structure.
Inside, the new X5’s cockpit shows only the slightest driver orientation, but expensive and pleasing shapes and materials are abundant, at least when one upgrades from the base model to one of three trim packages: xLine, Luxury Line, and M Sport. The gear selector is positioned on the center console where it belongs, and BMW offers three audio setups: the base system; the mid-level Harman/Kardon unit; and a top-of-the-line, 1200-watt, 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen system.
Outside, few will mistake the new X5 for its predecessor. It now features a huge and protruding front grille that connects visually with the xenon or LED headlights. The taillights resemble those of the X1, and the wrinkled body is littered with air vents and breathers, which BMW maintains have a positive effect on aerodynamic performance. Third-row seating is available.