2003 X5 New Car Test Drive
BMW X5 is fast, comfortable, and prestigious. It delivers superb handling and excellent performance. X5's straight-line and freeway manners are great. It feels stable, the steering is precise, and the ride is smooth. The V8 engines provide plenty of power, making the X5 faster in the race away from traffic lights than most cars. For 2003, X5 is more luxurious and better-equipped.
Last year's new 4.6is model took SUV performance to new heights, with a powerful V8 that delivered 0 to 60 mph times in the 6.5-second range. That's quick, but 4.6is is also fast: On paper, it's capable of nearly 150 mph, though we don't recommend driving a vehicle this tall that fast. Massive tires contribute to impressive cornering grip and stopping power.
Logically, the X5 makes little sense. It is not highly capable off road, at least not when measured against other sport-utilities. X5 offers less cargo capacity than a BMW 5 Series wagon and its high floor makes loading cargo more challenging. Though it handles well for an SUV, its weight means it does not offer the quick transient response of a sport sedan or sport wagon in the same price range. As compared to other BMWs, X5 is not the ultimate driving machine.
Logic may not be a factor at here, however. X5 is sporty, stylish and upscale. That twin-kidney grille indicates a successful owner. It also indicates BMW's reputation for quality and driving excitement. It works well in foul weather, and easily negotiates muddy trails. Inside, it's luxurious and comfortable. It also offers the command seating position many people like. Perhaps those are among the reasons X5 sales are so strong. BMW sold 42,742 X5s in 2002, up from 2001.
For 2003, all X5 models feature brake lights that illuminate quickly and more intensely under hard braking. Adjustable ride height is now available on 3.0i and 4.4i models with the Sport Package. The tires that come with the 4.4i Sport Package have been upgraded from H-rated to V-rated, and the electronic speed limiter is now deleted with this package, lifting top speed from 128 to 143 mph (though, again, we don't recommend traveling at those velocities).
Interior leather is smoother for 2003. Onboard navigation is functionally improved and now features a DVD database. And the rear-seat Head Protection System (HPS) is now standard, a very important feature.
BMW X5 comes as three models, with increasing horsepower and standard equipment: 3.0i ($39,500); 4.4i ($49,950); and 4.6is ($66,800).
BMW launched the X5 (for 2000) as a single, upscale model, powered by a 4.4-liter V8 engine mated to a five-speed Steptronic transmission. For 2001, BMW added the lower-priced 3.0i model, powered by a 2.8-liter inline-six driving through a five-speed manual gearbox, with the Steptronic automatic as an option. The six-cylinder engine produces 225 horsepower, compared to 290 for the 4.4-liter V8. And the 3.0i rolls on 17-inch wheels, rather than the 18-inch rims found under the 4.4i.
The super-high-performance 4.6is joined the model line for 2002, pumped up by a 4.6-liter V8 rated 340 horsepower and 350 pounds-feet of torque. That's mega-power, by any standard. The 4.6is comes with a five-speed Steptronic transmission similar to the one found on the 4.4i, but programmed and geared differently for a more sporting character. Its 20-inch wheels and W-rated tires (275/40 in front and 315/35 in the rear) are wide enough to impress Fred Flintstone. Unique trim cues distinguish this model, including a rear air diffusor, wind splitters at the sides of front and rear bumpers, a titanium-finish bumper grille, and Shadowline trim with clear turn signal and side marker lenses. Two big, chromed oval exhaust outlets finish off the rear. 4.6is comes with a comprehensive list of luxury equipment, including xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) low-beam headlamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a powered glass moonroof.
3.0i and 4.4i are well-equipped, and can be fitted with a short list of stand-alone options and four popular option packages. The moonroof, for example lists for $1,099 by itself, but is also included the Premium Package for both models. A Sport Package ($2100 on 3.0i, $1600 on 4.4i), which tightens the suspension and upgrades interior and exterior trim; and an adjustable ride-height system ($1200 for 3.0i and $500 on 4.4i) used to be mutually exclusive but are now available in combination.
Rear-mounted side-impact air bags ($385), a retractable load floor ($380), and satellite navigation ($1800) are extra-cost options on all X5 models, including the 4.6is.
To help keep drivers on the road and in control, all X5s come with full-time all-wheel drive and Dynamic Stability Control, which includes traction control, electronic brake proportioning, Dynamic Brake Control, an electronic stability program, and Hill Descent Control. Additionally, all X5s benefit from a four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and rack-and-pinion steering.