2009 X5 New Car Test Drive
The BMW X5's calling card isn't off-road capability or cargo capacity. It's driving dynamics. This sport-utility isn't quite as refined or holistic as BMW's best sedans, but the comparison is generally on the mark. Think of the X5 as a 5 Series sedan with more headroom and a bit more cargo space.
For 2009, BMW X5 gets some changes in nomenclature that has no bearing on the vehicles themselves. All three X5 models officially add xDrive to the name, reflecting the marketing label for BMW's fulltime all-wheel drive system, which was already standard equipment. For example, the entry model is now called the BMW X5 xDrive30i, while the V8 model is called the xDrive48i. Hey, don't blame us, we are merely the messengers here. More significant is introduction of the X5 xDrive35d, with a slick new diesel engine that's as clean as any of its gasoline counterparts. The diesel improves mileage nearly 25 percent compared to the six-cylinder X5 xDrive30i, yet it accelerates more quickly and tows more. This is the same diesel engine offered in the 2009 BMW 3 Series sport sedan, but we like this engine more in the X5.
The X5 emphasizes the sport half of the sport-utility equation, even with the diesel engine. While it offers more utility than ever, it comes up short in cargo-passenger flexibility compared to many luxury SUVs. As opposed to hauling acres of equipment and gear, the X5 provides the equipment enthusiast drivers expect when they want to enjoy the art of driving as much as they're able. Just plan to travel light.
All three X5 engines deliver plenty of usable torque for good acceleration. The gasoline engines also feature turbine-like smoothness. The 4.8-liter V8 in the xDrive48i is the chest-beater, but the inline six-cylinder in the xDrive30i still delivers the kind of response we expect in a sports sedan, and it shouldn't leave owners pining for the V8.
The X5 is styled in obvious BMW fashion, only taller, with traditional Bimmer cues like the twin-kidney grille and dual-beam headlight clusters. Inside, it offers plenty of room for five, with a nice, rich finish and nearly all the bells and whistles one expects in a high-line luxury sedan. The back seat is more than roomy enough for two adults, three in a pinch, and there's enough cargo space in back for a two-day family outing. The X5 can expand to seven-passenger capacity with an optional third-row seat, but that third seat won't look particularly inviting to anyone asked to ride in it, and it wipes out the cargo space.
The X5 is not a traditional SUV. BMW shuns the SUV tag entirely, describing the X5 with it own copyrighted label: Sport Activity Vehicle, or SAV. With all seats lowered for maximum cargo capacity, it offers less space than do most competitors, from Acura to Volvo. The gas-powered models aren't class leaders in fuel economy. And Sport in the X5 context does not mean off-road capability. The xDrive all-wheel-drive system was developed for slippery roads and sporty driving characteristics rather than sand dunes and rutted hillsides. Indeed, the X5's strength is its ability to get down the road in the step-on-the gas, shove-through-corners fashion of a genuine sports sedan.
Yet the X5 can tow a substantial 6,000 pounds, and the all-wheel-drive can be a great friend in a blizzard. Those sound like the credentials of an SUV.
The X5 gets high marks for safety. It performs well in both government and insurance industry crash tests, and it has been designated one of the Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The 2009 BMW X5 comes in three variations, including a new diesel-powered model, all with a six-speed automatic transmission and standard xDrive all-wheel-drive.
The BMW X5 xDrive30i ($47,500) is powered by a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine delivering 260 horsepower. It comes well equipped, with a 12-speaker, single-CD stereo, niceties such as a choice of wood trim, rain-sensing wipers, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, driver's seat memory and a power sunroof. The standard upholstery is BMW's Leatherette vinyl, and the wheels measure 18 inches in diameter.
The X5 xDrive35d ($51,200) is powered by a 3.0-liter turbodiesel six in the same inline configuration. The diesel generates 265 horsepower and a whopping 425 lb-ft of torque. It accelerates more quickly than the gasoline six-cylinder, yet its EPA mileage rating are nearly 25 percent higher. It also qualifies for a federal tax credit of roughly $1,500.
The BMW X5 xDrive48i ($54,800) is powered by a gasoline V8 with 350 horsepower. It also adds leather upholstery.
Popular options are clustered in several packages, which have been re-aligned slightly for 2009. The Technology Package ($2,600) includes Park Distance Control, Rearview camera and a navigation system with voice command and Real Time Traffic information. The Cold Weather Package ($1,250) adds retractable headlight washers, heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats and a ski bag with rear-seat pass-through, while the Rear Climate Package ($900) adds four-zone climate control, manual rear sunshades and privacy glass.
The Sport Package ($3,700) adds Active Roll Stabilization and Electronic Damping Control suspension, 19-inch wheels, heavily bolstered sport seats and Anthracite exterior trim. Other option groups include the Premium Package ($2,200-$3,400), which adds front-seat power lumbar support, an automatic tailgate, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, a digital compass, power-fold exterior mirrors, Bluetooth phone interface, BMW Assist with a 4-year subscription and leather seating for the 30i and 35d.
Options include a premium sound system with 16 speakers and a six-CD changer ($2,100), Active Ventilated 20-way front seats with a massage feature for the driver ($2,100), rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,700), ultra-soft Nappa leather ($2,400), Comfort Access keyless starting ($1,000), satellite radio ($595), iPod and USB adaptor ($400), and HD radio ($350).
Safety features include front airbags with two-stage activation, side-impact airbags built into the front seats, and curtain-style airbags providing head protection for outboard passengers front and rear. Active safety features include electronic stability control and advanced anti-lock brakes with a pre-loading and water-sweeping feature. All X5 models come standard with run-flat tires, which allow operation at 50 mph for up to 90 miles when completely flat. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety designated the 2008 X5 a Top Safety Pick, and it performs better than many SUVs in the insurance industry's crash tests.