In 1999, BMW’s first X5 was called a sports activity vehicle instead of a sport utility vehicle. While that one word difference may seem like semantics, it goes a long way toward defining what the X5 is: A utility vehicle designed for city driving rather than rock climbing.
The all-new 2014 is the third generation X5 and it has a more pointed nose, better aerodynamics and a redesigned interior. It expands on the original concept with several engine choices that include a 3.0-liter diesel, the standard twin-turbo six-cylinder or the 445-horse-power twin-turbo V-8. The test vehicle, from BMW’s press fleet, was powered by the 300-horsepower, six-cylinder engine that can push the X5 to 60 miles per hour in 6.2 seconds. All engines use an eight-speed automatic that can be shifted manually.
Because BMW is known for building fun-to-drive machines, the new X5 definitely has a sporting character that is almost as agile as sedan. The test vehicle, from BMW’s press fleet, was equipped with the optional dynamic handling package that includes a self-leveling rear suspension, active roll stabilization that minimizes body lean in turns and dynamic damper control that gives the driver several adjustments for the shock absorbers. The changes are managed by a switch on the center console.
That said, it is not the kind of vehicle you fling into a corner like a sports car, but it acquits itself quite well on curvy roads and freeway on ramps.
Comfort is the default driving dynamics setting, but Sport, Sport + and Eco Pro are also available. Eco Pro embodies a function that changes the responsiveness of the the engine, tailors electrical functions like climate control and heated seats to consume less energy and lets the car coast without engine braking when the driver eases off the throttle.
Sport gives the car a much livelier feel, and Sport + is the setting you would use for charging around a track.
BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system adjusts the distribution of power between the front and rear wheels according to available traction and how the vehicle is being driven. It monitors road speed, wheel speed, steering angle and throttle position and counteracts oversteer (rear wheels sliding out) or understeer (front wheels plowing ahead) before the driver is even aware. It does not have a low range like you would find in a Range Rover, for example.
The X5’s interior, particularly the instrument panel, is both functional and aesthetic. Large, simple gauges dominate the area in front of the driver, and the center stack has a large LCD screen for the navigation system, rearview camera and audio system. I find it surprising that the rearview camera is optional for a car of this price. The keyless entry system, too, could not be locked or unlocked by touching the door handle. That, too, should be standard for a car in this price class.
Initially, I thought the front seats felt as if they lacked contouring, but after a few days they began to feel better. The optional sports seats or multi-contour seats probably would be my pick. Comfort seats are available for rear-seat passengers, too. A third-row seat is optional.
BMW continues to refine the iDrive system that uses a console-mounted knob to control many of the vehicle’s functions, and it is somewhat easier to use now.Price
The base price of the test vehicle was $55,100. Options included the dynamic handling package and rearview camera. The sticker price was $60,925.Warranty
Four years or 50,000 miles. All recommended service is free for four years or 50,000 miles.