2003 BMW X5

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2002 BMW X5

This 2002 review is representative of model years 2000 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

New V8 makes this slick vehicle one of fastest sport-utilities.
Pros:
  • Fast
  • Carlike
  • Luxurious
Cons:
  • Small cargo area
  • Occasional choppy ride
  • Fuel hungry

A new engine easily makes the 2002 all-wheel-drive BMW X5 sport-utility vehicle one of the fastest sport-utes, which is in keeping with its rakish, go-fast personality.

The new engine is a 4.6-liter 340-horsepower V8, which BMW was goaded into offering by archrival Mercedes-Benz, which sells a hot rod 342-horsepower version of its M-Class sport-ute.

Sizzling Performance
The new 150-mph X5 4.6is does 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds, which is moving for a 4,824-pound sport-utility. Accompanying the engine are a firmer sport suspension, specially programmed automatic transmission and upgraded brakes. However, despite its ferocious nature, no manual gearbox is offered for the 4.6is.

The $66,200 4.6is looks racier than a Mercedes M-Class essentially because styling of the X5 model is much slicker than that of the boxy M-Class. And the 4.6is looks particularly adventuresome with its aero body parts package.

The 4.6is also has absolutely huge 20-inch wheels and tires. They provide excellent grip for such a heavy sport-ute on dry roads, but most people would hate changing one if it went flat without first taking a Charles Atlas muscle building course.

New Features
New for the 2002 X5 are automatic headlight control, which switches on lights according to ambient light conditions. Also new as standard or optional equipment are an in-dash CD player, adjustable ride height with air suspension, power adjustable rear-seat backrests and reconfigured option packages.

The base X5 is the $38,900 3.0i, which has an inline 3.0-liter 225-horsepower 6-cylinder engine known for its smoothness. The $49,400 4.4i is the mid-range trim and has a 4.4-liter 290-horsepower V8.

Marginal Cargo Space
No matter what trim, the X5's zoomy styling takes a big bite out of interior room. The BMW mid-size 5-Series station wagon has more cubic feet of cargo volume than the X5. For that matter, so does the Ford Taurus station wagon. At least the rear seatbacks of the X5 fold flat to enlarge the modest cargo area.

But then, practicality never was a strong point of the X5, which is supposed to be a cross between a high-performance sedan and sport-ute. BMW called the X5 a "sports-activity vehicle" when it was introduced for 2000. It also could be called a "crossover" vehicle.

Decent Room for Occupants
While the lack of cargo room can be a serious drawback, there's decent space for four tall adults, who sit high in the quiet, nicely designed interior.

The carlike X5 has BMW's typical precise steering and the type of handling and braking that urge you to drive faster than you would in most sport-utility vehicles.

Even the 4.6is has a reasonably supple ride, although sidewall areas of its ultrawide high-performance tires are too small to help soap up bumps much. In fact, both of the two X5 V-8 models have an occasionally jerky ride. The smoothest ride is provided by the 3.0i, which has 17-inch wheels and higher tire sidewalls.

It's doubtful that many X5 buyers will subject their vehicle to tough off-road driving, but the X5 does have good off-road prowess, thanks to such items as the standard all-wheel-drive system and goodies such as a hill-descent feature that intervenes at low speeds to help a driver move safely down steep grades.

Standard Model Fine for Most
The 3-liter 6-cylinder provides lively performance, especially with its standard 5-speed manual gearbox. The 3.0i should be fine for most X5 buyers. It has plenty of equipment, and a 5-speed automatic transmission with manual shift ability is available for $1,275.

Then there's the mid-range $49,400 4.4i model with a 4.4-liter V8 that produces 290 horsepower—up from 282 last year—and very strong acceleration.

The 4.4i has more equipment than the 3.0i, including the 5-speed automatic, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, wood interior trim and power front passenger seat.

The mighty—and pricey—4.6is adds classy features such as a specially upholstered and trimmed interior, heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, rear obstacle detection system, power sunroof, killer sound system and heated front and rear seats.

Fuel Thirsty
But owners should keep their gasoline credit cards handy because no X5 is easy with fuel. The 3.0i provides the top estimated economy: 15 mpg in the city and 21 on highways, both with the manual gearbox and efficient automatic transmission. The figures are 13 and 17 with the 290-horsepower V8 and a lackluster 12 and 17 with the new V8.

The X5 is nearly the same length and height as most mid-size sport-utility vehicles, but is a little wider. Some extra effort is needed to get in the front compartment and rear door openings should be wider to allow easier entry and exit.

Safety Features
< Safety features include traction control and anti-skid systems, along with a brake control system that reinforces a driver's pedal effort during emergency braking. Front side airbags are standard and rear side airbags add $550.

The X5 is rigidly built and beautifully painted and assembled. It provides lots of driving kicks. But it isn't cheap, and rival high-line sport-utes outdo it in the utility area.

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BB05 - 9/18/2014 1:09:44 AM