2005 BMW X5
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
It shouldn't be surprising that BMW's X5 is the sportiest midsize sport-utility vehicle because, after all, it is a BMW.
What about the rival Porsche Cayenne sport ute, you say? Frankly, although the top Cayenne is more powerful with its 450-horsepower turbocharged V8 than the top-line 2005 X5 4.8is, it looks bland next to any version of the X5.
Moreover, the X5 4.8is has a non-turbo 355-horsepower V8, which makes it extremely fast. Only the turbocharged higher-horsepower Cayenne is faster in the premium midsize sport-ute field. And that Porsche costs $88,900, compared to $70,100 for the 4.8is.
Three Trim Levels
While no version of the X5 is inexpensive, resale value is high and it offers plenty of driving enjoyment, which is something no dollar figure can be put on.
Besides the Cayenne, the only serious rivals to the X5 4.8is are the 315-horsepower Infiniti FX45 V8, which costs about $44,000, and the 320-horsepower version of the new Cadillac SRX, priced at $50,135.
While fast, the SRX can't match acceleration of the X5 4.8is or turbocharged Cayenne, although the Cadillac is more comfortable than those German sport utes.
Passing Up Easy Money
The X5 got major improvements for 2004. They included a standard 6-speed manual gearbox for the entry 3.0-liter 225-horsepower 6-cylinder version and a new 6-speed automatic transmission for the V8 versions.
There also were a new all-wheel-drive system for better traction and handling, more power for the 4.4-liter V8 and introduction of the sizzling 4.8is version to replace the 4.6is. Also, the X5 got a freshened exterior design, with a new front end and taillights, along with new wheel designs and more equipment.
Changes for Latest Versions
The 4.4i has leather upholstery, rear climate control and 18-inch wheels, versus the 3.0i's 17-inch wheels. The 4.8is also has heated front/rear seats, power sunroof and such items as side sunshades and a sport suspension with an adjustable ride height feature. Also standard are 20-inch wheels, although the full-size spare tire is deleted.
Fairly Slow for the Money
The X5 V8s provide so much power and torque that a manual gearbox would be superfluous for them. They're priced as luxury vehicles, which usually are regarded as "automatic-transmission-only" vehicles and thus come only with a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission.
No Fuel Misers
All X5s have an all-wheel-drive system not meant for rugged off-road use, although they have a Hill Descent Control, which intervenes at low speeds to help a driver maintain speed down steep grades.
Safety items include front-seat side airbags and front/rear head-protecting side-curtain airbags.
I anticipated that the stiffer suspension, larger wheels and wider tires of a 4.8is I tested would hurt ride quality, but the ride remained supple on rough roads.
All BMW models get power steering that is arguably the best among mass-produced vehicles, so the X5 steered with typical BMW accuracy and quickness.
Sports Sedan Feel
There's good room for four tall adults, who sit high. But sliding in and out requires extra effort, and rear doorways should be larger.
Front seats are very supportive, and instruments can be quickly read. But the small audio and climate controls call for a driver to take eyes off the road.
Nicely located front cupholders have a sliding cover, and all doors have handy storage pockets, although the covered front console storage bin is small.
There's no need to grope for the outside hood release lever because a handy small release lever pops out of the top of the grille area when the inside hood release is activated. This feature is especially appreciated in pouring rain.
The tailgate has a separate-opening glass area, but the wide cargo opening is high.
No third-row seat is offered, but the cargo area is pretty large, and flipping the rear seatbacks forward provides appreciably more cargo room.
As always, the X5 is for those who would like a fun-to-drive sports sedan but want the convenience of a sport-utility vehicle—and a prestigious nameplate.