Tech Review: 2007 BMW X5
By Doug Newcomb of MSN Autos
Maybe it's the tactile sensation of the heated and ventilated front seats with adjustable backrest width and thigh and shoulder support. Maybe it's the visual sensation of the rearview camera and its myriad guiding modes and Park Distance Control that made me feel in complete control backing up.
Or maybe it's the aural sensation of being able to talk hands-free after effortlessly connecting a Bluetooth phone. But more than likely it's a combination of all of the above—and then some—that made the 2007 BMW X5 4.8i (sticker priced at $55,195) more than the sum of its high-tech parts. And that was just while backing out of the driveway.
Even the side mirrors, for example, play a more than practical role. Not only can they be automatically heated (a good thing where I live) and folded in at the touch of a button (an especially good thing with my tight carport), but the curb mode conveniently tilts the passenger-side mirror towards the pavement so you can see how close you are to scraping the vehicle's 18-inch alloy wheels when squeezing into a parallel parking spot. The Park Distance Control also saves on your insurance deductible since it uses color-gradient indicators on the 7-inch screen in the dash to indicate precisely how close you are to an object. It also beeps more loudly as you get closer to impact, which can get annoying, although you can turn off the PDC system via a switch on the dash.
iDrive You Crazy
But the X5's high-tech emphasis is also balanced by a few almost low-tech touches. The tuning of the AM and FM radio, for example, is simplified by a on-screen graphics that mimic an old-fashioned analog-radio dial, and I like that adjacent stations are clearly visible when stations are manually tuned. And thanks to RDS capability, some stations' call letters are displayed along with their frequency, which makes it easier to zero in on a desired channel while driving.
Searching among the station presets is also straightforward since they're displayed in an easy-to-read pair of stair-step columns. The opposite is true of tuning in SIRIUS Satellite Radio channels. For one, you don't get adjacent-channel info, as with AM and FM, and in order to get artist and track information you have to go through a cumbersome backtracking process that I've also experienced on several other recent BMW models.
In addition to the standard bass and treble controls the system uses a seven-band equalizer, but even with it I couldn't dial in the sound to my liking. An auxiliary jack in the center console along with a 12-volt outlet allows easily jacking a portable music player into the audio system (BMW's iPod Adaptor, which allows control of the player through the audio system, is available as an option, as is a rear-seat video system), and a six-disc CD changer was stashed in the glove box. Like the radio graphics, BMW's method of showing a CD's track listing in a semi-circular fashion on the dash-mounted screen is one of the best in the business.
Entering a destination into the navigation system by voice was equally frustrating. While it recognized the city of "Topanga" as a destination, for example, it didn't recognize a street named "Oxnard." I found that the destination info was best entered using the iDrive. The on-screen and voice-prompted route guidance were both excellent, and the Real Time Traffic Information feature notifies you of congestion and gives you the option of detouring around it.
Long List of Tech
Doug Newcomb has been writing about car electronics since 1988, as editor of Car Audio and Electronics, Car Stereo Review, Mobile Entertainment, Road & Track Road Gear and as a freelance writer. His new book, Car Audio for Dummies, is available from Wiley Publications. He lives in Hood River, Oregon.