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August 13, 2008 > Auto Review: The X5 by BMW

Auto Review: The X5 by BMW

The X5 is BMW's full-sized SUV. X5s are assembled in Spartanburg, South Carolina with most major components coming from Germany. BMW also sells a smaller SUV, the X3.

BMWs are always well made, performance-focused vehicles, and the X5 continues that tradition. All the X5s use BMW's all-wheel drive system that enhances road holding in even the worst conditions.

Our test X5 had the 4.8-liter, V-8 that puts out gobs of horsepower and torque (350 and 350 respectively). For those that don't need quite that much power (and save a little premium unleaded gas), a 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder is also available. It's rated at 260 HP and 225 foot pounds. The V-8 gets 14 mpg and 19 mpg in its EPA tests with the 3-liter posting 15 mpg and 21 mpg. Both X5 models use a 6-speed, adaptive automatic transmission that gives you the choices of a standard shifting mode, sport mode and "shift it yourself" with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Both X5 models are alike in every way except for the power plant under the hood.

The X5 4.8 starts with an MSRP of $54,500 and the X5 3.0 starts at $45,900. There are many options available to enhance the driving experience.

One of my favorites was the $1,200 "Heads up display." There are only a few vehicles that have this option, and it can be very useful - or very distracting if you are not used to it. It projects some of the instrument readouts onto the windshield in front of the driver's eyes. In the X5's system, it shows the speed in mph and the navigation system's display. This means you can keep your "head up" and see this information out the windshield and don't need to look down all the time. I like these displays, and it's very easy to follow the navigation system's commands while driving. But don't concentrate on the displays and lose track of where you are going.

Our test X5 had almost $6,000 of sound and entertainment options including a rear seat entertainment system, HD radio, satellite radio and others. They all combined to make this a very nice vehicle on long trips.

Another option on the test X5 was "active steering." This system varies the ratio of the steering wheel to the front wheel depending on the vehicle's speed. This means the ratio is slow at freeway speeds to prevent tiring the driver while he/she goes in a relatively straight line. But at slow speeds, the steering ratio speeds up to give you quicker steering reactions, better control, and better maneuverability.

The X5 is a wonderful SUV and a delight to drive. It had one of the largest sunroofs that I have seen in any vehicle. The outward visibility was good and very large mirrors made for safe lane changes. Seats were fantastic with a zillion possible adjustments. The interior was wonderful and a great place to live during your daily or vacation trips.

When you buy a BMW, you also get their full maintenance program at no extra cost. This means that, for 4-years or 50,000 miles, all normal service procedures are preformed by the dealer at no extra cost to the owner. You also get their 48-month/ 50,000 mile warranty and a roadside assistance package for 48 months with no mileage limitation.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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