2007 BMW X5 3.0 si Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 BMW X5 SAV

SEE ALSO: BMW Buyers Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2007 BMW X5 3.0 si

When it debuted seven years ago, the X5 was a very BMW take on the then-new crossover SUV concept. SUVs in those days were generally ponderous utility-oriented trucks, the antithesis of all that BMW had built its reputation on. The X5 was different. Made in America (Spartanburg, South Carolina, to be exact) primarily for the American market, the X5 had nearly all of the handling and performance virtues of its sedan or wagon relatives, with extra ground clearance and an appropriate rugged look. It looked like an SUV, but BMW called it a "Sports Activity Vehicle", or SAV, and registered the term and abbreviation. To say it was successful would be massive understatement.

But seven years in today's ultracompetitive automotive industry is an eternity. All of the X5's competitors have been renewed in that time, and that left it lacking in some areas. No longer, as the second-generation models have just been introduced.

As before there are six-cylinder and V8 models, the X5 3.0si and X5 4.8i respectively. In both, little has been left unchanged. The styling, while evolutionary and still instantly recognizable, is all new - and masks the 2007 X5's slightly larger size very well. That size increase means a welcome expansion of interior space - and an available third row seat. There is a new unibody structure, with improved crash-management design. The front suspension is BMW's first non-strut design since 1961, while the rear suspension has also been revised. The 3.0si's engine is the latest magnesium/aluminum unit from the 3-Series, with more power - 260 hp - than the previous X5 six, and better fuel economy. The V8 has grown from 4.4 liters displacement to 4.8, with 350 horsepower. Both are matched to an upgraded six-speed automatic transmission, and feature the newest iteration of the "xDrive" full-time all-wheel drive system. The interior is much improved in size and style, and has all of the latest features and gadgets in the BMW inventory.

The X5 has been the class benchmark since its introduction, with competing manufacturers comparing their vehicles to it - mostly unsuccessfully, especially in road manners - even when it was no longer new. After spending a week with an X5 3.0si, all I can say is that X5 Generation II will just make life harder for them. It improves significantly on the original in every way. The extra interior space is most welcome, as are improved road manners - not that there was anything wrong with the original in that department. Also new are standard and optional features that didn't exist when the original was designed, such as an available third row, Active Steering, Active Roll Stabilization, Electronic Damping Control, a rearview camera, and BMW's simplified iDrive system. And with a 6,000-pound towing capacity, even for the 3.0si, the X5 can please more than the BMW faithful.

APPEARANCE: Even without a look at the trademark twin-kidney grille and quad round headlights under plastic in front, the new X5 will be instantly recognizable. Although it's larger than the original in every dimension - by 4.5 inches in wheelbase, 7.4 in length, 2.3 in width, and 2.0 in height - the overall shape and proportions are a close match. Even in a side-by-side comparison with its ancestor, it's hard to tell that the new X5 is larger. There is continuity in styling, with the new models having more prominent creases on the hood and fenders in the manner of the smaller X3. But the X3's styling was derived from that of the original X5.

COMFORT: The X5's interior styling is standard contemporary BMW and pure car, with no truck or SUV styling cues. No complaints there, as it's tasteful, comfortable, well-made - and now more spacious. As in the current 3- and 5-Series cars, a double brow across the top of the instrument panel shades the instruments and central iDrive screen from glare. The front seats provide excellent support and comfort, and with the tilt- and telescope-adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel allow all drivers to find a perfect position. Also like the 3 and 5, the simplified iDrive control for vehicle, audio, and navigation systems has a quicker learning curve than the older systems. Second-row passengers get seatback angle adjustment. My test example was fitted with the optional third-row seat. Like those in other similarly-sized vehicles, it's best thought of as an occasional place to put small children. It does fold flat and out of the way when not in use.

SAFETY: Besides being equipped with large, vented antilock disc brakes on all four wheels, the X5, even in 3.0si trim, seemingly has more stability-enhancement electronics than a modern jet fighter. Electronic integration and communication allows the xDrive full-time all-wheel drive system and Hill Descent Control and trailer stabilization systems to work with the Dynamic Stability Control System for optimum traction, while brake drying, brake standby, and brake fade compensation enhance the already considerable braking power. Adaptive headlights, which move with the steering for a better view of the road at night, are standard.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The X5 is the antidote to the tippy, mushy, sloppy, slushy SUV. One of the activities in the SAV program is serious driving, and the X5 accomplishes that with all of the verve expected of any BMW. Yes, it's higher and heavier than a BMW sedan, and the height magnifies bumps and body roll, but that provides notice to an overly enthusiastic driver. And this is a vehicle that can be hustled down the road at a good clip. The new, more rigid, body structure allows increased precision in the action of the new dual-link wishbone front and revised four-link rear suspensions, for a firm and well-controlled ride like that of a BMW sedan. No surprise there. And there is no denying a near-5000 pound curb weight, but careful chassis design and tuning makes the X5 3.0Si remarkably light on its feet. The laws of physics haven't been broken, but they have been pushed a bit.

PERFORMANCE: The N52 inline six-cylinder engine is a gem, and feels much stronger than its specifications of 260 horsepower (at 6600 rpm) and 225 lb-ft of torque (at a low 2750 rpm) would indicate. It's lightweight and efficient, and here perfectly matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with "Steptronic" manual shift mode. "D" is fine for all but the most enthusiastic backroad driving, at which point third works quite well, thank you. No peaky power here, as can be told by that 2750rpm torque peak. Manual shifting is by a small, flickable electronic lever on the console. In manual or automatic, the transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, and matches revs when downshifting.

CONCLUSIONS: With its second-generation X5, BMW continues at the top of the performance-utility SUV, or is that SAV?, class.

SPECIFICATIONS
2007 BMW X5 3.0Si

Base Price			$ 45,900
Price As Tested			$ 56,995
Engine Type			dual overhead cam magnesium/aluminum
				 composite inline six-cylinder with
				 variable valve timing and lift on
				 both camshafts.
Engine Size			3.0 liters / 103 cu. in.
Horsepower			260 @ 6600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			225 @ 2750 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length	                	115.5 in. / 191.1 in.
Curb Weight			4982 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		22.1
Fuel Capacity			22.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		         91-octane premium unleaded gasoline
Tires				P225/55 HR18 Michelin Latitude Tour
Brakes, front/rear		         4-wheel vented disc, ABS, DSC,
				 dynamic traction control standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double-wishbone multi-link /
				  independent four-link
Drivetrain			longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 23 / 21
0 to 60 mph				7.8  sec
Towing capacity				6000 lbs

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Grey Nevada Leather 			$ 1,450
3rd-row seat				$ 1,700
Panoramic moonroof	                		$ 1,350
Rear door window sun blinds			$   250
Heated front seats				$   500
Park distance control			$   700
Rear seat entertainment			$ 1,800
Navigation system				$ 1,900
BMW Assist with Bluetooth system		$   750
Destination charge				$   895

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