2011 BMW X5 xDrive 40d - First Drive - VIDEO ENHANCED

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2011 BMW X5 xDrive 40d
Fresh looks do not tell it all

By Henny Hemmes,
Senior European Editor
Amsterdam Bureau
The Auto Channel

Miami, FL - April 18, 2010: Most times, a problem never comes alone. Yes. Mr. Murphy… we know, thanks! This time he crossed BMW’s path during the event for the media’s first drive with the new X5’s media launch in Miami .

The second generation of the SUV has been refreshed with design modifications, new driver assistance systems and revised engines. Unfortunately, it’s the engines, where something went wrong. Since I am focusing on the American market, my test car of choice would have been the 35i. But alas, not a single X5 xDrive 35i was available.

After fueling the test feet of some twenty 35i’s and about the same amount of 40d models upon arrival from Spartanburg, SC, where the X5 is built, the technical staff noticed that something was wrong, very wrong. They soon found out the reason why the 35i models did not run as smooth as they normally do: the gasoline contained water. Due to heavy rain, the surface under the gas station had been soaked and the big tank underneath had started leaking, absorbing water to be mixed with the fuel. Cleaning the all car’s complete system was going to take a couple of days, since some parts had to be replaced and shipped in from the plant.

Fortunately, the gas station’s diesel storage tank had not been affected. That is why we had to depend on the diesel models.

Realizing that the Bavarians always come up with well organized events, you would understand that some frustration surfaced when they could offer us only one model for driving And driving the 40d diesel engine is not exactly a waist of time, especially since we are already familiar with the 35i engine, that debuted in the award winning 5 Series Gran Turismo and that I also drove in the 535i Series sedan. (CLICK HERE for story.)

Another thing that got the BMW staff worrying, although to a lesser extend, was the weather. Heavy wind and rain showers spoiled the Miami setting upon arrival of the first European group. If they could have prevented the clouds rolling in they would have. It is a pity when you come all the way across the ocean to an area that is famous for its 360 days of sunshine, but it’s something most Europeans can deal with. That does not apply to the extreme high humidity level, outside the car, that is. Inside comfort is soon retained, thanks to the well functioning air conditioning. I will get back to Murphy’s law later…

Falling In Love With Diesel

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So, back to the 4.0-liter six-cylinder diesel engine that produces 306 hp at 4,400 rpm. I love diesel engines in general, and this one is no exception. It is the torque (443 lb-ft.) that makes heavy weights such as the X5 feel like a sports tourer. In this case maximum torque is available between 1,500 and 2,500 rpm and it provides the X5 40d a really lively character. Cruising at 65 mph the crankshaft makes only 1,200 revs. You hardly notice the engine is running. While upon pushing the throttle, the X5 takes off aggressively. Because we were driving in normal traffic, I did not verify the acceleration time from 0-60 mph, that BMW says is just under 6.5 seconds.

Nor did we dare to reach the top speed of 147 mph. The aluminum common-rail diesel has an average of 7.4L/100 in the European test cycle which would mean about 39 mpg, but official mileage for the US model have not been given yet.

I know for sure, I will not meet this mileage, as the X5 is too inviting not to enjoy stepping on the throttle every now and then.

The main reason why the 40d will not yet be available on the North American market is because of US emissions standards in all 50 states. Nevertheless, the CO2 emission level of 191 grams per kilometer of the 40d is acceptable.

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BMW might be considering introducing this bigger engine, but to be honest the 35d, on which the bigger 40d is based is not bad at all. To say the least. It is America has to be satisfied with the 35d, that made up for 33 percent of BMW’s total X5 sales in the U.S in December 2009, so that it looks like diesel has gained enormous momentum over the past year. In March, the smooth and powerful 35d inline six diesel engine won an award in Wards 10 best engines. May be America starts falling in love with diesel in the end….

‘Mr. Butt’

Thanks to the careful set up of the taut suspension of the all-wheel driven X5, supervised by Heinz Krusche the X5 feels at home on twisty roads. It has much grip on the tarmac, steers in quickly and body roll is minimal. Cruising on the freeway is pleasant because you can hardly hear the engine. That is only the case when you push the throttle and you hear a nice rumble.

By the way: mr. Krusche is nick named ‘Mr. Butt’ by his colleagues, because it is his spine and buttocks that fine tunes the final product. Krusche is responsible for driving dynamics, the ‘feel’. for all of BMW Group’s vehicles (BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce) for nearly 30 years. He and his engineers are used to do a great job, which you can experience also in this mature SUV.

Mr. Murphy

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Back to Murphy. Driving through the everglades close to our lunch stop, where we met Peach, a 12 feet long alligator and soon to be mother, we could also go off-road. One of my colleagues went into a pond with a bit too much enthusiasm and got stuck in the water. The big diesel stalled and was started again….

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Off roaders know that you’d better not do that when the air intake is not placed higher than the engine. So the 40d sucked in all the water it could get and stalled definitely. When the X5 was towed out of the water, the latch broke and hit the windshield with a lot of force. Fortunately everybody was o.k. and Peach stayed away from the human flesh walking in the water.

Please look at the video carefully and see an X5 passing behind the water. Peach feels the vibrations of the car and dives back into safety...

Click PLAY to watch video

The BMW staff had more problems to come: the ashes from Iceland, that circle in the air above Europe, meant that a lot of rescheduling had to be done. But let’s hope Mr. Murphy had enough by now.

In the mean time, the new X5 has made its North American debut at the New York auto show. BMW is confident that with the new fresh look and new engines, drive trains and a few thousand new parts, it can continue to strengthen the leading position within the four-wheel drive premium segment. You may look for the 2011 model at the dealerships later this month. Prices start at $46,675 for the xDrive35i. The X5 xDrive Premium costs $52.475, the Sport Activity model with has a price of $54,975 and the X5 xDrive 35d is priced at $52,175 (all prices including destination & handling). The 35i Premium and Sport Activity are equipped with the new 8-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic. The 8-speed transmission is standard in the X5 xDrive 50i ($ 59,275) and 35i.

HHR, April 2010

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