BMW touts the 4.8is iteration of its X5 Sport Activity Vehicle, or SAV (an acronym the company went to great lengths to establish), as the "SAV with a racecar complex." The statement is at least partially true. I for one don't think I've more enjoyed pinning an accelerator pedal to the floor. Its 4.8-liter V8 is massively powerful, churning out 369 lb-ft of maximum torque and pushing the X5's porkish 5,016-pound chassis to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds. That's nearly a full second quicker than our long-term Cayenne S. And it sounds great-louder and more gutteral than the Porsche, but not to the point that it becomes intrusive or uncomfortable inside the cabin.
The X5 is available only as an automatic, but at least it's got a six-speed with Steptronic. Throwing the shift lever into sport mode allows you to instantly climb higher into the rev range and to maintain high rpm once you're off the gas. From there, bumping the lever up or down puts you in full manual mode-or thereabouts. It's no SMG, but the sport Steptronic allows for reasonably quick gear selection and more control over your gearing than a full automatic would normally afford.
We've really enjoyed driving our long-term X3 for the last year and a half, but next to this X5 it just looks silly. Granted, it's a great car-lighter, more nimble and a heck of a lot cheaper than any X5. But comparing the two side by side really illustrates disparities in build quality and the caliber of materials used-particularly the composites along the dash and the supple leather of the seats, the heft of moving parts like the steering wheel and doors, and the quality of trim throughout the cabin.
This vehicle was equipped with the $1,800 navigation option. Curiously, pushing the eject button on the interface prompted the faceplate to slide downward and reveal... a cassette tape deck. Perusing the list of optional equipment, I learned this SAV was equipped with the anti-theft AM/FM/CD audio system, wherein the "navigation option deletes CD and includes cassette." (That's straight off the window sticker.)
Huh? Do people really still listen to cassette tapes? And are those people the ones who are liable to drop $70,000 on a new BMW? I'm sure there must be a logical explanation, but I'm not sure what it is.
Anyway, if you like big, powerful vehicles you will like the X5 4.8is. That it packs an elevated, truck-like stance, extraordinary comfort features and 24 cubic feet of stowage are all added bonuses. If you opt for navigation, though, I hope to God you've saved your '80s tape collection.
2005 BMW X5 4.8is
Price as Tested: $73,125
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
4.8-liter V8, dohc, four valves per cylinder
Six-speed automatic w/ Steptronic
Peak Power: 355 bhp @ 6200 rpm
Peak Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.9 sec.
Top Speed: 153 mph
Fuel Economy: 16 city/ 21 hwy