When BMW's X5 entered the SUV fray in 2000, it hit all the targets. It was roomy, comfortable and provided a `BMW' driving experience. For 2007, the competition is now Porsche's Cayenne Turbo and Audi's Q7. Fresheningup the existing model wasn't an option. BMW had to start from scratch.
The new X5 is 7.4 inches longer, 2.3 inches wider and two inches higher, riding on a wheelbase that's 4.5 inches longer. The greater dimensions are put to good use, with more shoulder- and leg-room for front and rear occupants and a usable increase in cargo volume. The new chassis is not only 15 percent stiffer than the old model, it is reportedly stiffer than BMW's successful roll-cage-equipped racing cars from the '80s.
The tougher structure pays off for the independent front and rear suspensions. Unequal-length double control arms at the front replace the original's strut design, while a four-link independent rear keeps things planted andpredictable. Self-leveling rear air springs are standard onthe V8-powered 4.8i model and optional on the six-cylinder 3.0si.
Standard equipment includes variable-ratio power steering, Dynamic Stability Control (incorporating Brake Drying, Brake Stand-by, Brake Fade Compensation, Start-Off Assistant, Hill Descent Control and trailer stabilization), 18-inch run-flat tires and four-wheel ventilated disc brakes. A Sport Package is available and includes 19-inch run-flat tires, Active Roll Stabilization and Electronic Damping Control, while Active Steering is yet another option.
The new car benefits from evolutions of BMW's 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder and 4.8-liter V8 engines. Both engines are smaller and lighter, using magnesium/aluminum composite construction and variable valve technology (Valvetronic) for more power and better fuel efficiency. Valvetronic does away with conventional throttle valves, varying valve lift instead for idle, acceleration, deceleration or constant engine speeds. The six-cylinder produces 260 bhp, while the V8 makes 350 bhp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission; a manual transmission is no longer offered; xDrive all-wheel drive is electronically controlled and features variable torque split and traction control. Normal torque split is 60 percent rear/40 percent front.
With so much technology, driving the new X5 on dry pavement is absurdly easy. So steady rain, a twisty leaf-covered mountain road, along with the occasional mud washout, provides a better opportunity to see how the 4.8i handles the real world. BMW claims a zero to 60 mph time of 6.4 seconds for this V8-powered machine. Even on a wet and slippery surface, that number seems perfectly attainable. The car is completely devoid of drama. No doubt the many electronic systems and safeguards all add to its surefooted nature.
With windows rolled up, it's practically silent. Even full-throttle blasts produce only a muted grumble. Shifts are perceptible, but only just. The sheer competence and isolation beg the question: can a vehicle so eerily lacking in feedback and connection to the outside world--no matter how extraordinary its capabilities--reallybe the ultimate driving machine?
The six-cylinder 3.0si has a base price of $46,595 while the V8 4.8i requires $55,195. Options like seven-passenger seating (available in the X5 for the first time) and the Sport Package take those numbers and run with them. For anyone after a superbly capable hauler that can quickly dispatch almost any road with little need for real driving skill, this fits the bill.
2007 BMWX5 4.8i
Front-engine, all-wheel drive
4.8-liter V8, dohc, four valves per cylinder
Double wishbone front, multi-link rear, ZSP AdaptiveDrive
Power assisted four-wheelventilated discs, ABS
Length x Width x Height (in.):191.1 x 76.1 x 69.5
Wheelbase: 115.5 in.
Curb Weight: 5335 lb
Peak Power: 350 bhp @ 6300 rpm
Peak Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm
0-60 mph: 6.4 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph
Why we love it: Quick, capable, commodious
Why we don't: Uninvolving, pricey
The Price Tag: $55,195