Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2004 BMW X5 Overview
More than a Sport Ute
If you read through the BMW website, you'll notice that the company doesn't refer to the X5 3.0 as an SUV; it's called an SAV, or "Sports Activity Vehicle." The difference is actually quite important, as the X5 is more about driving pleasure and passenger room than it is about cargo-hauling ability and 4x4 adventuring. In some way, you might just think of it as a taller 3-Series wagon, which is not really much of a stretch. The X5's handling, comfort and luxurious trappings are certainly more car-like than truck, but dig a little deeper and you'll find that the X5 really is in a class all by itself.
For our test, we drove an X5 3.0i, the most affordable model in the series. An inline 3.0-liter, six- cylinder engine that makes 225 horsepower powers the X5 and is teamed to an all-new six-speed manual transmission. Though we know most owners will probably opt for the five-speed automatic that features BMW's Steptronic manual shift control, we like the feeling of a good old-fashioned, clutch pedal, especially when driving anything wearing the blue and white propeller. We found the X5's six-speed manual to be as smooth as a blanket of new fallen snow, with precise movement through its shiftgates and limited travel between gears. The clutch uptake is also first rate, providing a nice smooth engagement that prevents jerky starts and jolting upshifts.
The 3.0-liter engine employs BMW's VANOS variable valve timing technology that alters the intake and exhaust timing, helping to provide more torque when the rpm range is low. The inline six's smooth, linear power delivery is an attribute naturally inherent in its design, but this engine's gutsy performance and sweet exhaust note could only come from BMW. Ordinarily, a six-cylinder would have a bit of a struggle with a vehicle as heavy as the X5 (it tips the scales at just over 4600-pounds), but the 3.0-liter pulls strong from start to finish and only feels taxed for power when fully loaded with passengers and cargo.
The driving experience afforded by the X5 is nothing short of astounding. Even though you're sitting a good ways up, the X5 exhibits none of the lean or roll commonly associated with tall vehicles. The ride is a bit firm, owing it to the stiff suspension, but the 3.0i's standard 17-inch tires provide enough sidewall to cushion passengers from a truly harsh ride. As the driver, you will of course love the stiff suspension and the asphalt-hugging tires, both of which play a major role in the phenomenal road holding abilities displayed by the X5. Sharp turns no longer need be met by a dramatic application of the brakes before entering; with the X5, you are free to round curves at speed, downshift before the apex and accelerate out the other side.
The X5's road-holding abilities extend beyond dry pavement thanks to the new xDrive all-wheel-drive system that comes standard on every vehicle. With the old system, a conventional planetary gear divided the engine's torque in a constant front to rear ratio of 32/68 percent. With xDrive, the rear wheels are constantly receiving power while a new multi-disc clutch proportions the amount of power delivered to the fronts. An onboard computer monitors a number of variables including the rotational speed of each wheel, steering angle and the vehicles yaw and lateral movements; it then determines to what degree the clutch is opened, allowing as much as 50% of the power to move to the fronts and as little as 10% to the rears. Simply put, the X5 is now much more sure-footed on icy road conditions as well as in deep snow or mud.
Lest we forget, the X5 is a BMW, which means that its interior is loaded with creature comfort upon creature comfort. It all begins with the leather-covered eight-way power adjustable seats that are supremely form fitting. The rear seats are equally comfortable, with plenty of head and legroom for taller passengers. Cargo space behind the second seat is a bit narrow, perhaps the one weak spot in an otherwise excellent interior. From the driver's seat, you'll find a cockpit born of the driving tradition, with all pertinent gauges housed before you in a dome-shaped binnacle and a number of steering-wheel mounted controls for the cruise and audio functions.
Beyond its extensive standard equipment list, the X5 features a host of packages that permit you to add just about any option you desire, including an onboard computer, power-adjustable rear-seat backrests, power sunroof, height-adjustable suspension, heated seats, a Sport package featuring stiffer springs and shocks and racy alloy wheels, self-leveling rear air suspension, on-board navigation and a rear park assist. Of course, as you pile on the options, the 3.0i's low $40K base price will quickly rise, so be careful not to become over zealous if you are restrained by budgetary concerns.