A crossover king of the road
BMW X5 – 2007 Review: At first look, the BMW X5 looks like pretty much any other crossover. When you sit in the driver’s seat, you’re surrounded by a combination of luxury and truckness. You feel the overall heft of the vehicle as you cruise down the street. But something peculiar happens when you take it onto a twisty mountain road: It does not drive anything like a big crossover. The 5 Series underpinnings haven’t been outweighed by the taller cabin and cargo space. Indeed, the X5 has both the power and the handling to make you think sport, not utility.
What We Drove
It’s a good thing that the X5 drives so well or else this one would be the Ultimate Option Machine. While the crossover starts at $55,225, including $775 destination charge, our test vehicle came with a whopping $22,195 – a MINI Cooper’s worth – of options. Among them were Active Ventilated Seats, Premium Package, Premium Sound, Rear Climate, Sport Package, Technology Package, third-row seats, Rear Seat Entertainment, Active Steering and Comfort Access System, which is BMW’s ultra-fancy remote control. Many of these packages included less-than critical items, but they also included features that made the X5 more comfortable and perform better.
BMW’s 4.8-liter V-8 accelerates well in full auto and even more aggressively in manual mode. The 350 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque made short work of passing other vehicles. The smooth power band and throaty sound make for an entertaining drive. The six-speed automatic has three modes: D, in which it does all the shifting; DS, which shifts at higher engine speeds; and M for manual shift, although it will automatically upshift when close to redline. Manual mode allowed for spirited driving on mountain roads, and DS mode kept the transmission from hunting on climbs.
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2007 BMW X5 – Ride and Handling
On regular pavement, the BMW proved nimble on a twisty mountain road. Everyday driving was very much like piloting a large sedan. The Active Steering – a $1,400 option – is a bit numb, but responsive and precise. The antilock brakes did a fine a job, from light braking into corners to harder stops, not surprising given their size and the presence of stability, traction and dynamic control systems. We put the BMW through steep terrain, ruts and wet sand. While not an all-out off-roader, the X5 performed well. The all-wheel drive took on fire roads and desert washes with relative ease.
Fun to Drive
The X5 performed well both on road and off. It was more fun on-road than expected and dealt well with the rough parts of fire roads and the wet sand of a desert wash. The all-wheel drive, stability and traction control and antilock brakes made the “faster” sandy sections a breeze. With all the audio, climate and comfort features, the X5 makes for a pleasant commuter vehicle. If only it got better mileage. We averaged 13.1 mpg, with a low of 10.5 and a high of 15.8. Still, a nearly five-liter V-8 pushing 5,000 pounds isn’t the formula for an economy car.
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2007 BMW X5 – Comfort
BMW’s optional sport seats are among the best in the business. Adjustable in every conceivable direction, they made for a comfortable all-day road trip. Our test vehicle also had optional seat ventilation; air-conditioned or heated with three levels and adjustable for how much goes to the bottom or back. Pushing the dash mounted button automatically displays the settings on iDrive. That ventilated comfort comes at a price, $2,100. Center and door armrests are lightly padded, not as plush as we’d expect. Optional sport steering wheel is leather covered, slightly padded, has just the right heft and tilts and telescopes.
It might not be quite executive level, but it’s quite good. Seats have a few inches of travel, and seat backs tilt from nearly straight up to far enough back for a nap. A padded center arm rest folds down when there isn’t a middle passenger or the ski bag isn’t in use. Our test vehicle came with the optional rear climate and audio systems. There are reading lamps above the two outboard seats. The center passenger seat is pretty stiff and small, and leg room is limited. With the third-row seats raised, a few inches of leg room disappears.
Rear Comfort: Third-Row Seats
The third-row seats are a $1,200 option, and not the place for adults you like or whose inheritance you might get. Seats are small, leg room is only somewhat better than the back of 2+2 sport coupes. There are two vents between the seats with a fan switch, but it’s not clear where that air comes from. While the X5 is technically a seven-passenger vehicle, it’s probably better suited to four adults and two or three children. The tracks for the tie-down hooks also pose some risk to small fingers and a place where kid-related stuff might accumulate.
Large mirrors do come with a drawback: wind noise. It’s not awful, but you won’t think you’re in a 6 or 7 Series sedan. There’s some road noise, about what we’d expect from all-season tires. In lower gears, the V-8’s growl is audible, but not loud. There’s some whine occasionally from the transmission, but it’s pretty rpm specific so it’s not a constant sound. For a large, boxy vehicle the X5 is pretty quiet; credit goes to it being more aerodynamic than it looks.
The X5 has good visibility all around. Large outside mirrors, good sized windows and a rear-view camera – part of the $2,600 Technology Package – make the BMW easy to live with in parking lots and easy to maneuver in traffic. The camera is activated when you shift into reverse and the right side mirror dips to give a view of the curb, and its image is overlaid with a grid and lines that move with the steering wheel, indicating your path. Even with rear head restraints raised, visibility is good. With the third-row seat head restraints raised, the view becomes cluttered.