2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d Review: What Is It
People who understand what torque is, and what torque does, understand exactly what the 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d can do. Consumers tend to focus on horsepower, and in the luxury vehicle classes, the bigger that number is, the better. The xDrive35d’s 265 horsepower isn’t helping it win any popularity contests.
Ah, but the xDrive35d’s turbo-diesel engine excels in the torque department, whipping up 425 lb.-ft. of the stuff between 1,750 rpm and 2,250 rpm. That’s more than the 300-horsepower xDrive35i, and almost as much as the 400-horsepower xDrive50i. And torque is what you feel pressing your back into the seat when you step on the go pedal, not horsepower.
Torque isn’t the end of the xDrive35d’s story. This 7-passenger SUV, or SAV in BMW parlance (for Sport Activity Vehicle), is rated to get 19 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg in combined driving. Other X5s? The best the xDrive35i can muster is 19 mpg in combined driving. The xDrive50i does worse than that. Don’t ask about the X5 M.
2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
As we covered in the introduction, BMW sells the 2012 X5 as the xDrive35i, xDrive35d, xDrive50i, and X5 M. For this review, we’re focusing on the xDrive35d, which starts at $57,595 including the $895 destination charge.
Buyers can upgrade with premium Nappa leather upholstery, a third-row seat, and a choice of option packages with names like Premium, Sport Activity, Cold Weather, Premium Sound, and Technology. Additionally, the X5 xDrive35d is available with ventilated front seats, a lane departure warning system, a rear-seat entertainment system, and BMW Apps mobile application service. Load one up with everything, and the price eclipses $75,000.
Our sample came with the Sport Activity Package, a navigation system, BMW Apps mobile application service, running boards, and a space saver spare tire for a total of $62,375. Dealer-installed trailering equipment ran about $1,500 extra.
2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d Review: What Its Up Against
The BMW X5 comes standard with seating for five people, which pits it against a long list of 5-passenger luxury suvs. The optional third-row seat, however, helps to narrow the list of competitors. Factor in the X5 xDrive35d’s turbo-diesel inline six-cylinder engine, and only the Audi Q7 and the Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec can also vie for consumers seeking torque.
The Audi Q7’s 3.0-liter turbo-diesel makes 25 less horsepower and 19 fewer lb.-ft. of torque than the BMW, and the Audi weighs 375 pounds more than the BMW. The Mercedes is 320 pounds heavier than the BMW, and its 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V6 engine is down 55 horsepower and 25 lb.-ft. of torque. Neither can touch the BMW’s fuel economy ratings.
2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d Review: Exterior
What’s New for 2012:
- Standard power tailgate
- Standard Park Distance Control parking sensors
How It Looks:
The color you see in the photos is Sparkling Bronze Metallic, an unusual hue that works well on the BMW X5. As our sample came equipped with the optional Sport Activity Package, it featured a set of 19-inch wheels. A larger 20-inch wheel design is available, and the BMW accessories catalog offers a number of 21-inch wheel options, all running at least $6,700 per set, and all attracting a fine layer of brake dust about 15 minutes after they’re washed.
2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d Review: Interior
What’s New for 2012:
- Standard BMW Assist telematics system with four years of free service
- Standard USB port with iPod connectivity
- Standard heated front seats
How It Looks and Feels
One of my favorite things about the BMW X5 is that its cabin transports me back to a time when BMWs were more about driving and less about technology. The layered dashboard, the quality materials, the no-nonsense analog gauge cluster with the little fuel economy meter, and the perfect driving position on seats wrapped in soft, durable, fragrant leather hearken back to older Bimmers that spoke to, rather than at, their drivers.
The X5 xDrive35d’s cabin can be tailored to specific tastes through a selection of wood or brushed aluminum trim, Nevada or Nappa leather seats, and optional multi-contour front seats. If you can’t create a perfect interior environment for this SUV, you’re not trying hard enough.
Unfortunately, some modern BMW traits sully the experience. Surprisingly, iDrive is not among the most egregious offenders, the latest version featuring a crisp, high-resolution color display and more intuitive functionality than ever. The same cannot be said for the X5’s video game gear selector, which works more like the joystick of an old Atari console than a proper shifter. We also find that the X5’s control stalks and switchgear require plenty of practice to make them perfect.
Comfort is no problem up front, especially if you opt for the ventilated multi-contour seats. The X5’s rear seat offers plenty of head and legroom, but lacks thigh support due to a bottom cushion that sits a tad bit too low. Opt for the third-row jump seats, and you’d better plan to use them only for children. Or adults you don’t like very much.
2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d Review: Powertrain
What’s New for 2012:
- New BluePerformance technology reduces nitrous oxide emissions
How Does It Go
The 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d is equipped with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter common rail diesel inline six-cylinder engine. It makes 265 horsepower at 4,200 rpm, 425 lb-ft. of torque between 1,750 and 2,250 rpm, and for 2012, is equipped with new BluePerformance technology to reduce emissions. BluePerformance consists of a diesel particulate filter with a Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC) and an AdBlue injection system to clean the xDrive35’s exhaust of nitrous oxide and to meet future diesel emissions standards.
A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, delivering power to all four wheels through BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Designed to feed more power to the rear wheels under normal driving conditions, xDrive automatically sends extra power forward as soon as wheel slippage is detected.
BMW claims that the X5 xDrive35d accelerates to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, and can go as fast as 150 mph when properly equipped. We didn’t attempt to confirm either assertion, but we did test the X5 diesel’s fuel economy. Remember, the xDrive35d is supposed to get 22 mpg in combined driving. We averaged 20.6 mpg, with the majority of the miles conducted in the city and suburbs.
2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d Review: How It Drives
Diesel engines tend to be heavy, with all the extra weight sitting over the front end. The X5 xDrive35d weighs 232 lbs. more than the X5 xDrive35i, and while all of that extra poundage cannot be solely attributed to the heavier engine, it is certainly a factor.
But here’s a dirty little secret. The X5 diesel is actually better balanced than either of its showroom stable mates, with a front/rear weight distribution of 49%/51%. Compare that to the xDrive35i (47.3%/52.7%) and the xDrive50i (48.8%/51.2%), and it appears the turbo-diesel engine’s extra heft is a benefit.
As a result, there’s no discernable extra weight over the nose from behind the steering wheel. The X5’s hydraulic steering is heavy, but in a good way that gives the driver a crystal clear understanding of what’s happening at the road surface. Plus, the X5’s steering is exceptionally precise and responsive. These are worthy trade-offs for needing to muscle the wheel from time to time.
As for the X5 xDrive35d’s powertrain, there is a momentary hesitation right off the line in the form of turbo lag. But once the engine spools up to about 1,500 rpm, the torque kicks in to give thrust junkies a thrill.
Once this SUV is moving, its six-speed automatic transmission keeps the engine in the thick of its powerband unless cruising on the highway, and even then, all that twist is just a press of the accelerator pedal away. Drivers can also use the transmission’s Sport mode to make the X5 feel more energetic, and perform manual shifts by counter intuitively tapping up for a downshift or tapping down for an upshift. The X5 xDrive35d’s manual mode works well for engine braking on hills – if you can remember which way to tap the shifter.
There’s no jake brake on the X5 diesel, but otherwise it sounds just like a UPS truck – loud and rattling. From the driver’s seat, the engine is clearly audible at idle and when acceleration, but the SUV proves quiet while cruising.
Otherwise, the X5 xDrive35d drives like other X5 models. Given its weight and height, the SUV is surprisingly adept at going around corners and curves, the Michelin run-flat tires sticking to the pavement like the proverbial glue.
The brakes are fantastic, unencumbered with the brake energy regeneration technology that is filtering into other BMW models, exhibiting zero fade combined with excellent feel. We will, however, say this: The amount of brake dust coating the wheels borders on ridiculous.
2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d Review: Final Thoughts
Among luxury SUVs equipped with 7-passenger seating and a turbo-diesel engine, the 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d is our favorite. Lighter, more powerful, and more fuel-efficient than competitors from Audi and Mercedes-Benz, the X5 xDrive35d is great fun to drive and roomy enough for family duty while returning the fuel economy of much lighter and lesser vehicles.
2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d Review: Pros and Cons
- Torque, and lots of it
- Fun to drive
- Excellent fuel economy
- Terrific front seats
- High quality materials
- Brake dust, and lots of it
- Cramped third-row seat
- High price tag
- Diesel pumps are sometimes a mess
A private owner provided the 2012 X5 xDrive35d for this review
Michael Harley contributed to this review
Photos by Michael Harley