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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 BMW X5 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 BMW X5 Overview

Over Hill(figer) Over (Blooming) Dale, This SUV Will Never Fail

The SUV has permeated every nook and cranny once occupied by the humble automobile. There are compact SUVs, midsize SUVs even super macho SUVs; so why shouldn't there be a performance SUV, one that can actually do the work of a light-duty truck without sacrificing handling, performance and safety? BMW has answered that question with its X5 SUV, a handsomely appointed powerhouse of a wagon designed to satisfy the needs of well to do commuters everywhere.

Though the X5 looks like an SUV, it is not from the same gene pool as venerable off-roaders such as the Land Rover Discovery or Jeep Grand Cherokee. The X5 appeals to a much broader cross section of drivers, those that need the cargo carrying capacity, high seating position and foul-weather ferocity an SUV provides but who also want something that can impress its driver as much as it impresses the neighbors.

BMW has a lot riding on the X5—their reputation for building stellar handling and performance machines being one of them. To achieve their goals, the X5 team needed to find a way to secure a vehicle with a high center of gravity and make it perform like a 3-series coupe. They did this by first starting with a unitized body that allows for an independent rear suspension and rear differential tucked high up into the floor. This not only gives the X5 better ground clearance, it helps to minimize the top-heavy feeling so many SUVs are known for. Next, the engineers went to work on the suspension, reducing the travel rate of the springs and shocks and performing their BMW magic act that turns ordinary suspension componentry into the envy of the industry. All that was left to do was to toss on some enormous 17-inch wheels and tires and put the X5 out on the street for public consumption.

The X5 line consists of three models: the 3.0i, 4.4i and the high-performance 4.6is. The 3.0i is the baby of the group, powered by a 225-horsepower inline six and a full-time AWD system that splits the engines torque 38%/62% front to rear. Though not as fast as its more expensive V8 powered brothers, the 3.0 certainly can get out of its own way and of the three trims, we think it offers the most compliant ride—especially over rough roads. The 4.4i bumps output to a healthy 290 horsepower while the 4.6is takes it to an insane 340. Needless to say the 4.6is is the high-performance zenith of the line and with a starting price of $67K, is also the most exclusive of the X5s. We think the 3.0i is fine for those who like the look and feel of the X5 but don't need to hot rod from light to light; those of you who do love the adrenaline rush that only a V8 can deliver will want to invest a bit more and get the 4.4i.

BMW thinks so much of the performance attributes of the X5 that they prefer to call it a Sports Activity Vehicle, or SAV. This might actually be a better acronym since Utility is not the X5's strongest suit. If you're of average size, you'll likely find that while the front seat area is comfortable and roomy, rear seat legroom is less than generous and, at just 23.8 cu ft., the amount of storage space behind the second-row seat is far from best in its class. So it's clear that the X5 is not designed to haul hordes of kids and gear, but it still can accommodate four adults in comfort as well as carry most of their luggage.

The X5 comes with a long list of standard features including such safety advances as built-in front and rear crumple zones, front side-impact airbags and a front and rear head airbag curtain, the LATCH system and three point seat belts with pretensioners and force limiters that help the belt hold you in place during an accident. There is also a long list of options that include everything from a GPS navigation system to a Harman Kardon audio unit to leather trappings for as far and long as the eye can see. Most likely your local dealer will already have ordered the X5 with all its bells and whistles, so you won't have to waste too much time picking and choosing.

What the X5 can do better than any other SUV, save the new Cayenne— which we have not tested as of this date—is perform. On the road, the X5's big wheels (18' s on the 4.4i and 20's on the 4.6is) make the steering wheel so heavily-weight it sometimes requires some extra bicep to make quick turns, but oh what a reward the X5 returns for your effort. Amazingly linear steering, stop-on-a-dime brakes and a 5-speed automatic transmission so good it may actually be the one to convince you die-hard manual fans to give up the clutch. The optional Sports package only improves on an already terrific platform by adding adjustable ride height with three possible settings. Fun is too simple a word to describe a day of serious driving in the X5; maybe mega-fun will do. In any case, your kids probably know something cooler to call the X5 and after they see you pull into the driveway for the first time, you'll no doubt be hearing the word over and over and over.

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