Power and Grace
The 2014 BMW X5 is newly refreshed, but it doesn’t look remarkably different than the outgoing X5. The revamped lines of the three-row sports activity vehicle [BMW’s term, not mine] have been softened a bit, and it looks smaller. The current design language has taken some of the aggression out of the car, while also managing to make it look more expensive. Without seeing them side-by-side, you would be forgiven for thinking you’re looking at something the size of the X3.
The interior has garnered more attention than the exterior. The dash has been moved forward and slanted away from occupants, allowing for a more airy cabin. The dash now sits over your shoes rather than your knees. The second and third rows feel tight, but keep in mind the X5 is 10 inches shorter than a Mercedes GL. The materials and workmanship are top-notch and BMW’s efforts at making the cabin quieter have certainly paid off. The premium sound system in our test vehicles didn’t have to work very hard to be heard over the minimal road and wind noise.
We drove the 255-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbo diesel and the 445-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8. (The 300-hp 3.0-liter gasoline I-6 wasn’t on hand.) All three engines are connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and for the first time will be available in rear-wheel drive alongside the traditional all-wheel drive. The diesel engine in the X5 35d produces 413 lb-ft of torque, which provides more than adequate acceleration.
If the diesel does everything you’d ever want, then the V-8 does everything you’d ever dream of. Matting the throttle in the V-8 not only gives a musclecar-like growl, but the same thrust. Passing on uphill two-lanes was more an exercise in self-control with respect to local laws instead of the stress of whether or not you’ll make it around that logging truck.
Handling is the X5’s stock-in-trade. In the mountains around Vancouver, the X5 behaved more like a sports sedan than a trail cruiser. It feels planted and surefooted, and cornering is flat and controlled, especially with the optional active anti-roll bars and rear air-suspension. The steering is a bit artificially damped at normal speeds but becomes more alive the harder you push it. Unlike its rivals, the X5’s stability control works with you rather than rapping you across the knuckles when you get near the limits. It changes directions like any sedan, and although I was aware of the extra altitude, I never felt like I was losing any performance.
We had a chance to do some “soft-roading” around the Olympic Village in Whistler with experts from BMW guiding. While much of the trail could have been handled in any crossover, there were a few spots with mud and ruts where the X5 showed some real ability. The all-wheel-drive system, combined with the traction-control system, allowed just enough tire spin to keep the BMW steering and rotating in mud, while also keeping torque going to wheels that had enough grip for forward motion. The ground clearance is surprisingly good. I thought I was going to leave the front bumper in several locations where, it turned out, it didn’t make the slightest contact. Most important, in a gravel lot, I found out that the front/rear power split and torque-vectoring rear differential allows for big, graceful donuts with judicious use of the throttle.
It might be smaller than some of its rivals, but sacrificing space pays off in agility. The new interior is a step up in luxury, and the diesel engine provides plenty of thrust. The V-8 is a monster even if the exterior is less constrained. The X5 is a solid choice for anyone shopping for an enjoyable SUV, especially if you require three rows.
|2014 BMW X5|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINES||3.0L/302-hp/295-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve I-6; 3.0L/255-hp/413-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve I-6; 4.4L/445-hp/480-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||4700-5150 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||192.4 x 76.3 x 69.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.9-6.9 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||14-18/22-27 mpg*|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||187-241 / 125-153 kW-hrs/100 miles*|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.92-1.16 lb/mile*|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||November 2013|
|*Gasoline models only, diesel economy TBD|