2011 BMW X5
No big need for improvement

WE LIKE: Straight-line speed, sporty handling, great navigation screen, pleasant interior.
WE DON'T LIKE: Still funny-looking, still very heavy, still strictly an on-roader, silly shifter.

The BMW X5 is new for 2011, but is it new enough? We chewed on that problem while figuring out which SUV is best. The new X5 is quite a brilliant machine, one of the fastest, most sporting SUVs we've ever tested. However, at the end of the day, we decided that, while new, it wasn't enough of a departure from the 2010 X5 to really compete for our OTY honors.

Let's look at what is new. Under the hood sits BMW's new-for-last year, 3.0-liter twin scroll turbo inline-six. Like the twin-turbo 3.0-liter straight-six this engine replaces, the single-turbo'd mill produces 300 horsepower and 300 pound feet of torque. Tiny sidebar time: For those wondering what exactly a twin-scroll turbo is, instead of exhaust gasses entering the scroll through a single inlet, each exhaust header blows spent gasses into the snail, hitting the impeller in two places, i.e. twin-scroll.

Aside from the engine, the other big new feature is the eight-speed transmission. It's the same eight-speed unit found in the 7 and the 5 Series. Just like the twin-scroll six, this tech isn't bespoke to the X5, but rather is being implemented across the BMW range. Just like in BMW's sport and luxury sedans, the new-for-2011 eight-speed works excellently, providing both cream-smooth shifts and lots of overhead for leisurely highway cruising. There's also a bit of new sheetmetal on the nose and tail, but you'd have to be the biggest BMW fanboy this side of Bavaria to notice.

What does all this change add up to? One very impressive performance SUV, that's what. Says Lago, "I'm extremely impressed with the single-turbo gasoline X5. Its performance is right on the heels of the Porsche, even though it's down a hundred horsepower."

So what went wrong for the BMW? In a sense, the other German. While the X5 is kind of new, we felt the changes for 2011 weren't significant enough to merit a win. Think of it like this: The Porsche Cayenne had much room for improvement, and its engineers went for the brass ring. The BMW X5, on the other hand, was already good enough. - Jonny Lieberman


2011 BMW X5
Base price $46,675-$86,375
Price as tested $65,825; $66,325 (*35d; 35i)
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.0L/265-hp/425-lb-ft twin-turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve I-6; 3.0L/300-hp/300-lb-ft turbo
DOHC 24-valve I-6*
Transmission 6-sp auto; 8-sp auto*
Curb weight (f/r dist) 5027 lb (50/50%);
4794 lb (50/50%)*
Wheelbase 115.5 in
Length x width x height 191.2 x 76.1 x 69.9 in
0-60 mph 6.9; 6.1 sec*
Quarter mile 15.2 sec @ 89.5 mph;
14.6 sec @ 92.5 mph*
Braking, 60-0 mph 125; 113 ft*
Lateral acceleration 0.81; 0.86 g (avg)*
MT Figure Eight 28.2 sec @ 0.59 g (avg);
28.3 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 19/26; 17/25 mpg*
CO2 emissions 1.03; 0.98 lb/mile*
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ****
DESIGN ***
INTERIOR/Functionality ****
PERFORMANCE ****
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ****
OFF-ROAD ABILITY *
VALUE ****
BOTTOM LINE
Less spectacular than its fellow German rival.