2014 BMW X5 First Test
Searching for Goldilocks
The X5 has been a stalwart for BMW. The original BMW SUV, the X5 has been a reliable presence on the sales charts and introduced the company to the lucrative luxury SUV market. Over the past 15 years, though, that market has changed and the X5 hasn't always kept up. This is most obvious today, where we find the refreshed 2014 X5 straddling classes without a clear understanding of its identity.
On the one hand, it's bigger than the midsize, two-row SUV segment. On the other, it's smaller than the full-size, three-row SUV segment. It's still trying to play both ends of the field, though. It offers a third row that's the least usable in the segment. Or, as associate road test editor Carlos Lago put it, "unfit for people with legs." In order to even raise the third row, you must first remove a shockingly heavy cargo cover that has barely enough clearance to get in and out of the vehicle. Once the third row is up, there's nowhere to put said cover and nothing to cover your cargo. Technical director Frank Markus branded it a TRINO: Third Row In Name Only.
The BMW X5 is a 2015 Motor Trend SUV of the Year contender - find out whether the luxury crossover has what it takes to win later this month.
This jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none approach shows in the driving experience as well. The X5, despite being car-based from the get-go, feels the most SUV-like of any of its car-based competition. Translation: It drives the most like a truck. From behind the wheel, it feels massive and ponderous. It handles pretty well for its size, but again not as well as its best competitors, and you pay for it in ride quality. All of this is no doubt due in part to the fact that the three in our possession weighed between 4800 and 5300 pounds.
All that weight was evident in the xDrive35i. Powered by a 300-hp turbocharged inline-six making 300 lb-ft of torque, the xDrive35i drives all four wheels from an eight-speed automatic transmission. Three hundred horsepower used to be a lot, but in the 4830-pound vehicle it felt slow and inadequate. Much of that has to do with the power curve, which left the engine feeling weak at low revs before the boost came on, and the fuel economy-minded transmission. The test track revealed a perfectly acceptable 5.9-second 0-to-60-mph sprint, and the quarter mile elapsed in 14.5 seconds at 95.2 mph. Braking was also good at 116 feet to a stop from 60 mph. On the skidpad, the xDrive35i returned 0.81 g average and posted a 26.8-second figure-eight lap time at an average of 0.69 g.
If bonkers speed is what you need, you needn't look any further than the xDrive50i (pictured in this review). It, too, packs an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, but draws its power from a 445-hp, 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 with 480 lb-ft of torque. These days, that's not even ludicrous power (remember, there's still an X5 M coming), but it's good enough for a 0-to-60-mph sprint in just 4.3 seconds and a quarter-mile pass in 12.8 seconds at 106.9 mph. In a vehicle that feels this large from behind the wheel, that's stupid quick. Of course, that big V-8 isn't light, and stopping this nearly 5300-pound vehicle from 60 mph takes 129 feet. On the skidpad it'll throw its weight around to the tune of 0.81 g average and a 26.3-second figure-eight time at 0.72 g average. From behind the wheel, though, you can't help but wish for a sedan's lower center of gravity and sleeker curb weight with which to harness all this performance. To quote editor-in-chief Ed Loh, the Porsche "Cayenne absolutely destroys this X5 in driving dynamics and fun."
If you're the kind of segment-splitter who's still determined to have an X5, we recommend the xDrive35d. This one puts a 255-hp turbocharged inline-six diesel with 413 lb-ft of torque in front of its eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Like the X5, the diesel splits the difference in driving dynamics between the lazy-feeling gasoline six and the bonkers eight. Despite what the numbers will show, that low-end diesel grunt feels much more satisfying than the gasoline engine while returning significantly better fuel economy. Our tester was equipped with the M Sport package, which replaces the tires and wheels, seats, and steering wheel, and upgrades the transmission. We think those new shoes improved the ride quality. Upgrading the otherwise flat front seats was a plus as well.
On the test track, the diesel wasn't the quickest, but it shined in other areas. Hitting 60 mph from a stop required 6.2 seconds and completing the quarter mile took 14.8 seconds at 89.4 mph. Stopping from 60 mph, though, took just 110 feet despite the vehicle weighing 152 pounds more than the gasoline six. On the skidpad the diesel M Sport again surprised with 0.82 average g. It would go on to lay down a figure eight time of 26.8 seconds at 0.65 g average.
For comparison purposes, here are the results from the most recent X5s we've tested, a 2011 xDrive35i and a 2011 xDrive35d. The gasser needed 6.1 seconds to hit 60 mph, 14.6 seconds to run the quarter at 92.5 mph, and 113 feet to stop from 60 mph. It pulled 0.86 g on the skidpad and needed 26.3 seconds to run the figure eight at 0.68 g average. The diesel, meanwhile, took 6.9 seconds to hit 60 mph, ran the quarter in 15.2 seconds at 89.5 mph, and needed 125 feet to stop from 60 mph. It pulled 0.81 g on the skidpad and finished the figure eight in 27.7 seconds at 0.60 g average. We never tested the last-generation xDrive50i, but we did test an X5 M. It needed 4.1 seconds to hit 60 mph, 12.7 seconds to run the quarter at 110.1 mph, and 112 feet to stop from 60 mph. On the skidpad it pulled 0.89 g average and lapped the figure eight in 25.4 seconds at 0.73 g average.
The refreshed X5 is a nice update on the old truck. It's a little quicker and it's got more features and a better interior. On the whole, though, it still feels like it's stuck in a midlife crisis. Does it want to be a two-row midsizer, or three-row full-size? Or does it want to be a sport wagon with a lift kit? We're not really sure, and it doesn't seem like BMW is, either. If you're already a fan of the X5, you'll find plenty to like in this update. The rest of us will be scratching our heads with editor-at-large Angus MacKenzie, who summed it up as "part truck, part sport wagon, all confused."
|2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i||2014 BMW X5 xDrive35d||2014 BMW X5 xDrive50i|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$67,375||$71,700||$85,375|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.0L/300-hp/300-lb-ft turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6||3.0L/255-hp/413-lb-ft twin-turbo diesel DOHC 24-valve I-6||4.4L/445-hp/480-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4830 lb (49/51%)||4982 lb (50/50%)||5277 lb (49/51%)|
|WHEELBASE||115.5 in||115.5 in||115.5 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||193.2 x 76.3 x 69.4 in||193.2 x 76.3 x 69.4 in||193.2 x 76.3 x 69.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.9 sec||6.2 sec||4.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.5 sec @ 95.1 mph||14.8 sec @ 89.4 mph||12.8 sec @ 106.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||116 ft||110 ft||129 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.81 g (avg)||0.82 g (avg)||0.81 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.8 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)||26.8 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)||26.3 sec @ 0.72 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||18/27/21 mpg||23/31/26 mpg||14/22/17 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||187/125 kW-hrs/100 miles||164/122 kW-hrs/100 miles||241/153 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.92 lb/mile||0.85 lb/mile||1.16 lb/mile|