The BMW X5 is built to excel at driving dynamics, not cargo capacity or off-road capability. Though not as refined as BMW's sedans, the X5 is the BMW of sport utilities. Think of the X5 as a 5 Series wagon with more headroom and a bit more cargo space.
For 2011, BMW updates the X5's six-cylinder and V8 engines, and mates them to a new 8-speed automatic transmission. The lineup is expanded with six trim levels where there had been four, and all but the X5 M get slightly revised front and rear ends.
All four BMW X5 engines deliver plenty of usable torque for good acceleration, and no matter which you choose, you won't be disappointed. The new 2011 BMW X5 gasoline engines are far more powerful than the engines they replace. The turbocharged inline six-cylinder in the 2011 BMW X5 xDrive35i delivers as much power as anyone could realistically need, delivering far more power than the 2010 model's normally aspirated 3.0-liter. The twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 in the 2011 BMW X5 xDrive50i adds more pepper to the gumbo. If the stunningly fast X5 M didn't exist, you'd swear the 50i engine was the high-performance option.
In addition to the gasoline-powered models, BMW offers a diesel-powered model, the X5 xDrive35d, which is as clean as any of its gasoline counterparts. The diesel model improves mileage 10 percent compared to the X5 xDrive35i with its gasoline-powered turbocharged six-cylinder.
The high end of the 2011 BMW X5 lineup is the X5 M that was added for 2010. This high-performance model uses a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that makes a whopping 555 horsepower. The X5 M comes standard with BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system, a stiffer suspension, and sport seats. Exterior cues indicate its performance potential.
The BMW X5 emphasizes the sport half of the sport-utility equation, even with the diesel engine. The X5 comes up short in cargo-passenger flexibility compared to many luxury SUVs. As opposed to hauling acres of equipment and gear, the X5 provides the equipment enthusiast drivers expect when they want to enjoy the art of driving as much as they're able. Just plan to travel light.
The X5 is styled in BMW fashion, only taller, with traditional BMW cues such as the twin-kidney grille and dual-beam headlight clusters. Inside, it offers plenty of room for five, with a nice, rich finish and nearly all the bells and whistles expected in a high-line luxury sedan. The second-row seat is more than roomy enough for two adults, three in a pinch, and there's enough cargo space in back for a two-day family outing. The X5 can expand to seven-passenger capacity with an optional third-row seat, but that seat won't look particularly inviting to anyone asked to ride in it, and it wipes out the cargo space. The X5 is better viewed as a two-row, five-seat SUV.
The X5 is not a traditional SUV. BMW shuns the SUV tag entirely, describing the X5 with its own copyrighted label: Sport Activity Vehicle, or SAV. With all seats lowered for maximum cargo capacity, the X5 offers less space than do most competitors, from Acura to Volvo. Sport in the X5 context does not mean off-road capability. While the X5 has some mild off-highway prowess, the xDrive all-wheel-drive system was developed for slippery roads and sporty driving rather than sand dunes and rutted hillsides. Indeed, the X5's strength is its ability to get down the road in the step-on-the gas, shove-it-through-corners fashion of a genuine sports sedan.
The X5 can tow a substantial 6,000 pounds, however, and the all-wheel-drive can be a great friend in a blizzard. Those sound like the credentials of an SUV.
The X5 gets high marks for safety. It performs well in both government and insurance industry crash tests.
The 2011 BMW X5 comes in six models, all with xDrive all-wheel-drive.
The BMW X5 xDrive35i Base ($45,800) is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine delivering 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. Standard equipment includes vinyl upholstery, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, interior air filter, memory for the driver's seat and mirrors, cruise control, tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, split-folding second-row seat, power windows, power locks, power heated exterior mirrors with tilt-down back-up aid, remote keyless entry, sunroof, 12-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with high-definition radio, auxiliary input jack, rain-sensing wipers with heated washers, trip computer, automatic headlights, rear cargo cover, fog lights, adaptive xenon headlights, theft-deterrent system, and P255/55R18 run-flat tires on alloy wheels.
The BMW X5 xDrive35i Premium ($51,600) adds power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with memory, leather upholstery, wood interior trim, sunroof, iPod adapter, rear privacy glass, roof rails, and 19-inch alloy wheels. The xDrive35i Sport Activity ($54,100) gets and increased top-speed limiter, shadowline exterior trim, anthracite headliner, a rear spoiler, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
The BMW X5 xDrive35d ($51,200) has a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel engine that makes 265 horsepower and an impressive 425 pound-feet of torque. The diesel also qualifies for a federal tax credit of roughly $1,500. To the base model it adds wood interior trim. It comes with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability.
The BMW X5 xDrive50i ($58,400) is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that makes 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. It also gets the new 8-speed automatic. To the base model it adds leather upholstery, wood interior trim, and a load-leveling air suspension.
The BMW X5 M ($85,500) has a high-performance version of the twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that makes 555 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. It continues with a six-speed automatic transmission. To the xDrive50i, the X5 M adds heated M front sport bucket seats; an M steering wheel; the M Drive control system; heated front seats with lumbar adjustment; Bluetooth wireless cell phone link; compass; auto-dimming outside and rearview mirrors; universal garage door opener; BMW Assist concierge service with four-year subscription; a navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic information and 80-gigabyte hard drive; hill ascent control; front and rear park assist; an upgraded sound system with 16 speakers and 600 watts of power; headlight washers; larger brakes; load-leveling sport suspension; Active Roll Stabilization; and P275/40R20 front and 315/35R20 rear tires. It also has aluminum interior trim in place of wood.
Options are clustered in packages. The Technology Package ($2,800) includes front and rear park assist, a rearview camera and a navigation system with voice command, real-time traffic information and an 80-gigabyte hard drive. The Cold Weather Package ($750) adds retractable headlight washers, heated steering wheel and heated front seats, while the Rear Climate Package ($900) adds four-zone climate control, manual rear sunshades and privacy glass.
The M Sport Package for 35i Sport Activity ($4,800) and 50i ($6,500) includes M sport seats, M sport steering wheel, a black headliner, adaptive suspension with Active Roll Stabilization, heavily bolstered sport seats, shadowline interior trim, and Anthracite exterior trim. The 50i also gets 20-inch alloy wheels and an increased top-speed limiter, while the 35i Sport Activity gets front and rear park assist. A Premium Package ($2,200) for the 50i adds front-seat power lumbar support, power tailgate, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, digital compass, universal garage door opener, ambient interior lighting, side sunshades, Bluetooth phone interface, and BMW Assist with a four-year subscription. The Premium Package for the 35d ($3,400) also gets leather upholstery and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel. A Sport Activity Package ($2,200) adds sport seats, sport steering wheel, black headliner, shadowline trim and 19-inch wheels.
Options available as standalones include a premium sound system with 16 speakers, a six-CD changer and an iPod adapter ($1,400-$2,000), Active Ventilated 20-way front seats with a massage feature for the driver ($2,100), rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,700), leather upholstery ($1,450), ultra-soft Nappa leather ($2,400-$3,850), navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic information and 80-gigabyte hard drive ($1,900), heated front seats ($500), heated rear seats ($350), adaptive cruise control ($2,400), sideview and topview camera ($300), Comfort Access keyless starting ($1,000), satellite radio ($350), iPod and USB adaptor ($400), smartphone integration ($135), leather dashboard and console trim ($1,900), BMW Assist with four years of service ($750) and a Bluetooth cell phone link, 20-inch wheels ($950), roof rails ($100), split-folding third-row seat with rear air conditioning and self-leveling rear suspension ($1,700), Active Roll Stabilization suspension ($3,500), head-up display ($1,300), self-dimming headlights ($250), XM satellite radio ($350), Active Steering ($1,550), and running boards ($300).
Safety features include front airbags with two-stage activation, side-impact airbags built into the front seats, first- and second-row curtain-style airbags with rollover deployment, and a tire-pressure monitor. Active safety features include all-wheel drive, hill-descent control, electronic stability control with rollover mitigation, traction control, and advanced anti-lock brakes with brake assist, brake pre-loading and a water-sweeping feature. Safety options include lane departure warning ($950) and front and rear park assist ($750). All X5 models come standard with run-flat tires, which allow operation at 50 mph for up to 90 miles when completely flat.