F15 BMW X5 First ImPRESSions.Aug 30th, 2013
Muller’s toughest mission was tackling criticisms of the outgoing model’s ride, refinement and aura of quality, without adding heft. He’s done well, with reductions to the bulkhead, glasshouse and wheel-well noise transmission improving refinement by a useful 2.5dB, while new seats have reduced vibration, and the subtly softened suspension smothers sharp bumps more effectively.
You’ll also enjoy this oil-burner’s much-improved manners, its clatter and growl now buried in background hum. Lots of low-rev urge and the eight-speed auto’s excellent anticipatory skills make for authoritatively brisk and effortless performance that, at lower speeds, shades the petrol xDrive50i.
So the essence of the 1999 X5’s mini-revolution is preserved intact, and this latest edition is pleasingly nimble and precise when the going gets twisty. The keen will enjoy such roads in sport setting, which enlivens the drivetrain, girds the dampers and weights the occasionally uncertain steering to produce a well-resolved driving experience.
And the ride? It swallows most small bumps whole, as promised, although the odd clatter across ridges and potholes in sport suggests that it’s the comfort damping mode you’ll mostly want on Britain’s roads. Given how well the rest of the system performs, it’s unfortunate that in Sport mode setting the steering turns over-light – and you can’t mix and match the steering, drivetrain and suspension settings.
The all-new X5 is now more handsome than before, better-built and more refined to drive. The 3.0-litre straight-six diesel remains at the top of the class for refinement and punch and the cabin is spacious, classy and superbly comfortable. In search of a more supple ride and improved on-road manners, it’s marginally less sharp than it once was, but it’s unlikely core customers will notice the change. It’s a successful update then that puts the new X5 neck-and-neck with the more expensive Range Rover Sport.
On the BMW X5 xDrive50i
At launch, the most powerful drivetrain available comes in the xDrive50i, which combines a twin-turbo 4.4 liter V8 with an eight-speed paddle-shift transmission and all-wheel drive. A 3.0-liter straight-6 powers the xDrive35i, while the diesel-powered xDrive35d model will join the lineup next year. For the first time, a rear-wheel-drive X5 will also be available with the 3.0-liter gasoline power six only.
Output in the 2014 BMW X5 V8 climbs 10 percent to 450 horsepower and torque is up to 479 pound-feet. It’s enough to shave half a second from the 0-62-mph time, which falls to an impressive 5.0 seconds flat. BMW says fuel economy improves a little, too, but there are no EPA numbers to back that up just yet.
Despite all the grunt, and the traction to make maximum use of it, the V8 X5 is not the fastest thing off the line. The engine and transmission need a few moments to absorb your right foot’s command before launching the BMW forward with the urge you’d desired moments earlier. It’s a pause that appears when you’re on the move at lowish speeds, too, although switching to Sport mode does a bit to enliven the drivetrain. The twin-turbo V8 does make a nice sound, however, providing a satin V8 beat that turns impressively muscular when the throttle is sunk deep.
Not surprisingly, the X5 chassis is more than capable of handling the V8’s efforts. Or it does in the form we tested the car in, which included the $4,500 Dynamic Handling package, which adds an air-sprung rear suspension, adjustable dampers, active antiroll bars and cross-axle torque-vectoring. The standard setup is rather ungenerously specified with steel springs, conventional shocks and passive antiroll bars, a combination we didn’t get a chance to sample.
Even so, we would recommend the upgraded setup for two reasons. The first because this is a big load carrier in need of self-leveling, the second because we suspect the ride will need softening for broken tarmac moments. Dialed in to Sport mode, this X5 proves satisfyingly agile through bends both tight and sweeping. It’s a vehicle that feels smaller than its bulk implies, and certainly nimble enough to entertain. It’s also stable, steers accurately, stops convincingly and rolls enough to let you know what you’re doing without turning remotely floppy and uncooperative.
A shame, then, that the new electrically supported steering takes the edge of this accomplishment by coming over curiously vague through the first few degrees of its movement. This faintly disconnected feel applies in both Comfort and Sport modes, too. Happily, it does little to undermine the accuracy of the X5’s steering, but it does dim the sporting appeal of this sports activity vehicle.
As for the ride, it swallows most small bumps whole as promised, although the odd clatter across ridges and potholes in Sport suggests that it’s the Comfort damping mode you’ll mostly want on U.S. roads. It’s unfortunate that in this setting the steering is a little too light — and you can’t mix and match the steering, drivetrain and suspension settings to achieve an ideal blend.
There’s no shortage of electronic driving aids in other departments, however: lane-keeping, radar-controlled cruise that extends to traffic jam stop-and-go, and (from December) a lane-keeping traffic jam assistant, too. Night vision and BMW’s excellent head-up display also appear on an expensively lengthy options list.
At its heart, though, the X5 is still the sporting SUV that it was back in 1999. Perhaps too much so aesthetically, as this restyle is certainly short of imaginative flourishes. BMW would doubtless argue that the existing formula is very successful so there’s little reason to make drastic changes.
It’s certainly more polished this time around with its mix of big cabin comfort, luxury trimmings, sporting performance, all-weather security and accomplished manners. The 2014 BMW X5 is slightly spoiled by the V8’s lazy step-off and that flawed steering feel, but neither shortcoming is pronounced enough to dampen the average buyer’s enthusiasm for it.
Full review: http://www.edmunds.com/bmw/x5/2014/road-test.html