By Matt Degen
BMW doesn't call the X5 a sport utility vehicle (SUV), but rather a "sports activity vehicle" (SAV), a moniker the German luxury brand has been using since the vehicle's introduction in 1999. The idea is to distinguish the vehicle as sportier than a traditional, rugged SUV. Marketing semantics or not, one drive in the X5 will make you a believer. The 2014 BMW X5 marks its third generation with a new design and more creature comforts, all while building on its reputation of combining BMW's famed driving dynamics in a roomy package. The X5 won't hop boulders like a Range Rover Sport, but it is far fonder of carving corners than an Audi Q7 or Mercedes-Benz M-Class.
If you want a midsize luxury SUV that aspires to be a sports car and offers seating for up to seven, the BMW X5 is a tempting choice. Diesel fans will find a lot to like in the xDrive35d version, which nets up to 26 mpg yet still provides tremendous thrust.
Plan to regularly use 3rd-row seating? Consider the larger Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. If you're on a (relative) budget, be aware that the 2014 X5's $54,000 base price can skyrocket with options that are standard on some competitors. In this regard, the Acura MDX, Audi Q7 and Infiniti's QX60 and QX70 have the upper hand.
The 2014 X5 is all new as it enters its third generation. A new model joins the lineup as the base version: the sDrive35i, which is the first X5 to offer rear-wheel drive. All other X5 models continue to have all-wheel drive (xDrive) standard.
Driving Impressions The 2014 X5's three engine choices provide varying degrees of power and efficiency. Even a "base" X5 with the turbocharged inline-6 is a quick beast, launching the midsize utility vehicle...... to 60 mph in the 6-second range. Choose the thunderous, thirsty V8 with its 445 horsepower and nearly $70,000 price, and you're looking at sub-5 seconds. Our pick, however, is BMW's turbodiesel 6-cylinder. It offers a fine balance of power and fuel economy, and only costs $1,500 more than a comparable gasoline-powered version. Whichever X5 you choose, you'll be treated to a larger utility vehicle that feels more like a sports sedan. The X5 is one of the few SUVs that's fun to fling around corners, though it's less adept on tougher off-road trails. It can climb snow-covered roads without drama, but steep off-road inclines are not its forte, as we discovered after brushing its lower lip at a Canadian off-road track.
The 2014 X5's blend of entertainment and information is splendid, and splendidly displayed on an elegant 10.2-inch screen. And while the rear-view camera costs extra on most models, its resolution is among the best we've seen.
Those who view driving as something to adore rather than a chore have long admired how BMWs respond when turning, and the X5 is no exception. We can use words like "taut" and "responsive," but trying to fully relay the experience in words is akin to attempting to describe the taste of a perfectly grilled steak.
The latest BMW X5 has seating for five across two rows. A 3rd-row seat is optional and increases the passenger count by two, but room in that last row is very tight. Legroom is good in the first two rows, and the front seats are especially comfortable and spacious, even for adults with large frames. The 2nd-row seats fold in a 40/20/40 configuration, handy for fitting long items like skis down the middle. BMW's latest iDrive with touchpad controller is easier to figure out, and the main controls for climate and audio are fairly intuitive. Poplar wood trim adds warmth to the cabin's sleek lines.Exterior
When we saw the new BMW X5 SUV from a distance, we thought we were looking at its smaller brother, the X3. It turned out to be an illusion, and a good one. Though dimensionally the same size as the outgoing model, the 2014 X5's fresh design makes it appear sleeker and less bloated. In front, BWM's famed "kidney" grille design now flows into the headlight housings, while the X5's rear is the first of the brand's to feature "Aero Blades," which channel air for better aerodynamics. Pragmatically, the X5 comes with roof rails and a 2-section tailgate.
Spend the least on a 2014 BMW X5 sDrive35i, and you'll find plenty to like, but a few things still missing for your roughly $54,000. Making the list are 10-way power and heated front seats, a panoramic moonroof, navigation with a 10.2-inch high-res screen, a power tailgate, a power-adjustable steering column, a 9-speaker audio system with HD Radio, and xenon adaptive headlights. Unexpectedly, leather seating and a rear-view camera cost extra. The top-line X5 xDrive50i models add the aforementioned leather and rear-view camera along with 19-inch wheels and luxurious, 20-way power front seats. All new X5s come with four years/50,000 miles of complimentary maintenance.
Whether you want a heated steering wheel and ventilated seats or a night-vision assist system, options and packages come in abundance for the 2014 X5. To start off the configuration process, BMW offers three optional "lines" – Luxury, xLine, and M Sport. The first two bundle aesthetic upgrades and 19-inch wheels, while the M Sport adds performance-oriented features such as steering-wheel-mounted gear shifters and launch control for high-speed takeoffs. Our ears were very pleased with the up-level harman/kardon 600-watt/16-speaker sound system. Those craving extreme sound can get it in a Bang & Olufsen system boasting 1,200 watts.
Three turbocharged engines are offered in the latest X5: A gasoline- or diesel-powered inline-6, and a V8 that, at 445 horsepower, boasts 45 more horsepower than the outgoing version. All are connected to a slick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. In an effort to be more fuel-efficient, X5 SUVs have a start/stop function that shuts down the engine at idle, such as at stoplights. The system is quick to restart the engine once you lift your foot off the brake pedal, but we found ourselves just as quickly disabling this functionality due to its intrusiveness when abruptly roaring the engine to life. Like other BMWs, X5 models with gasoline engines require premium-grade fuel.
3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 (sDrive35i and xDrive35i)
300 horsepower @ 5,800-6,000 rpm
295 lb-ft of torque @ 1,300-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 mpg (rear-wheel drive), 18/27 (all-wheel-drive)
3.0-liter turbocharged diesel inline-6 (xDrive35d)
255 horsepower @ 4,000 rpm
413 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-3,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 mpg
4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (xDrive50i)
445 horsepower @ 5,500-6,000 rpm
479 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/22 mpg
The 2014 BMW X5 has a starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $53,725 for the rear-wheel-drive sDrive35i. The all-wheel-drive xDrive35i starts at $56,025, and the diesel-powered xDrive35d at $57,525. Those seeking the king-of-the-hill, V8-powered X5 will have to pay a pretty high premium. The top-dog for now (until an M version comes along), the xDrive50i comes priced at $69,125 before options. Adding packages and options can swell these prices by thousands. At its base price, the 2014 X5 is a few thousand dollars above the slightly smaller Mercedes-Benz M-Class and about $10,000 below the 7-passenger GL-Class. Other competitors come in several thousand below the X5, including the Audi Q7, Infiniti QX60 and QX70, Acura MDX, Lexus RX, and Porsche Cayenne. It is, however, below a Range Rover Sport. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. The X5's predicted resale value is expected to remain very good.