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First Look: 2011 BMW X5

Due to appear on its show stand at the New York Auto Show in April and arrive at dealers shortly thereafter, the 2011 BMW X5 lineup -- save for the yet-to-be-revealed X5 M -- gets modest styling tweaks but significant powertrain upgrades that should broaden the overall appeal of the automaker's self-proclaimed Sport Activity Vehicle while endowing it with seriously improved overall performance.

The most prominent visual changes to BMW's mid-size SAV crossover are seen up front, where a revamped fascia embodies slightly more aggressive character. Both the Xenon Adaptive Headlamps and fog lamps have been elevated and moved closer to the signature twin-kidney grille, which is now framed by even larger center and outboard air intakes. A similar and complementary form of understated visual revamp appears at the rear, highlighted by redesigned taillamps that incorporate the latest strain of BMW's L-shaped LED array. Subtle brushed aluminum trim bits and the replacement of several blackout panels with body-color alternatives further richen the X5's overall character, as do a selection of new exterior colors.

While BMW felt the X5 xDrive35d -- with its turbocharged 3.5-liter inline-six that makes 265 horsepower, 425 lb.-ft. of torque and offers class-leading quickness and fuel efficiency -- needed no changes in the motivation department, its gasoline-powered kin were a different matter. Anchoring the 2011 X5 mix is a new xDrive35i, fitted with BMW's new N55 3.0-liter twin-scroll single-turbo inline six in place of the naturally-aspirated 3.0-liter six found in the 2010 xDrive 30i. This new turbo engine cranks out 300 horses and an equal amount of torque units, compared to the 260/225 stats of its predecessor.

Topping the non-M X5 range is the new xDrive50i. It packs BMW's superb 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that makes 400 horses and 450 lb.-ft. of twist -- handily outstripping the 350/350 figures of the 4.8-liter single-turbo V8 in the now-departed xDrive48i. Both gas engines are paired with the automaker's super-efficient eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission in place of the six-speed used in the 2010 models -- a change that contributes to enhanced off-the-line quickness and helps generate better mpg in freeway cruise mode.

As before, the 2011 X5 will offer plenty of personalization potential, both in its Premium/Sport Activity/M Sport packages as well as several new available features -- including tech touches like Active Cruise Control with Stop and Go and Lane Departure Warning. Pricing opens at $46,675 for the X5 xDrive35i, $59,275 for the X5 xDrive50i and $52,175. BMW offered no details of any kind on the 2011 X5 M.

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