2006 BMW X5 Review

2006 BMW X5 - The anti-SUV.


The BMW X5 continues as the top sporty mid-size SUV, largely because it looks better than the Porsche Cayenne, outpowers the Infiniti FX and is a bit sportier than the Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

That's one reason why sales of the X5 last year totaled 37,598 units, up from 35,225 in 2004 despite a decline last year in sales of larger sport-utilities.

The all-wheel-drive X5 arrived for the 2000 model year as the automaker's first SUV because sport-utilities were hot and it tired of seeing a sport-ute from a rival automaker parked next to a BMW auto in garages.

The latest X5 looks nearly the same as the 2000 model, but horsepower has been increased and other strategic improvements have been made. It's for those who want a sports sedan but need SUV utility.

The 2006 model hardly feels dated and gets a standard onboard computer that previously was part of a premium package.

Prices are high, but resale value is good: A 2000 BMW 4.4i model, which cost $49,400 new, has an average retail value of $24,650. Most vehicles aren't worth much after six years.

The X5 comes as the entry $42,500 3.0, mid-range $53,600 4.4i and top-line $71,000 4.8is. The major differences between these models are horsepower and equipment levels.

The 3.0i has a 225-horsepower inline six-cylinder, while the 4.4i is powered by a 315-horsepower V-8 and the 4.8is is the power champ with a 355-horsepower V-8.

The 3.0i might seem like a horsepower weakling, compared with the V-8 versions, and some might think it's underpowered for the money. But its performance is satisfactory for routine driving. And it's loaded with standard comfort, convenience and safety equipment.

Such items include dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, cruise control, wood interior trim, AM/FM/CD player, heated power outside mirrors and remote keyless entry.

Safety features include anti-lock brakes with a brake assist feature for surer panic stops, an anti-skid system (always handy with a tall SUV), front side air bags and head protection side air bags.

I tested the 4.4i, which had stirring acceleration and made the 355-horsepower version seem superfluous. This mid-range model adds items including leather upholstery and a front/rear obstacle-detection system.

The 4.8is adds features including heated front/rear seats, power sunroof and a sport suspension with an adjustable ride height and the biggest (20-inch) wheels.

Top-line features are available as options for 3.0i and 4.4i, and both those models are offered with a Sport Package that contains sport seats, sport suspension and unique alloy wheels. Other options include a navigation system, which takes time to master.

Power with the 3.0i is fed through a six-speed manual gearbox or five-speed automatic transmission, while the two V-8 versions come only with a responsive six-speed automatic with manual shift capability.

Fuel economy isn't a strong point with an X5 because all models are powerful and weigh more than 4,600 pounds.

Still, the 3.0i provides an estimated 15-16 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway and the 4.4i delivers 16 and 22. Despite its extra power, the 4.8is isn't far behind at 16 and 21.

The X5 is rugged and rattle-free. Its automatic transmission has no low-range gearing for tough off-road driving -- not that many would want to scratch its paint or dent its shapely body during such use.

There's no third-row seat, but the X5 has plenty of room for four tall adults, or for five in a pinch. It's high enough to call for extra effort to get in or out, and narrow rear doorways don't help. Once aboard, occupants sit high for a good view of surroundings.

Gauges in the high-quality interior can be quickly read, but audio system and climate controls should be larger. Conveniently located front console cupholders have a sliding cover and all doors have storage pockets, although the console bin provides little storage space. The cockpit is generally quiet, except for tire noise on some roads.

BMW arguably makes the best steering system, although effort is a bit high at lower speeds. Handling is quite good, especially for a tall SUV, with outstanding grip -- thanks partly to the all-wheel drive. However, the brake pedal is touchy; the first half-inch or so of pedal travel gets you nothing, after which the brakes bite hard and cause immediate, sudden deceleration. Consistently smooth stops thus take practice.

The X5 has a firm but compliant ride, with the 3.0i having the most comfortable ride with its softer suspension and smaller 17-inch tires, which have larger sidewall areas to help absorb road shocks.

The tailgate has a handy separate-opening glass area, but the wide cargo opening is rather high and somewhat shallow. Rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat to significantly enlarge the cargo area.

The X5 drives much like a BMW sports sedan -- you just sit higher. 

2006 BMW X5 

PRICES: $42,500-$71,100

LIKES: Fast. Adroit handling. All-wheel drive. Upscale interior. Good resale value.

DISLIKES: Touchy brake pedal. Small rear door openings. High cargo opening.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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