2007 BMW X5 Review

2007 BMW X5 - Eight-year itch.


BMW was one of the first automakers to introduce a genuinely sporty SUV with its 2000 X5 model, but it has been essentially left unchanged until the new 2007 model arrived. That's an eternity for a model in today's market, but the all-new X5 seems worth the wait.

The American-built X5 looks much like the 2000-2006 model. But it's more powerful, with a revised chassis, more responsive 6-speed automatic transmission (now standard for both six-cylinder and V-8 engines) and -- for the first time -- an optional third-row seat. That seat is best suited to kids and mainly offered to make the X5 more desirable to families.

The fact that BMW also offers the sporty compact X3 SUV allowed it to go whole hog in redesigning the new X5. For one thing, it's been made larger despite the general move toward smaller vehicles.

The X5 is still very much an SUV, although BMW calls its a "sport-activity vehicle.'' It has a commanding driving position, feeling of safety and substance, slippery road capability and muscular design. It also has spirited BMW performance, luxury, quality and safety.

The 2000 X5 was introduced to mainly compete with the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Lexus RX 300. BMW dealers tired of seeing their auto customers buying SUVs from rival automakers and wanted their own to sell. That's the same reason Porsche came out with its first SUV, the Cayenne.

The first X5 had a smaller interior and less cargo volume than the M-Class and RX. But its lack of low-range gearing for off-road use of its permanently engaged all-wheel-drive system tipped you that it was meant to essentially be a sporty on-road vehicle.

Nothing has changed in that regard, with low-range gearing unavailable for the new X5's permanent all-wheel drive. But just about everything else has been changed with this vehicle, which competes with premium mid-size SUVs such as the Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Cadillac SRX, RX, M-Class and Cayenne.

The list price for the X5 3.0si six-cylinder version is $45,900, while the 4.8i V-8 model costs $54,500. There's plenty of standard equipment, including dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, upscale sound system and the usual power accessories. However, the start/stop engine button is gimmicky and pointless because you must insert a key before activating the button. (Why not just twist the key to start the engine?)

Safety items include traction/anti-skid control with rollover sensors, front-side and curtain-side air bags and run-flat tires -- the first such tires offered for a BMW SUV.

Options cover nearly all bases and include heated front and rear seats, front ventilated seats, navigation system, rear DVD entertainment system, large sunroof and rearview camera for safer backing up.

The new X5 is still considered a mid-size SUV. But it's 7.4 inches longer, 2.4 inches wider and 2 inches taller than its predecessor. The wheelbase (distance between axles) has been stretched 4.5 inches to 115.5 inches for better stability and improved ride and roominess.

The new 3.0si is 286 pounds heavier, while the 4.8i weighs 408 pounds more than its predecessor. But horsepower of the new 3-liter inline six-cylinder engine is up to 260 horsepower from 225. And horsepower of its 4.8-liter V-8 has risen from 315 to 350, partly because that engine's size has been increased from 4.4 liters. (The first X5 had a 225 horsepower inline "six" and a 282-horsepower V-8.)

The 0-60 mph time with the six-cylinder is 7.8 seconds and is 6.4 seconds with the V-8. That makes the new X5 slightly faster than its predecessors. It's certainly plenty fast by SUV standards, and BMW predicts a 50/50 split between six-cylinder and V-8 sales.

Both engines shoot power through a responsive six-speed automatic transmission. It has an easily used manual-shift feature and has been improved for quicker response and better adaptation to driving style and conditions.

A manual transmission no longer is offered, but rarely, if ever, would be needed because of the increased power and torque.

Estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg in the city and 23 on highways with the six-cylinder and 15 and 21 with the V-8. The six-cylinder thus picks up about 2 mpg, while the V-8 loses about 1 mpg, compared with the 2006 X5.

A lower center of gravity, wider front/rear tracks, stiffer construction and a new suspension allow the X5 to feel more carlike than the first-generation model. For instance, replacing the front suspension struts with a double wishbone design is a major improvement -- and is the first non-strut-type BMW front suspension since 1961.

The X5 is fun to drive with such features as precise new variable-ratio steering and sharp handling. The ride is firm, but supple. It's better than the stiffer ride of the first-generation X5. The improved brakes are powerful and controlled by a firm brake pedal.

The upscale new interior is roomy, especially in the rear -- for the first time. Doors open wide, but shorter folks might consider the optional running boards because a high floor requires extra effort to get in or out. Front seats are especially supportive, and gauges can be quickly read. The gear selector has an unusual design, but is easily worked after a few tries.

It takes some time to master the complicated iDrive system, which uses a single console knob to control climate, entertainment, communication and navigation functions. At least there are "old-fashioned" redundant manual audio system controls. An electromechanic parking brake on the console replaces a pull-up lever.

The cargo floor is rather high, but second-row seats fold flat to enlarge the roomier cargo area.

The new X5 is more competitive than the first-generation model, as it must be to compete in the far more crowded premium mid-size SUV market.

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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