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View Full Version : I took my X5 in some serious snow...


Emission
01-04-2004, 01:19 PM
We don't get snow in the LA Basin, so my son and I drove up to the mountains on Friday to play in some white stuff and do some off-road driving in our X5 3.0 (non-sport package).

I didn't go alone - my brother-in-law came with his wife and daughter in their Jeep. It is a 2003 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. It comes stock with serious off-road tires and dual locking differentials. I brought a tow-rope, so getting stuck wouldn't be an issue has he could pull me out. :D

The snow/ice was falling from the sky, and I brought my chains in case the Highway Patrol decided they would be mandatory. I was expecting my "weak link" to be my stock 235-wide all-season Michelin tires (with only 50% tread remaining) - so the chains would be my savior.

In the snow, the X5 did very well. On the roads, covered in about 4" of slush, the truck just plowed along, never even seeming to slow. When I pulled to the side of the road, in the 8" deep snow, it would take-off slowly but deliberately. I found "DSC OFF" was the better approach in the deep stuff. The Jeep followed me everywhere, with a bit more wheelspin (no ABS, DSC, or TRAC on the Jeep).

We then both decided to go off-road down a fire trail. The snow was about 10" with a layer of mud/rocks underneith. First off, down a steep (25 degree) snow-covered hill that was about 50' long. At the base, we found a stuck Infiniti I30 (yes, city slickers can be stupid) that we pulled up to the top (with the Jeep). We also pulled a stuck mid-80's Toyota 4x4 up the hill (open differentials kept two wheels spinning, and the Toyota disabled). All the while, the X5 just drove around as if it was just a bit disturbed by the snow - some ABS and driveline "clicking" as it found traction. I drove up and down the hill (following the Jeep) several times - no big deal!

We then drove deeper into the forest, and into deeper snow. I decided to lead, as the Jeep could pull me back up the single-lane fire road much easier from the rear if I got stuck. At one point, I got stuck... really stuck... in a deep snow drift (about 15" of snow and slush). The snow was building in front of the tires creating a wall, and this started to slow the X5. Slower and slower, even though I was hard on the gas, as the X5 struggled through the deep stuff. Mud (under the slushy snow) was now clogging the tread of the tires and traction to all wheels was lost. The X5 stopped. I floored it. The X5 sat there - doing nothing. :eek: Apparently, the AWD system looks for traction on each wheel. Since there was none, it decided not to go. Hmmm.... I put it in reverse... and it backed-up... slowly.... I backed up to a turnout, flipped around, then headed back up the road.

At the hill again, we pulled a Suburban to safety. :D Three cars stuck, on the same hill!

The X5 climbed the hill with authority, then we headed down (below the snow line) then home.

Lessons learned:

The X5 works very well in 99.9% of the stuff 99.9% of owners will subject it to. I had to make myself get stuck, and even then I was able to get out by myself. I never needed to get towed by the Jeep, and I never needed the chains. I would never have gone down there without another vehicle (Jeep) following me.

The stock all-season Michelins suck in the mud. Their sipes collect pebbles, and they spin uselessly when clogged with dirt. Snow tires would have been a dream!

The X5 AWD system is not good in the really, really, deep stuff. The Jeep (when subjected to monster drifts) would spin all four tires and plow along in style (kicking up rooster tails of snow). The X5 would slow as the computers/differentials looked for traction. Eventually, the speed is lost and the X5 gets bogged down. I am betting the new X-Drive addresses this.

WDC330i
01-04-2004, 01:53 PM
Thanks for taking the time to post this--and to research it in the first place. It gives me some idea of what our xiT with LM22s might be capable of. So far her only test was a lightly snowy drive through the mountains at Christmas. Of course the X5 has more clearance than the wagon--and more power. More weight too, for that matter, and who knows what the implications of that are? Harder to stop going down hill?

We took the wagon up a very steep, gravel-paved mountain driveway at Thanksgiving. We could smell the brakes at the top; a Volvo XC bogged down a third of the way from the top. Based on clearance issues alone, I know my 330i sport would NOT have made it up the hill.

Emission
01-04-2004, 02:49 PM
Thanks for taking the time to post this--and to research it in the first place. It gives me some idea of what our xiT with LM22s might be capable of. So far her only test was a lightly snowy drive through the mountains at Christmas. Of course the X5 has more clearance than the wagon--and more power. More weight too, for that matter, and who knows what the implications of that are? Harder to stop going down hill?


I think the ground clearance, and the size of the tires (height) was a plus on the X5. The xiT has a better power/weight ratio than our X5 - but at 4533 pounds the X5 does squish itself down to get traction!

I took the X5 up a long muddy hill the same day (down the hill, without the snow). It climbed well, until all four wheel lost traction and it just sat there. I didn't realize Hill Descent Control worked in reverse!

The limit for all of these AWD systems seems to be traction. In the X5/xiT system, if you lose traction to all FOUR tires - you are stuck. This is better than the 4WD sytem in my old 4Runner. If it lost traction in TWO (one on each axle) you were stuck! The only thing that would be better would be a failsafe mode that powered all four (like locking differentials) if it realized all four wheels were spinning.

Oh, the AWD on our vehicles does use the brakes, and they can overheat if the going gets tough.

Nick325xiT 5spd
01-04-2004, 02:58 PM
The xiT's upper limit is 9-10". And that's getting pretty iffy.

(And that also ripped off plastic panels from under the car.)

WDC330i
01-05-2004, 07:38 AM
Oh, the AWD on our vehicles does use the brakes, and they can overheat if the going gets tough.[/QUOTE]

Yes. This makes me wonder how quickly we'll burn through pads and rotors when the AWD function engages...

SupraRZ
01-07-2004, 02:20 AM
Emission, next time you do some rallying in your X5, be sure to bring other bimmer owners along :angel:

Personally I don't have the guts to drive on what you did, however if there was a "tow" vehicle I might be inclined to do so!

Glad to hear you had fun, I hope I can bring my X5 into the mountains in the near future!

xmanjack
01-14-2004, 02:24 PM
With one inch of snow on the road,I felt like I was ice skating with my X5 4.4(sport package/19" wheels)I quickly order the BMW winter special,17"wheels with Michelin Alpin snow tires.They work fine,only problem,my X5 looks like a 3.0 now.Should have looked into other options.However, for heavy snow I rather use my Jeep.Don't want to get my beauty all nasty with ice,mud and salt.

worktom
01-16-2004, 02:41 AM
@Emission
Thanks for the wonderful test you did. I think the X5 has more capabilities for going off roads than we all think.
Her in Europe, they have made a test with various serious off roaders, like Land Rover, Toyota, Mercedes and BMW. :D
They went up a skiing mountain on a hard snow surface. And now you guess who came up the hill and who did't:

Land Rover, Mercedes got stuck :mad:
BMW and Toyota to the top :neener:

About snow tires, they not only have a better traction, but essentially they have a much better braking grip. Combined with the ABS the best solution.
@xmanjack
I know what you mean. I have the 19" with 255/285 in summer and now in winter with only 235 on a 17" the car looks different. But the wider the snow tires are the worse is the performance on braking and traction. :bawling:

Have you heard of the Ralley Paris - Dakkar
Here are some pictures of a BMW that is attending and quite good in race:
http://www.x-raid.de/mx_cm/img/Alphand_07.jpg http://www.x-raid.de/english/index.html
http://www.dakar.com/2004/img_live/affiche_parcours.jpg
http://www.dakar.com/2004/us/index.html

Have fun
Tom :clap:

Emission
01-16-2004, 10:06 AM
Land Rover, Mercedes got stuck :mad:
BMW and Toyota to the top :neener:


The weak link for off-road driving in the X5 is the tires, followed by the front spoiler preventing any real serious approach angles without scraping.

I'd imagine, with snow tires, the X5 does very, very, well.

The Paris-Dakker race is pretty cool. I've seen highlights on the SpeedChannel here.