Last week was the US Press Launch of the next generation X5 and our first chance to get behind the wheel of the F15 chassis in both diesel and gasoline engines. BMW had two variants of the new X5 available to test drive – the X5 xDrive30d and the X5 xDrive50i. In the United States market, the xDrive30d will be re-branded an xDrive35d so don't be confused when the production models launch this fall.
Before we get into specifics about how the two models drove, let me start by saying BMW has done a great job in terms of visual aesthetics with this evolutionary design. The new X5, from the first moment you see it, is a more modern design that builds on the previous generation. Like many newer BMWs, this model seems to look much better in person than it does in a set of photos. The character lines on the side profile and the integrated Air Breather are the most obvious changes if you placed this generation next to the previous E70 but every day consumers may struggle to see too big of a difference in passing.
Interior Design – A Much Needed Upgrade
The most compelling argument for the new X5 may well be the improved interior design and BMW has done many things to up their game in this department. We were witness to both the Ivory White Interior Design Package in the xDrive30d as well as the Mocha Interior Design Package on the xDrive50i. The Ivory White featured an Atlas Grey leather dashboard with contrast stitching for the seats and dashboard. The Mocha Interior provided Black Nappa Leather, contrast stitching and Fineline Pure Wood. Out of the two, I would personally take the Mocha Interior all day long; it had a much more luxury presence in my eyes and seemed to set the right tone for the X5.
The BMW trend in interior design translates to the X5 with the introduction of the new iDrive screen that is slotted into the dashboard in a massive 10.2" size. The screen size is a great proportional fit to the dashboard and is vibrant and extremely responsive in the new iDrive-4.2 Navigation system with touchpad. After spending some time running through the menus and punching in some navigational information, I was thoroughly impressed with how far iDrive has come in this latest iteration. You can now input letters and numbers using the touchpad and even use pinch-to-zoom functionality on the interactive maps. The handwriting recognition seems to work well but I see most people still using voice commands to complete the process quicker. During my time as a passenger in our test drive, my only disappointment with this version of iDrive is the awkwardness of trying to use the writing recognition on the touchpad. If you are a lefty, this won't be a big issue but it made input virtually impossible for me.
X5 xDrive30d Test Drive
We started out our test drive in Vancouver by selecting the all new 3.0 liter six-cylinder TwinPower Turo diesel. This new diesel powered motor outputs 255 horsepower and a massive 413 lb-ft of torque delivered between 1,500 and 3,000 rpm and should send the X5 from 0-62 in roughly 6.9 seconds. When mated to the brilliant 8-speed automatic transmission, this xDrive30d is a match made in heaven for power delivery and amazing (hopefully) fuel economy.
Our test drive route for this X5 was heading out of Vancouver towards Whistler and the windy roads that surround it. Being in Vancouver to start, we had the wonderful opportunity to do what everyone will do in an X5 in the city – enjoy the interior since you will not be going anywhere fast. Once out of the madness, we welcomed wide open two lane roads that spiraled into the beautifully landscaped distance. The first bit you notice in the diesel is the immense torque available to you immediately and just how useful that power is. The 400 plus lb-ft of torque is incredible for short distance passes or for many other handling maneuvers. It is almost hard to believe from the power delivery that this motor is only rated at 255 horsepower as you never find yourself asking where the power is. Although we did not have any ability to do any towing with the diesel, we would think the 30d would be an excellent choice over a 35i version for those who have this as a concern.
This X5 was equipped with the optionally available Dynamic Handling Package ($4,500) that provides both options 2VM (Dyamic Damper Control + rear axle stabilization) and 2VP (Dynamic Performance Control + Active Roll Stabalization) which may have contributed to the dual personality that the X5 seems to offer. While driving the X5 over rough roads, the suspension absorbs more of the bumps to offer a luxury experience but toughens up to plant the X5 solidly in the road for some aggressive driving around your favorite set of switchbacks. One of the biggest complaints will come from the adoption of Electric Power Steering (EPS) in the car which simply feels odd for those of us coming from a traditional hydraulic system. While you may be able to tell that the EPS is present, you should not have any complaints about how accurate the steering is. The X5 felt solid in the roads we threw at it and I was very impressed with the overall feedback in the system.
Throughout the test drive, we rotated through all the fancy modes that BMW includes with the driver experience button including ECO-PRO, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ and found that there were noticeable changes to the driving dynamics between the modes but that the X5 was surprising fun in everything but ECO-PRO where it is mostly suited for improving your fuel economy on a highway drive. We did not spend much time in ECO PRO (and were not light on the pedal either) but we still managed to get an impressive 27 mpg throughout our time with the xDrive30d. This is better than I would have expected with the power available and the tendency to enjoy all of that experience. Driving the X5 reasonably, I would expect a much better fuel economy into the 30s with official numbers to come from the EPA in the (hopefully) not too distant future.
X5 xDrive50i Test Drive
After spending the first half of the day with the diesel, we swapped cars at lunch and moved on to the xDrive50i that features a 4.4-liter V-8 with BMW TwinPower Tubo technology. This is an improved motor over the outgoing 50i and clocks in with 445 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. The big V-8 motor puts down power quickly and sends the X5 from 0 to 62 in an estimated 4.9 seconds.
After sliding into the Mineral White X5 with Mocha Leather interior, we got all the bells and whistles adjusted and were off to see how this model compares to the diesel. Straight out of the gate on some non-highway roads, I was surprised just how similar that initial burst of power was between the diesel and this V-8. It was more a compliment to the diesel than a criticism of the 50i though. When the roads cleared up to allow a more spirited drive, the 50i really came to life. The large dose of horsepower combined with the gobs of torque sent the X5 rocketing into the distant roads. The power delivery was smooth and staggering from this model but that is what you would expect from a car that starts at roughly $12,00 more than the xDrive30d.
Just like the xDrive30d, this bigger brother was a lot of fun to drive and felt like it was a sports car wrapped in an SAV's body versus the models from competitors like Audi which feel the other way around. BMW once again has managed to make a big car feel like you are driving something much smaller. The only time you really notice the size is when you are in the city and even then you only notice it if you are looking for it like we were.
We had one more test for the X5 before we were done with it though; BMW had set up an off-road course for the X5 at the former Olympic Park outside of Vancouver. The course was not extreme by any means but was set up to test out the xDrive system over rough terrain, through muddy climbs and up/down steep inclines. (Side Note: If you want a similar experience, you should look into doing a Performance Center Delivery in South Carolina. ) We were led through the course with other X5s following a BMW driver who you followed through the obstacles so that you could see just how well xDrive performed. You could also bring up the new xDrive Status screen on the Control Screen while doing these procedures to see real time information on body roll and pitch as well as seeing what wheels are driving the X5 at the time. Take a look at some video from the system when the X5 was on the off-road course.
After completing the course, our previously beautiful Mineral White X5 was no longer so clean but it had earned a badge of courage for traversing the off road course with ease. While you (like most people) may not take their $70,000 X5 off road like this, it is great to know what the car is capable of handing if you need it to. You may even now be more likely to take a chance with your X5 camping out with your family – though I would be weary of optioning up the wheels since your chances of putting a gash in your gorgeous 19s or 20s just went up remarkably.
Brining it Home
After a full day of test driving both of these X5 models, my conclusion is that BMW has done a great job taking a winning model and improving it for this next generation. Yes, the exterior design changes may be more conservative than expected but the overall package is greatly improved. The interior is a huge upgrade over the previous generation and that is going to translate into a lot of sales for this generation alone. I'm not sure what the current X5 owner will do but I would certainly suggest you at least go and give the F15 X5 a try when it arrives at your local dealer. Try to look past the feel of the EPS at that initial turn and make sure you get to experience the X5 on a set of twisty roads with the user experience switched between Comfort and Sport.
If I were in a buying position right now between these two models, I would choose the diesel for the practicality of the fuel economy combined with the impressive torque available immediately. The $12,000 premium for the V-8 is certainly warranted for certain buyers and I doubt you would be disappointed but I see a lot of value in the diesel model.
Hopefully you get a chance to test drive your own X5 in the coming months and can let us know what you think. If you have any questions about the cars, let me know and I'll do my best to answer them.
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