Test Drive – 2014 BMW X5

Test Drive - 2014 BMW X5 Entry Price: $53,200

Price as tested: $72,475

This week we’re driving the 2014 BMW X5 “xDrive35d,” a Spartanburg, S.C., built “Sports Activity Vehicle” that comes to us with turbocharged diesel power. Introduced back in 1999 to compete with other “state of the art” 4×4/SUV machines, BMW never forgot its core success properties and respected German craftsmanship birthright that dates back to 1916.

Test Drive - 2014 BMW X5Here we are 98 years later, and BMW is still serving up some of the best cars and SUVs on the road today. Able to move families, deliver great fuel mileage and look good sitting at any country club in America, the new X5’s exterior receives a mild upgrade while suspension components and interior receive more attention in the enhanced X5 recipe. With a stronger 4×4 independent suspension, advanced driver assist engineering and even more interior amenities, the new X5 is in a class with few peers.

Test Drive - 2014 BMW X5As for BMW’s 3.0-liter inline-six diesel engine, it wasn’t that long ago when the words “acceleration” and “diesel” were incompatible. Additionally, buying a turbocharged car usually meant a “dead spot” in acceleration, which means, in simple terms, you had to have forward motion before you had any exhaust pressure to turn the turbo for more power.

Today? Not so.

Test Drive - 2014 BMW X5BMW utilizes special induction and exhaust systems to ward off those diesel and turbo “turtle acceleration” demons. Specifically, BMW’s variable geometry turbo technology and special exhaust manifold allows our X5 to perform like a “normal” gas fired six-cylinder power plant. And, thanks to 255-horsepower and amazing 413 lb. of torque available, moving forward is quite an impressive experience. X5’s  “no hesitation response” comes from BMW’s “common rail” direct fuel injection system, which quickens the fuel charge to the intake valves, resulting in the words “Twin Powered Turbo” even though the X5 uses but one turbocharger, not two. (Sorry for being a bit more techie this week).

Overall, there’s always enough power under your right foot to pass and/or merge with the best of them while delivering great low speed torque for initial movement. Zero to 60 MPH you ask? How about 6.7-seconds with a top speed of 130 MPH!

On the road, X5 is one of the best handling larger SUV’s we’ve driven. The operator can choose from either Sport or Comfort mode suspension settings while handling in both settings is very good. Our fully loaded BMW delivered an impressive 31.2 MPG on a seven-hour trip totaling 421 miles. Additionally, you can only hear a scant “diesel” chatter when stopped, unlike other diesels that dot our nation’s highways. Underneath, the upgraded X5 now features a lighter and stronger independent suspension, which delivers an ultra-quiet ride while the 4×4 system is fully automatic.

For gear changing, all xDrive BMWs rely on an eight-speed automatic geared for both acceleration and cruising. The window sticker says a 26 MPG average thanks to 23 city and 31 highway EPA numbers. Therefore, the extra money spent for the this diesel will eventually pay off, although one must also consider higher diesel fuel prices in the cost scenario. If you don’t want a diesel, you can opt for the 3.0-liter, 300-horse six-cylinder that stars at $53,200 or, if you need really big power, the 445-horse V8 that delivers 22 MPG average.

The cabin is a study in BMW luxury. The leather seats have that special BMW aroma, while the curves and fit of every inch of passenger pleasure deserve praise. Underneath, the upgraded X5 now features a lighter and stronger independent suspension, which delivers an ultra-quiet ride.

Our BMW X5 Diesel’s base price of $56,600 went up quickly, as all the bells and whistles cost an additional $15,875, bringing the total to $72,475.

Standard items include advanced air bags; park distance control, navigation system with touchpad; dynamic stability control; four wheel disc ABS with brake drying control; traction control and brake fade compensation, and numerous other high tech BMW items your dealer will explain.

In summary, you won’t find many $72,000 Bimmers out on the sand dunes playing “desert drift” with friends. These are the top dog SUVs, made for negotiating snow covered roads in safety and delivering the BMW opulence one expects. Consequently, it’s easy to give a “Best Buy” nod to a quality vehicle like the X5 Diesel.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 115.5 inches, 4,930 lb. curb weight, 22.4 gal. fuel cell, 8.2 inch ground clearance and over 60 cu. ft. of cargo space with seats down.

Likes: Diesel economy, interior, safety, Bimmer looks and heritage.

Dislikes: Cumbersome Navigation system, very expensive options, $1,400 rear camera package should be standard.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist)

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