Having undergone a major transformation in 2004, and with a new and bigger replacement model in the works, the BMW X5 remains unchanged for 2005 save for some very minor trim upgrades.

Three engine choices are available: a 3.0-litre inline six that’s also used in the top-line X3, a 4.4-litre V8, and a 4.8-litre V8. The six-cylinder comes with a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic with Steptronic manual mode, both of which are included in the base price; the V8 models receive a six-speed Steptronic transmission.

All models use BMW’s superb xDrive all-wheel-drive, a torque-management system that switches seamlessly from rear-wheel to all-wheel-drive when necessary. Unlike many AWD systems that distribute power when one set of wheels slips, xDrive is proactive, using information from the dynamic stability control and other sensors to determine the possibility of wheel slippage and the need to power up or brake a specific wheel, before any wheels actually start to lose traction. It also locks the differentials on take-off until the vehicle reaches 20 km/h for maximum traction.

The 3.0i includes ventilated front disc brakes with solid rears, automatic Xenon headlamps, adaptive brake lights, fog lights, heated mirrors, heated washer jets and door locks, rain-sensing wipers, alarm system with interior motion detector, self-charging keyless remote, roof rails, rear wiper and washer, soft-close upper tailgate, rear spoiler, four-spoke multifunction leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, automatic dual-zone air conditioning, eight-way power driver’s seat, three-stage heated front seats, luggage cover, power tilt and telescopic steering column, “leatherette” upholstery, telephone pre-wire and CD/MP3 player with ten speakers, including two subwoofers.

The 4.4i adds comfort start, self-levelling rear air suspension, adaptive headlights, chrome-plated grille bars, eight-way power driver and passenger seats with driver-side memory, power panorama sunroof, and Dakota leather upholstery.

The 4.8is adds rear ventilated brake discs, full air suspension with active ride height, sport suspension calibration, high-pressure headlight washers, auto-dimming power-folding exterior mirrors, front and rear park distance control, privacy glass, three-spoke multifunction heated leather-wrapped wheel, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, front sport seats with lumbar support, two-stage heated rear seats, Nappa or Alcantara leather upholstery, six-CD player with twelve speakers, navigation system, BMW assist with emergency button, Bluetooth telephone preparation, eight-function on-board computer and warning function for engine speed.

The X5 is a popular choice among BMW buyers, drawn to the vehicle’s interior quality, smooth ride and excellent handling. The 3.0-litre is sufficient, the 4.4-litre is fast, and the 4.8-litre is stinky fast, although you’ll pay dearly for the privilege. For all its exterior size, the X5’s cargo space is very small – a Kia Spectra5 has more luggage space. Rival Mercedes-Benz ML350 is less expensive than the 3.0; the more powerful V6 Porsche Cayenne is $300 less than the 3.0. The V8 Cayenne S and Turbo both outpower the 4.4i and 4.8is, but also outprice them by $7,100 and $29,150, respectively.

The X5 is built in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

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