2001 BMW X5 3.0i
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Equipped with BMW’s new 225 horsepower 3.0 litre inline six cylinder engine, the new BMW X5 3.0i offers a less-than-snappy 0 to 100 km/h time of 9.4 seconds and an impressive 100 to 0 braking distance of 39.8 m (131 feet). Overall handling, braking and quality are superb, but I didn’t like the heavy clutch action and stiff steering. X5 3.0i’s start at $56,800, but can escalate to over $70,000 with options.

Six cylinder model joins V8 stablemate

BMW introduced their first SUV, the all-new V8-powered X5 4.4i, early in 2000 – then followed up with the six cylinder X5 3.0i in the Fall of 2000. The X5 3.0i is equipped with BMW’s new 225 horsepower 3.0 litre inline six cylinder engine which is derived from the last year’s 193 horsepower 2.8 litre six which was used in the 328i and 528i sedans.

Unlike the X5 4.4i, the X5 3.0i is available with a 5-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed ‘Steptronic’ automatic transmission (the X5 4.4i is available only with the Steptronic tranny.)

The X5 3.0i looks almost identical to the V8-powered X5 4.4i except for its black door handles, black window trim, and twin single exhaust tips instead of twin dual exhaust tips. In addition, the X5 3.0i has slightly narrower 235/65R-17 tires compared to the X5 4.4i’s standard 255/55R-18 inch tires.

The X5 3.0i starts at $56,800, about $12,000 less than the X5 4.4i.

Automatic transmission preferred

2001 BMW X5 3.0i
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My test vehicle was equipped with the 5-speed manual transmission – a rarity in the luxury SUV class. Though I generally prefer manual transmissions to automatics, I wasn’t that impressed with this one. The shift lever itself is quite easy to operate, but clutch effort is rather heavy, and I found the drivetrain was rather jerky. As well, first gear is geared quite low so that you have to shift to second almost immediately. A low first gear is a good idea for hill climbing and off-roading, but for day to day driving, it’s a bit tiresome.

Having tried the 5-speed Steptronic automatic transmission in the X5 4.4i, I would have no hesitation in recommending this transmission over the manual one. The Steptronic can be shifted manually without a clutch for those who want a little more control over when the engine shifts up and down, but in my experience, the Steptronic performs very well on its own, adapting shifts to the driver’s driving style, and responding to throttle and braking inputs as though it could read the driver’s mind.

Another concern I had with the X5 3.0i was with its variable-assist rack and pinion steering – at highway speeds, it has a firm, sporty feel that’s quite responsive, but at slower speeds, it feels a bit heavy making city driving more of a chore than it needs to be.

The X5’s 3.0 litre DOHC 24 valve inline six cylinder engine and four wheel disc brakes are superb. The 225 horsepower 3.0 litre inline six cylinder powerplant with ‘Double Vanos’ variable camshaft timing has 214 ft-lb of torque at 3500, an improvement over the previous engine. It’s a very, smooth, willing powerplant with an even power band and adequate torque for quick launches, moderately fast acceleration, and comfortable highway cruising.

BMW claims a 0 to 100 km/h time of 9.0 seconds, but independent performance tests conducted by AJAC (Automobile Journalists Association of Canada) during the annual Car of the Year runoffs, recorded a time of 9.4 seconds (the X5 4.4i’s time is 7.9 seconds). The X5 3.0i’s time compares with 8.7 seconds for the Acura MDX, and 9.5 seconds for the Infiniti QX4. As only new-for-2001 models were being tested, the Mercedes-Benz ML320 was not included.

The same tests revealed that the X5 3.0i was quickest from 80 to 120 km/h. The X5 3.0i had a time of 7.9 seconds, compared to 8.1 seconds for the MDX, and 8.6 seconds for the QX4.

In braking tests from 100 km/h to 0, the X5 3.0i was the best performer, stopping in just 39.8 metres (131 ft.). That compares with 43.3 metres (142 ft.) for the Acura MDX, and 43.9 metres (144 ft.) for the QX4.

Keep in mind that the X5 3.0i weighs 2050 kilogram (4519 lb.), so these performance figures must be taken in context. For comparison, a BMW 330Xi sedan which has the same engine but which weighs about 500 kilograms less has a 0 to 100 km/h time of 7.7 seconds and a 100 to 0 braking time of 41.1 metres (135 feet). (Note the X5 brakes shorter!)

For an SUV, the X5’s handling is exemplary – in my opinion, this is the best-handling SUV on the market – however, it comes at the expense of some off-road ability. The X5’s independent front MacPherson strut and rear 4-link suspension offers excellent control and stability, and combined with standard 17 inch tires has plenty of grip on dry pavement. In the wet, the X5’s combination of full-time AWD, dynamic stability control, and BMW’s Cornering Braking Control, provides tenacious grip and control even in panic situations.

The X5 is not suited for serious off-roading though. Its tires are too wide for going through deep mud and snow, the wheel articulation isn’t quite enough for sudden changes in elevation, and the ride is a bit stiff. The X5 doesn’t have a Low Range gear, but it does have BMW’s Hill Descent Control (originally developed by Land Rover) which uses the brakes and engine compression to slow the vehicle down when going down a steep hill. It takes a half a second to kick in, but it does work.

First-class interior

The X5 3.0i’s interior is almost identical to its more expensive sibling, the X5 4.4i. The look and texture of interior materials is first-rate, even better than some BMW car models. Its combination of a textured, two-tone instrument panel, wood trim on the console, doors and shift lever, and brushed aluminum door handles, exudes luxury and quality in a way that few other sport utility vehicles do.

Traditional white on black round instruments (tinted red at night), including a tachometer and instant fuel economy gauge, are covered by a tall cowl to shield them from the Sun’s glare. In the centre dash area is an AM/FM/CD stereo concealed by a folding cover, and an optional 6 disc CD changer is hidden in the centre console storage bin. Niceties in my test vehicles included dual zone climate control, heated steering wheel with power tilt/telescopic adjustment, comfortable front bucket seats with 3 temperature seat heaters, cruise and stereo controls on the steering wheel, dual level amrest/storage bin with penholder, and two front cupholders under a sliding cover.

Rear passengers have a centre fold-down armrest with two pull-out cupholders and a storage bin, a rear 12 volt power outlet, and rear air vents for heating and air conditioning. Unlike the Mercedes-Benz ML320 and Acura MDX, the X5 does not offer a third-row seat.

The cargo area include a flat carpet floor with tie-downs and hooks for securing packages. Under the cargo floor is a full-size spare tire. Access to the rear cargo area is by a split hatchback/tailgate. The cargo area is wide and tall, but the floor is rather high because of the spare tire underneath.

Safest SUV on the road?

2001 BMW X5 3.0i
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The X5 features front and rear deformable crush zones built into its body structure, and a recent IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) 40 mph frontal offset crash test gave the X5 the highest marks ever recorded for any SUV ever tested. Impressive.

The X5 has plenty of airbags – dual front airbags, door-mounted side airbags, and head protection airbags for front and rear passengers. Dual rear side airbags are also available as an option.

In addition, the X5 features standard all-wheel-drive which distributes power 62% to the rear and 38% to the front wheels on a full-time basis; Automatic Stability Control and Traction (ASC+T) system which improves traction by automatically braking and retarding the throttle when traction is lost; Dynamic Stability Control which helps prevent understeer and oversteer by selectively braking individual wheels and reducing engine power; Cornering Braking Control which brakes the wheels with differing pressures to account for lateral acceleration; and Dynamic Brake Control which adds braking pressure in panic braking situations.

There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the X5 is one of the safest, if not the safest SUV, on the road.

Price and features

The X5 3.0i starts at $56,800, and comes with a lot of standard luxury features, including: leatherette upholstery and walnut trim, dual zone automatic climate control with a charcoal microfilter, single disc CD player and AM/FM stereo and ten speakers, power windows with anti-trapping feature, 8-way power driver’s seat, power door locks and central locking with remote, heated front seats and heated steering wheel, steering wheel controls for stereo, cruise and telephone, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, front and rear centre armrests. Standard exterior features include 17 inch tires, fog lights, heated mirrors and heated windshield washer jets.

Options are expensive. Popular options include leather upholstery ($2675), sunroof ($1500), Park Distance Control ($795), Hi-fi sound system with DSP ($1750), Navigation system ($3900), power passenger seat and memory ($875), and rear side airbags ($725).

A Sport Package ($5900) includes leather upholstery, front sport seats, sport steering wheel, 18″ alloy wheels and tires, and self-levelling suspension. A Premium Package ($3200) includes leather upholstery with a front centre armrest, auto-dimming mirrors, and dark wood trim.

As you can see, a fully-equipped X5 3.0i will cost significantly more than its $56,800 base price. My loaded test vehicle came to $72,020.

Technical Data:

2001 BMW X5 3.0i
Base price $56,800
Price as tested $72,020
Type 4-door, 5 passenger mid-size sport-utility
Layout longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 3.0 litre inline six cylinder, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 225 @ 5900 rpm
Torque 214 @ 3500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual (5-speed Steptronic automatic)
Curb weight 2050 kg (4519 lb.)
Wheelbase 2820 mm (111.0 in.)
Length 4667 mm (183.7 in.)
Width 1872 mm (73.7 in.)
Height 1707 mm (67.2 in.)
Cargo capacity 455 litres (16.0 cu. ft.)
Max. payload 675 kg (1488 lb.)
Fuel consumption City: 15.6 l/100 km (18 mpg)
  Hwy: 10.6 l/100 km (27 mpg)
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

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