May 22, 2007
When BMW introduced the X5 in late 1999, they created a whole new type of vehicle – a luxury SUV that handled like a… well, BMW. With wide street tires, taught body control and sharp steering response, this SAV (sport activity vehicle in Bimmer lingo) was clearly not made for boonie-bashers. It was aimed squarely at the upwardly mobile urban trendoids who wholly embraced the concept of a pricey and rugged Euro image builder.
With the all-new 2007 X5, BMW has kicked every parameter up a notch. It’s bigger, more agile, more refined and even more luxurious. Not that you were actually slumming it in the old X5, but this edition’s interior is noticeably richer in its materials, and exudes a more modern and sumptuous ambience.
My tester was an X5 4.8i (base price $73,500), motivated by a rorty 4799 cc DOHC 32-valve V8 that generates 350 hp at 6300 r.p.m. and 350 lb.-ft. of torque at 3400 r.p.m. Mated to a slick shifting six-speed Steptronic manumatic, the V8 moves this 2420-kg ute with authority, making the most delicious noises while doing so. BMW chose to allow a fair bit of aural stimulation to enter the cabin, and even while cruising on the highway, the distant rumble of the bent-eight is a subtle reminder that you sprung for the bigger motor.
The V8 features BMW’s Double VANOS variable valve timing and Valvetronic technology, which does wonders for throttle response and economy. On my watch, the X5 4.8i burned 13.5L/100 of premium fuel, which is pretty decent for a luxurious rig that can blast to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds.
Externally, you could be forgiven for mistaking this 2007 X5 for the previous model, as the basic proportions and styling are carried over. Look a bit closer, and the differences reveal themselves. The twin-kidney grill and headlights are bolder, the shape is less angular, and running the full length of the flanks is a crisp Banglesque crease that echoes the X3.
It’s classy evolution, but strangely the doors now sound tinny and hollow.
This X5 has grown in every dimension, especially in length (188 mm), and here is where it pays dividends. Perhaps the biggest failing of the previous X5 was its woeful lack of storage behind the rear seats – less than in the smaller X3.
For 2007, this space swells from 465 to 620 litres, and allows for the optional ($1500) third row seating. The two seats flip up easily, but are really only suitable for small children and people you don’t like.
Front shoulder room and rear legroom increase by 5 cm and 2.5 cm respectively. Standard on the X5 4.8i is the massive Panorama sunroof that allows back seat passengers to gaze up at the clouds.
Now sprouting from the centre floor console is a fully electronic shift wand, similar in function to the one in the BMW 7 series. A button on the top engages Park, and tipping the lever forward selects Reverse (a bit counterintuitive at first) – back for Drive. Flick the lever to the left and you’re in manual/sport mode – pull back for upshifts and push forward for downshifts. This is contrary to just about every other manumatic on the market, but just like in a race-car. So if you happen to drive Champ Cars for a living…
Actually, I got used to its operation very quickly. It’s a pretty slick system that frees up valuable console space, and I predict we’ll be seeing a lot more of these electronic shifters in the future.
The parking brake is electronic too, operated by a button just aft of the shift lever.
And do my eyes deceive me? There is a row of honest-to-gawd radio/phone number presets right up there on the dash and an AM/FM button too. It seems BMW has finally acknowledged that, yes, there is a safer and easier way to select radio stations other than scrolling through iDrive. Thank you.
Down the road, this new X5 has a suppler ride, yet maintains its trademark poise and surprising handling. More so than most other manufacturers, BMW can make the handling/ride compromise seem not much of a compromise at all. It tracks better on the highway too, and the speed-sensitive variable ratio Servotronic steering, as in all BMW’s of late, is close to perfection.
Credit for the X5’s improved dynamics goes to the 15% stiffer structure, lower centre of gravity, the all-new independent double-wishbone front suspension and the new aluminum upper and lower control arms in the rear multi-link suspension. Standard on the X5 4.8i is self-levelling rear suspension and 18-inch wheels with 255/55R all season tires.
BMW’s transparent xDrive all-wheel drive system, which uses a computer-controlled central differential, maintains a 40/60 front to rear torque split. Up to 100% of the power can be sent to either end if deemed necessary by the sensors and computers that take care of such things. Active Steering and Adaptive Drive with anti-roll stabilization and active dampers are optional, as are 19-inc and 20-inch wheels.
Passive safety features include a crash sensor (fuel cut-off, lights on, door unlock), front and side airbags for front passengers, side curtain airbags front and rear, and pyrotechnical tensioning front seatbelts.
The alphabet-soup of active safety goodies includes ABS, DSC-X (dynamic stability control), HDC (hill descent control), ADB-X (automatic differential brake) and TSC (trailer stability control).
My Space Grey Metallic tester had the $2900 Premium Package which adds comfort access, comfort seats, lumbar support and a Harmon/Kardon LOGIG7 sound system. Also on the list was the $1200 Rear Climate Package (heated rear seats, automatic 4-zone climate control and electric rear sun shade) and the $1300 Activity Package (ski bag, storage compartment package, headlamp washers and aluminum running boards).
Avoid this last one if you can. The running boards may look cool, but their only apparent function is to soil your trouser legs every time you exit the vehicle.
Along with the expected sybaritic niceties, the new X5 scores well on utility too. The 60/40 split rear seats fold down flat with the headrests in place and there is a small flip down tailgate, which proved handy for loading heavy items and made a nice landing pad for our furry canine, who for some reason, insisted on wearing her fake antlers for this photo shoot.
With the 2007 X5, BMW has expanded on the strengths of the original, and addressed its main shortcoming, which was a dearth of storage space. More sport and more utility: can’t argue with that.
Pricing: 2007 BMW X5 4.8i
Base price: $73,500
Options: $ 6,900
Premium Package $2900 (Comfort Access, Comfort Seats, Lumbar Support, LOGIC 7 Hi-Fi Sound), Activity Package $1300 (Aluminum Running Boards, Ski Bag, Storage Compartment Package, Headlamp Washers), Rear Climate Package $1200 (Heated Rear Seats, Automatic 4-Zone Climate Control, Electric Rear Sunshade, Third Row Seats $1500
Destination: $ 1895
A/C Tax: $ 100
Price as tested: $82,395
Manufacturer’s web site