Review and photos by Paul Williams

My first impression upon entering the 2013 BMW X5 diesel was, “Damn, this thing’s big.” Then again, I’d just gotten out of a Volkswagen Golf, having driven it the previous week. If I’d switched from an X5 and into that, I surely would have thought, “Damn, this thing’s small.”

2013 BMW X5 xDrive35d Diesel
2013 BMW X5 xDrive35d Diesel
2013 BMW X5 xDrive35d Diesel
2013 BMW X5 xDrive35d Diesel. Click image to enlarge

It’s all relative, right? But the X5 diesel really looks and feels like it has the brawn to tow a bulldozer. You clamber up and over the running boards, into the generously upholstered seat, pull the heavy door closed, and push the button to start the diesel engine, which thrums readily to life. Select your gear and steer away, the diesel initially chattering and the thick-rimmed steering wheel heavy in your hands. Feels like a beast!

But it’s not. First impressions dissolve once the X5 diesel is underway (it’s officially called the BMW X5 xDrive35d, so you’ll forgive me for calling it an X5 diesel). The steering becomes light, sound from the diesel disappears, it turns readily and stops powerfully with the gentlest of inputs. As the X5 diesel becomes your willing subject, you settle into your new role as King of the Road.

Well, that’s how I felt, anyway. Under the hood of our test vehicle you’ll find a 3.0L inline-six-cylinder engine making 265 hp at 4,200 rpm, and 425 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm. It’s the availability of this massive torque at such low engine speeds that generates the delusions of royalty for the driver, and likewise when passing, the ready access to power makes such a maneuver safe, quick and satisfying.

At a starting price of $64,300, the diesel adds only $2,500 to the base X5 35i (gasoline, inline-six). Our vehicle was wearing Alpine White paint, but is available in eight other colours at no extra charge. Its brown leather interior was also a no-extra-charge item (black or beige are available choices). Additional costs included the Executive Edition, a package that featured navigation, premium audio and a panoramic sunroof among other items; a $3,500 Comfort and Technology Package featuring four-zone climate control, head-up display, heated rear seats, high-beam assist, manual side screens and smart phone integration, and finally the running boards were an optional item at $800. Price as tested including freight and fees was $77,010.

There’s plenty of room in an X5 diesel, and when combined with its excellent fuel economy, it would surely be a great vehicle for a road trip. Rear seat passengers are treated to lots of legroom and shoulder room, everybody gets good headroom, and cargo is easily carried and retrieved via the useful and unusual power liftgate/manual tailgate combination.

Driving the X5 diesel in town is surprisingly easy. It has a shorter turning circle than you’d expect for its size, permitting U-turns on most streets when required. In parking lots, there’s good outward visibility and a rear camera to help with parking (although the rearview mirrors are a bit small, as is the display). I found I was able to pull into parking spaces without difficulty, correctly positioning the X5 between the lines every time. The remote keyless system works like a charm with fingertip touches giving instant response.

The sound of the engine is evident when driving locally. Diesels emit a soft, low-frequency sound that, while not distracting or unpleasant, is nonetheless more noticeable than that of a gasoline engine. After a while you just filter it out.

On the highway, the X5 diesel settles into a super-smooth, low-rpm gait and veritably glides down the road at 110 km/h. There’s virtually no engine or wind noise at all. Fuel consumption on the highway is around 8.0 L/100 km, and I got 10.1 L/100 km combined city/highway. With its 85L tank, you’re good for a long cruise before refilling.

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