Review and Photos by Justin Pritchard

2013 BMW X5 xDrive35i
2013 BMW X5 xDrive35i. Click image to enlarge

The name doesn’t exactly roll off of the tongue – but the BMW X5 xDrive35i is a machine worth investigation by shoppers after a world-class driving experience from a classy premium sport ute. The X5 was one of the first machines on the posh-ute scene back in the day, and it’s been a successful market staple ever since. That’s even if BMW would prefer you call it a Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV), not an SUV.

But what’s in a name? The xDrive35i designation indicates the presence of its automatic ‘xDrive’ all-wheel-drive system and 3.0L turbocharged straight-six to which numerous fuel-saving and performance-enhancing goodies are bolted. Direct injection, a dual-scroll turbo, an eight-speed automatic and on-demand water and oil pumps are some examples.

Output is rated at 300 for both horsepower and torque, though the tester got an optional performance upgrade designed by the folks at BMW’s “M” performance division to bump those figures to 315 and 330, respectively. Output proved pleasing, both in terms of thrust and sound effects during heavy throttle driving, and I also noted robust low-end torque for effortless, low-RPM in-town driving. It’s that low-rpm driving, when the engine is nearly ‘lugging’ along, where engines like this one are extracting the most energy from their fuel, say BMW’s engineers. Crack a window during this sort of driving with your foot down a little, and you can hear the turbocharger whistling away delightfully.

2013 BMW X5 xDrive35i
2013 BMW X5 xDrive35i. Click image to enlarge

This gem of an engine is gentle and almost imperceptible when you use those numbers sparingly, and it hauls the big X5 around in a jiff when you don’t. If you disagree, there’s a twin-turbo V8 engine available too, as well as a torque-monster turbodiesel powerplant. With the X5’s slightly up-tuned standard six-cylinder engine, I achieved a real-life average consumption of 11.2 L/100 km overall – a figure I’m familiar with from a number of smaller and less-powerful sport ute models. Translation? Most should find the X5’s mileage impressive, relative to its size, capability and performance.

Any of the available powertrain choices are wrapped in what’s become of one the most easily identified premium SUV’s on the road today. Arriving somewhere in an X5, and especially a well-decorated one like the tester, is an event that often results in curious glances and approving nods from folks nearby, with some wonder about what sort of big-dollar shot-caller is about to step out of the driver’s seat. The X5 is a sophisticated-looking rig, down to the last detail, and drivers will probably feel incredibly handsome driving it.

While doing so, they’ll likely enjoy the tall and commanding driving position, great big forward view, and the easily accessed communication, navigation and multimedia functions after graduating the iDrive interface’s learning curve. For those who don’t find an iPhone or Nintendo Wii complicated, full dexterity with the iDrive central command interface should arrive after about six minutes.

All of this is surrounded by BMW’s take on the big utility vehicle cabin. A formal and tidy look is favoured over a glaringly high-tech one, and its luxury and relaxation, not gadgets and display screens, that take centre stage.

Not to say the X5 won’t appeal to gadget buffs, yours truly included. On board the loaded-up tester was a Head-Up Display for speed and navigation instructions, a full driver computer, and a super-sophisticated parking system with no fewer than three available camera angles and dynamic guidelines that help drivers measure up their parking space before trying to enter it. A nice touch, but the X5’s surprisingly tight turning circle should be adequate for most drivers to maneuver into an appropriate spot without looking like a total dufus.

2013 BMW X5 xDrive35i2013 BMW X5 xDrive35i2013 BMW X5 xDrive35i
2013 BMW X5 xDrive35i. Click image to enlarge

Add in the magnificent sense of space, infinitely adjustable ‘Comfort Seats’, and effective sound deadening, and you’ve got a great place to unwind and relax on the open road. Here’s a cabin, and a highway cruising experience, that largely pulls its weight towards the X5’s pricetag. Cruising down the road, the X5 feels heavy, dense and substantial. Notable is the heavy and locked-on steering feel, which won’t be phased by hitting a deep puddle, snow, or deep slush.

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