2011 BMW X5
2011 BMW X5. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2011 BMW X5

Miami, Florida – First introduced in 2000, the BMW X5 demonstrated emphatically (and somewhat surprisingly at the time) that utility and high performance could co-exist. BMW called the X5 a Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV), a term which has gained some general currency over the years. But most consumers still refer to it and similar vehicles as SUVs.

The X5 is quite an SUV, though, and the 2011 model year sees a model refresh that introduces a new inline-six cylinder (I6) engine, a V8 engine transplant from the X6, the continued application of the X5 diesel powerplant, and a new-for-X5 eight-speed automatic transmission for gasoline-powered models.

Along with new exterior and interior colours, front and rear visual refinements complete the update.

2011 BMW X5
2011 BMW X5. Click image to enlarge

The $74,300 BMW X5 xDrive50i is the flagship X5, now featuring the 4.4-litre engine introduced in the X6 in 2008. Making 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, horsepower is increased by 14 per cent from 350 hp, and torque is up by 28 per cent, from 350 lb.-ft. in the outgoing 4.8-litre engine. The twin-turbocharged, direct injected V8 propels the X5 XDrive50i from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.6 seconds.

The $59,990 X5 xDrive35i is powered by a single-turbocharged 3.0-litre I6 that makes 300 hp and 300 lb.-ft. torque, which is a 15 and 33 per cent increase respectively over the outgoing non-turbocharged engine. A further bonus is that fuel consumption is reduced by 18 per cent. This is the first BMW engine to combine the company’s Valvetronic intake technology with direct fuel injection and turbocharging. Mated to the new eight-speed transmission, the X5 xDrive35i reaches 100 km/h from a standing start in 6.8 seconds; equivalent to the outgoing V8-powered XDrive48i.

Note that both the V8 and I6 engines are referred to by BMW as “twin-power turbocharged,” however, only the V8 is actually twin-turbocharged; the I6 has a single turbocharger described as “twin-spool.”

2011 BMW X5
2011 BMW X5
2011 BMW X5. Click image to enlarge

The eight-speed automatic transmission is standard in the X5 xDrive50i and X5 xDrive35i, having been introduced on the 5 Series Gran Turismo and 760Li Sedan in the fall of 2009. The new transmission is the same weight as the six-speed gearbox it replaces, but offers two additional “tall” gears and closer ratios in the lower gears for relaxed and fuel-efficient cruising and improved acceleration. The transmission operates in three driver selectable modes: Drive, Drive Sport and Manual.

The $62,800 Advanced Diesel X5 xDrive35d generates 265 hp and 425 lb.-ft. of torque, resulting in a 0 to 100 km/h time of 7.4 seconds. Like the xDrive35i and xDrive50i, the diesel X5 has a towing capacity of 6,000 lbs (2722 kg). The 2011 model is technically unchanged from the version introduced in late 2009. Interestingly, given the historical antipathy towards diesel engines by American consumers, 20 per cent of X5 sales are diesels in North America.

All 2011 X5 models receive a redesign of the front fascia and repositioned front fog lamps. The headlamps are also higher and closer to the grille, and a full-width matte silver protection plate extends across the central air intakes, which are increased in size.

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