12/27/06 — 2007 BMW X5 a bit chubby, but still fun to drive

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2007 BMW X5 a bit chubby, but still fun to drive

BMW X5 (2007)

Don’t expect your neighbor to do a double take when you park your new 2007 BMW X5 in the driveway for the first time. It looks much like all the previous models dating back to its inception in 2000.

But the sport utility vehicle — BMW calls it a sports activity vehicle — has grown. It's 7.4 inches longer, 2.4 inches wider and has a 4.5-inch longer wheelbase than the preceding model. And it comes with a third-row seat option.

BMW X5, 2007

Unfortunately, growth wasn't limited to length and width. The new X5 has found between 200 and 400 pounds depending on model. That means a well-optioned 4.8-liter V-8 edition weighs in at a diet-challenged 5,300 pounds. Last year’s 4.4-liter V-8, discontinued for 2007, came in at around 4,900 pounds and the 4.8-liter weighed in at 5,000 pounds.

Maneuverability has also taken a hit with the larger vehicle. The turning circle has increased a whopping two feet from 39.7 to a pickup-truck-like 42 feet.

The weight gain and the increased difficulty turning into a tight parking space are all forgiven after a short test drive. The new X5 feels every bit a BMW with razor-sharp handling and sterling sport-utility performance.

You will have to take your neighbor for a test drive to show him the real differences. And to really give him a taste of this new iteration, you will have to trust him with the keys. Because it's from behind the wheel that favorable upgrades manifest themselves.

Chubby as it is, the ’07 X5 is a real BMW. And with the new beefy 350-horsepower V-8 under hood, it has a muscular character moving from 0 to 60 in 6.4 seconds, according to BMW’s published time. We found the performance satisfying and we like the low growl that accompanied a push of the gas pedal.

More practically, the horsepower and equally prodigious 350 pound-feet of torque will pull up to 6,000 pounds of boat or travel trailer.

The X5 is also available with a 260-horsepower 3.0-liter inline six cylinder engine. Torque is rated at 225 pound-feet. That's a gain of 35 horses and 11 pound feet of torque over last year. And the heavier BMW needs the extra help to get from 0 to 60 in about 8 seconds.

Power is directed through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Your neighbor will marvel at the BMW’s handling prowess should you let him wander onto a winding stretch of road, especially if you have purchased the $3,500 sport package, which brings 19-inch all-season run-flat tires (18-inch run flats are standard), electronically adjustable dampers and active stabilizer bars.

We’d opt for this cutting-edge setup, called Adaptive Drive. It gives the high-riding SUV the handling characteristics of a sports car.

The SUV’s handling pedigree does not compromise ride quality. There is nothing stiff in the ride. Even old winter-ravaged concrete roads are smoothed out.

Steering is extremely accurate with the standard rack and pinion setup — there is an electrically driven Active Steering option — and brakes, which have been enhanced because of the vehicle's increased size, are superb.

While on-road attributes abound, the X5 is not a heavy-duty off-roader with automatic all-wheel drive and no low-range transfer case.

Like we noted earlier, the new X5 retains the original X5 look albeit longer with a wider wheelbase. Fortunately, the sport utility has been spared the worst — or the best — of the so-called convoluted Bangle styling. It has more pronounced wheel arches, sharper creases in the hood and the hatch and a pronounced crease through the doors into a larger taillight treatment.

You must study an ’06 and an ’07 side-by-side to become cognizant of the changes, but BMW did a creditable job in advancing the design.

Unfortunately the X5 was not spared the infamous iDrive. It comes even without the optional navigation system and rearview camera. Although it has been simplified, we think it’s still just a complicated way to accomplish what once were relatively simple tasks.

And strangely, the X5 comes with an electronic shifter similar to the setup in the 7-Series. But unlike the 7-Series shifter, which is on the stalk, the X5's version is found between the seats in place of a standard transmission stalk. You toggle forward for reverse and backward for drive. Park is gained by pushing a button on top of the switch. Could this be technology run amok?

BMW officials have said it creates more room for large cupholders. And the X5 has two large cupholders, something not previously in the BMW inventory.

The new third-row seat is definitely not a place to put adults. A couple of kids will fit nicely. The best thing about the third row is it can be folded flat creating a large storage area. In fact, with all seatbacks folded, the new BMW has a cargo capacity of 102 cubic feet, an increase of 35 feet over the previous edition.

The X5 comes loaded with standard equipment, including as much cutting-edge safety gear as found on any SUV sold in the U.S. But there is a plethora of options to tempt the buyer.

The 3.0 edition begins at $45,900 and the 4.8 starts at $54,500. The two options we feel would be the most worthwhile are the aforementioned sport package at $3,600 and the Active Steering at $1,250.

The myriad of options range from the third-row seat ($1,200) to navigation ($1,900) to a panoramic moonroof ($1,350) to satellite radio ($595).

You can easily take your 4.8 X5 into the mid-60s and beyond.

Our test 4.8i carried a bottom line of $59,350.

We loved the driving experience. We felt secure with cutting-edge safety including standard all-wheel drive. And we were won over by the expanded cargo area.

But as with many BMWs, we were befuddled by technology overload and puzzled by the German car company's ability to make simple tasks complicated. It apparently has no knowledge of the concept “if it ain’t broke don't fix it.”

Jim Meachen can be contacted at meachen@mac.com.

By Jim Meachen
Published in Car Reviews on December 27, 2006 3:15 PM