What's New for 2000
BMW joins the SUV craze with its all-new X5 SAV (sport activity vehicle), powered by the same superb V8 fitted to the 540i.
With the success of SUVs in recent years, it was only a matter of time before BMW added their own version to the mix. This year the X5 debuts as the first BMW SAV, or sport activity vehicle. In typical BMW fashion, the German automaker has decided to follow its own path in designing such a vehicle and create one that accurately represents the company's philosophy. What they've come up with is the ultimate, uh, activity machine?Actually, BMW's goal was to design an SUV that performed extraordinarily on every surface. Thus far that distinction would have been reserved for the Toyota Land Cruiser/Lexus LX 470 twins. But with a powerful 4.4-liter eight-cylinder engine, along with an advanced four-wheel independent suspension and electronic wizardry like dynamic stability control the new X5 blows the Land Cruiser into the weeds as far as on-road performance goes.Once into the weeds, however, the BMW's unibody design and refined suspension components are outgunned by the Toyota, Land Rover, and GM luxury SUVs, all of which offer superior abilities when the road gets ugly (or simply disappears). BMW freely admits that the X5 is not meant for extreme off-road adventuring, and we'd advise any potential buyers preparing to drop $50K on one to listen.But BMW knows that most luxury SUV buyers spend about as much time off-roading as they do in the 99-cent store. These customers are looking for a palatial and secure environment to carry them between business meetings and soccer games. Here the X5 scores, with leather and wood grain interior surfaces, a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, front and rear electric seating adjustments, a navigation system, advanced ABS, rear climate controls, and a total of 10 airbags. Crash testing of the X5 has shown it to set new standards in front- and side-impact protection. From a pure safety standpoint, contends BMW, the X5 is unmatched by anything currently available.Exterior dimensions for the X5 put it at roughly the same size as the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Its short overhangs and compact size (it's 4.5 inches shorter than a 5 Series sedan) add to the SAV's maneuverability claims. Of course it still features the BMW styling cues we've come to expect, including a twin kidney grille, quad headlights and L-shaped taillights.The X5 is produced at the Spartanburg plant in South Carolina and will be initially available with the 4.4-liter eight-cylinder engine. Performance from this engine is brisk with a sub-8-second zero-to-60 time. A six-cylinder model will appear in the not-too-distant future and we're certain an M-badged X5, similar in philosophy to the Mercedes ML55, is in the works. Until then, we'll try to get used to the idea of a BMW SUV while simultaneously preparing our automotive psyche for a Porsche-badged utility vehicle in the near future.