What's New for 2001
A lower-priced X5, with a standard 3.0-liter inline six is offered for 2001. Other newsworthy items include available sunshades for the back doors, as well as optional heated rear seats. The sport package includes a sport steering wheel, and 16-way power front seats can be purchased. All X5s come with a self-leveling rear suspension as standard equipment.
With the success of SUVs in recent years, it was only a matter of time before BMW added their own version to the mix. The X5 debuted in 2000 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 created 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 an optional 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 Lexus, Toyota, Land Rover, GM and Ford 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 $40-60K 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 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, the X5 is truly impressive.
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, but leave a teensy 16.1 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats in their upright position. 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 company's Spartanburg plant in South Carolina and comes with either a 224-horsepower 3.0-liter inline six or a 282-horsepower 4.4-liter V8 engine. Performance with the larger engine is brisk, scoring a sub-8-second zero-to-60 time. 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. Did someone just see a horseman of the Apocalypse ride by?