What's New for 2006
There are no major changes for the BMW SUV this year.
With an ever increasing demand for luxury SUVs, BMW bowed to the gods of market share and introduced the X5 for the 2000 model year. 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 little league games.
Here the BMW X5 scores, with leather and wood interior surfaces, a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, advanced active safety technology, front and rear power seating adjustments, rear climate controls, a DVD-based navigation system and a total of 10 airbags. Purely from a safety standpoint, the X5 is an impressive vehicle. Further, its short overhangs, compact size (it's shorter than a 5 Series sedan) and precisely tuned chassis make it highly maneuverable for an SUV. The X5 features classic BMW styling cues we've come to expect, including a twin kidney-shaped grille, quad headlights and L-shaped taillights. Those with budgetary concerns will be glad to know that even the base engine is world-class in terms of its power delivery.
Moreover, despite the utilitarian image this vehicle attempts to convey, the emphasis is on driving, not practicality. Certainly, you can transport five people in comfort with the 2006 BMW X5, but it wouldn't be a good choice for home improvement projects or any other activity that requires serious cargo capacity. Interestingly, one can pretty much say the same thing about BMW's X3. We'd actually suggest taking a look at the X5's smaller and less expensive sibling as long as you're not horribly smitten with the X5's prettier styling, optional V8 or more premium status. The X3 has equally capable driving dynamics and, surprisingly, even more cargo room. Another point to consider before making an X5 purchase is that a completely redesigned X5 will debut for the 2007 model year, and it's expected to be much larger and have three rows of seating.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The BMW X5 is a five-passenger midsize SUV offered in three trim levels: 3.0i, 4.4i and 4.8is. Standard features on the 3.0i include 17-inch wheels, a power driver seat, wood trim, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power-folding and reclining rear seats, one-touch windows, automatic climate control, a CD player and a full-size spare tire. The 4.4i adds 18-inch wheels (losing the full-size spare), leather upholstery, park distance control and a power front-passenger seat -- all this stuff is optional for the 3.0i. The 4.8is adds 20-inch wheels, front and rear heated seats and a panoramic moonroof. Additional options for 3.0i and 4.4i models include larger wheels, a sport suspension, automatic HID headlights, upgraded leather upholstery, heated power front sport seats, heated rear seats, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, a moonroof, a premium sound system and a DVD-based navigation system. BMW also offers an adjustable ride height suspension that better enables the X5 to handle light off-roading.
Powertrains and Performance
All-wheel drive is standard on the BMW X5. The 3.0i is powered by a 225-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline six that comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission; a five-speed automatic is optional. Although its numbers don't indicate it, this engine has surprising vigor, given its broad, smooth power band. Power fiends can go with either the 4.4i and its 315-hp, 4.4-liter V8, or the 4.8is and its 355-hp, 4.8-liter V8. These engines only come with a six-speed automatic. Fuel economy is nothing to brag about for a car-based SUV -- regardless of which model you choose, you're looking at 16 mpg in the city and 21-22 on the highway. In the unlikely event you decide to tow a trailer, capacity is 6,000 pounds on all models.
Every X5 has stability control, dynamic brake control, Hill Descent Control, front side-impact airbags, head protection airbags for front and rear occupants and an extra set of brakelights that activates during panic stops. In government crash testing, the BMW SUV earned a perfect five stars for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts. In side-impact testing, it earned four stars for front-occupant protection and five stars for the rear. The X5 earned a "Good" rating (the highest possible) in IIHS frontal-offset crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
When it's time to haul the family, the BMW X5 isn't much better than a typical luxury sedan. Rear-seat accommodations are average at best, with the Acura MDX, Infiniti FX, Lexus RX 330 and Volvo XC90 offering more space and comfort. With the second-row seats folded, the X5's maximum cargo capacity peaks at 69 cubic feet, mediocre for this class. The clamshell rear hatch design is lighter-weight than many overhead liftgates but can impede the retrieval of itinerant groceries.
Ground clearance is limited and there is no low-range transfer case, so the 2006 BMW X5 is definitely an all-weather vehicle rather than an all-terrain vehicle. Accept it as a fast, agile, stylish vehicle for spirited runs through the suburbs, and you won't be disappointed.