What's New for 2009
A new twin-turbo diesel engine debuts on the 2009 BMW X5, which promises robust power and enhanced fuel economy. Optional and standard equipment has been adjusted throughout the X5 lineup, as have the trim level names.
BMW put the "sport" in sport-utility vehicle when it introduced the X5 a decade ago. At its launch, BMW's marketing department dubbed the crossover a Sports Activity Vehicle (but then again, they also call the new four-door X6 a coupe, so perhaps nomenclature isn't BMW's strong suit). Nonetheless, the 2009 BMW X5 is just as sporty as its predecessors, injecting an ample amount of Bavarian handling chutzpah into the ridin'-high body of a family-friendly SUV. Although several luxury automakers have taken aim at the X5's sporting formula, this BMW remains very attractive for those who want the "S" in SUV to actually mean something.
Now three years into its current generation, the X5 adds a new engine for these fuel-economy-conscious times. The 2009 X5 xDrive35d features a twin-turbocharged diesel inline-6 that not only produces ample low-end power (425 pound-feet of torque) but also sips fuel at the rate of a compact SUV rather than one that weighs 5,000 pounds. New emissions-scrubbing technology known as BluePerformance makes this diesel engine suitable for sale in all 50 states.
Aside from its engine, the xDrive35d is mostly identical to the xDrive30i and xDrive48i trim levels (which were renamed for 2009 from 3.0si and 4.8i, respectively). They all provide sharp and confident handling, comfortable seating for five people (although the optional third row is only suitable for small kids) and plenty of luxury goodies. This isn't to say BMW has a patent on this formula. Vehicles like the Acura MDX, Infiniti FX and Porsche Cayenne also provide the type of handling that sport sedan drivers will appreciate. If spirited handling isn't a priority, there are other luxury crossovers that offer a comfier ride, easier steering at slow speeds, better value and more utility. But for Bimmer-philes or driving enthusiasts who need a family-friendly SUV, the 2009 BMW X5 is the obvious sporting choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 BMW X5 is a midsize luxury SUV available in xDrive30i, xDrive35d (late availability) and xDrive48i trim levels. Standard equipment on the xDrive30i includes 18-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, cruise control, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats with driver memory settings, a power tilt and telescoping steering column, vinyl "leatherette" upholstery, the iDrive electronics interface and a 12-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. Aside from their different engines, the xDrive35d and xDrive48i trims are virtually identical (the 48i adds leather upholstery, however).
A number of optional packages are available to further luxe out the X5. The Premium package adds auto-dimming mirrors, a power liftgate, BMW Assist telematics with Bluetooth and leather upholstery with the xDrive30i. The Sport package adds an adaptive suspension, 19-inch wheels, sport seats and a sport steering wheel. The Premium Sound package equips the X5 with a premium sound system, a six-CD changer and an iPod interface (included on the xDrive48i, a stand-alone extra on the xDrive30i). The technology package adds parking sensors, a back-up camera and a navigation system with voice activation and real-time traffic. The rear climate package adds rear privacy glass, manual rear side sunshades and four-zone auto climate control. The active ventilated seat package adds multi-adjustable front "comfort" seats with ventilation.
Other stand-alone options include upgraded leather upholstery, keyless ignition and entry, active steering, a head-up display, an iPod adapter (requires the sound package on the xDrive48i), a rear-seat entertainment system, satellite radio and HD radio. A third-row seat is also available and includes a rear self-leveling suspension. Twenty-inch wheels can be added to the Sport-package-equipped xDrive48i.
Powertrains and Performance
There are three engines available for the 2009 BMW X5. The X5 xDrive30i is powered by a 3.0-liter inline-6 that produces 260 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque. Its EPA estimated fuel economy is 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. The xDrive35d features a twin-turbocharged diesel inline-6 that produces 265 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque. This engine includes clean-diesel technology that allows it to be sold in all 50 states. BMW estimates fuel economy will be 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway while matching the xDrive30i's acceleration abilities. The X5 xDrive48i gets a 4.8-liter V8 good for 350 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. In performance testing, the 48i went from zero to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates are 14 city/19 highway and 16 combined. All X5s are all-wheel drive and come with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. Properly equipped, an X5 can tow 6,000 pounds.
The 2009 X5 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, brake drying and standby features, a rollover sensor, front side airbags and side curtain airbags for the first and second rows. In government crash tests, the X5 scored a perfect five stars for frontal-impact driver protection and four stars for frontal-impact passenger protection. It got a perfect five stars for front and rear side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the X5 its highest rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The new X5's interior is one of the most elegant BMW has ever built. The construction is precise, the materials are high-quality and the instrumentation is crystal-clear. The front seats are nicely shaped and adjust for a wide range of body types (the optional comfort seats offer even more adjustment). The only sour notes include the complex iDrive system (although it's well-suited to the optional iPod interface), the cramped third-row seat and the gear selector, which many drivers find too much like a video game controller. With the second- and third-row seats folded, the X5 offers a total of 75 cubic feet of cargo space, which is about average for this class.
The 2009 BMW X5 is one of the best-handling midsize luxury SUVs you can buy. Whether driving on back roads or on an endless expanse of interstate, the X5 is a champ. Although some competitors offer more utility and many are more adept off-road, the X5 does an amazing job of taking the sensations and talents of BMW's legendary sport sedans and translating them to the SUV world. This is particularly true when the X5 is fitted with the optional active dampers and stabilizers.
The X5 isn't perfect, though. We've found the steering to be overly heavy at parking lot speeds, even if its hefty nature is a boon on the open road. The optional active steering system eases parking maneuvers, but the downside is reduced steering feel. The X5 has an agreeable ride quality, particularly on long highway jaunts, but buyers looking for a Lexus-like comfy-couch ride may find this Bimmer a little harsh.