Used 2002 BMW X5 Review

Edmunds expert review

If you've got too much money and desperately need the SUV image (but don't really care about SUV utility), the X5 will ring your bell.

What's new for 2002

A sports car-quick X5 4.6is makes its debut, boasting a 340-hp 4.6-liter V8 making 350 pound-feet of torque. The 4.4-liter V8 has been upgraded to make 290 horsepower, up from last year's 282. The X5 now offers such goodies as enhanced Hill Descent Control, trailer stability control and a self-leveling suspension. A CD player finally makes its way onto the standard equipment list.

Vehicle overview

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 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 allowed 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 sport-activity vehicle's maneuverability claims. Unfortunately, these same dimensions add up to less interior space than a 5 Series wagon, which costs less and offers superior handling. Of course, the X5 still features the BMW styling cues we've come to expect, including a twin kidney-shaped grille, quad headlights and L-shaped taillights.

The X5 is produced at the Spartanburg plant in South Carolina and comes with either a 224-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 or a 290-horsepower 4.4-liter V8 engine. Performance with the larger engine is brisk, scoring a sub-8-second 0-to-60 time. This year, BMW introduces the X5 4.6is, a performance-tuned model similar in philosophy to the Mercedes ML55 AMG. How quick is the X5 4.6is? Sixty mph comes up in about 6.5 seconds. Keeping this hot-rodded X5 glued to the ground is a sport suspension with the third-generation of BMW's Dynamic Stability Control and exclusive 20-inch alloy wheels. So concerned were engineers about the handling prowess of their new baby, they ensured a low center of gravity by routing the driveshaft for the front wheels through the oil sump to keep the engine mounted as low as possible.

Exclusive interior colors and materials, unique exterior colors and special exterior trim all call attention to the fact that the 4.6is is the flagship BMW SUV. The body-color front air dam with lower air intake scoops and side wind splitters sits beneath standard xenon headlights. In back, a body-color rear air dam with wind splitters on the sides is punctuated by dual chrome exhaust pipes.

All X5s get an enhanced Hill Descent Control (HDC) system and a new trailer stability control system. HDC acts as a reduction gearbox when the vehicle is traveling forward or backward, limiting speed regardless of the angle of descent. Trailer stability control recognizes the natural tendency for a trailer to sway as it is towed and adjusts the X5's braking forces and engine torque to help bring the swinging trailer under control. Also new? A 7,700-pound tow rating.

Finally, a self-leveling suspension became optional in late 2001, allowing the X5 to be raised and lowered for loading/unloading and entry/exit. An inch of extra ground clearance is also available for off-road purposes, but don't mistake these recent upgrades as an attempt to turn the X5 into a serious all-terrain vehicle. It's still just a 5 Series wagon with a higher seating position ... probably why it's selling so well.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.