2008 BMW X5: What's It Like to Live With?
Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2008 BMW X5 as our editors live with this car for a year.
What do you want to know about?
- Sticky Situation
- It's mine, it's mine
- Track Testing (Video Added)
- Fuel Numbers
- Living On Easy Street... If I Can Find It
- iDrive Is Good at Something!!!
- Toasty Hands
- Gimme a (Clean) Brake!
- I Put A Bed In the Back
- The price of a fill up
- Running the Mileage Numbers
- Love that iDrive
- Needs a Little Earl
- Memorial Day Travels
- Automatic Interior Venting
- Rear Entertainment System
- BMW X5 4.8i Quiz
- Poor Entertainment System Design
- Love it To Pieces
- 2008 BMW X5 Goes Camping
- Off Roading in the Lap
- Service with a Smile
- ialmostlike iDrive
- Headrest Be Jammed
- Two Great Road Trips
- Steering Squeak Fixed
- Fuel Economy Update
- Night Out on the Town
- Transmission for the Birds
- Sport Activity Vehicle
- Smells Like Donuts
- Fulton's Folly
- Airport Run
- Monster In the Box
- Carwash Defeats Wiper
- Comfort Opening Disclosure
- Nothing in Particular
- Not So Funny
- Curb Rash Flat
- Sure, I'll Drive it From L.A. to Detroit
- Colorado and Counting
- Toasted Buns
- The Soiled Pants Edition
- Day 1 - Santa Monica, CA to Grand Junction, CO
- Day Two - Grand Junction, CO to Des Moines, IA
- Day Three - Des Moines, IA to Detroit
- The Brawny Lad
- The Spacey Dong Chime Edition
- Oil, oil, oil
- Sweet Hotel Chicago
- iDrive My Wife Crazy
- The Early, Early, Early Warning System
- Free Oil and Doughnuts, $6.44 for the Doohickey
- Manual Control of the Automatic Climate Control
- The Button Never Pushed
- Park?! Are you kidding me?!
- The Great No-Compromise
- Solid at One Hundred and Forty Something MPH
- Let's play a guessing game
- Steering the Steer
- Open Thread
- And the winner is....
- Lite Brite
- Now That's Snug
- Our Favorite Caption
- You Write the Caption
With each passing year, there are some things that are unavoidable. You know, we learn from our mistakes, become more pragmatic and get a little heavier. Growing up sucks and responsibility ruins everything, doesn't it?
The same rings true for vehicles that make the cut for yet another model cycle. Since its introduction in 2000, BMW's Sport Activity Vehicle (don't call it an SUV, the Germans keep telling us) has been the choice for enthusiasts still mired in the glory days of going fast, yet who've long since traded in their Barracudas for bank notes, their Mustangs for mutual funds. But now the 2008 BMW X5 has grown bigger, incorporating the ubiquitous third-row seat. (Apparently kids today are too good to ride on the parcel shelf.) The 2008 X5's longer wheelbase also has finally tamed the twitchiness of the outgoing model. Simply put, the X5 has grown up both in size and manners.
But has the 2008 BMW X5 gotten better? Is it good to learn from your mistakes and grow up?
What We Bought
There are two engine choices for the 2008 BMW X5: a snarling 4.8-liter V8 that cranks out 350 horsepower as well as 350 pound-feet of torque; and a 3.0-liter inline-6 that gets good fuel economy. Call us irresponsible, but we chose the V8. (We don't drink virgin cocktails, either.) Greg Brown said of the V8 in our full test of the 2008 BMW X5, "More impressive than the raw numbers, though, is the 4.8-liter V8's smooth and linear rush of power — the very definition of effortless acceleration." Our V8's power hits the ground by way of a six-speed automatic transmission and BMW's all-wheel-drive system.
Sometimes it's hard being us. When faced with the choice between a practical third-row seat and the sport package, we nearly fell to the ground in a faint of psychological conflict. Third-row seats are incredibly handy, and the validity of testing such an apparatus is self-explanatory. But the sport package: Have you seen it? Have you seen the staggered-width tires? As Editor in Chief Scott Oldham has said many times, "The thing's got meats!" And so it is with a heavy heart that we as adults — many of us with children at home — ordered the third-row seats and waved good-bye to not just $1,200 but also our dream of 315-size treads.
Heated seats are a must in this day and age, and BMW offers them as a stand-alone option, but we ordered the Cold Weather Package, which lumps heated seats with a heated steering wheel, ski bag and retractable headlight washers. At $900, only the HD Radio ($350), satellite radio ($595), and iPod/USB adapter ($400) were less expensive. The Rear Climate Package consists of rear sunshades, privacy glass and four-zone climate control, and matches the Cold Weather Package with its $900 bill.
The prices only went up from there.
BMW's comfort access system takes $1,000 from our pockets so that we'll never have to take the key fob from them.
Do you remember road trips with your family? We do. We remember being bored as mile after mile of scenery whizzed by as we sat stuck in a stuffy sedan. Some $1,700 bought a rear-seat DVD entertainment system that will prevent dozens of whiny recitations of "Are we there yet?" and countless rejoinders of "Don't make me turn this SUV around."
To brighten up the X5's traditionally austere German interior, we wanted a sunroof. Part of the $1,750 Premium Package, a large power moonroof is matched with lumbar support for the driver seat (of all things), a garage door opener and auto-dimming rearview and outside mirrors.
Coming in at $1,850, the Premium Audio system offers a six-disc multimedia changer that allows DVD playback on the navigation screen when the vehicle is not in motion. It also boasts 16 speakers, two subwoofers under the front seats and a 600-watt nine-channel amp. That's six more speakers than our long-term Buick Enclave and a full 10 more than our Ford Focus.
But the audio system is not the most expensive of our toys. No, that honor belongs to the Technology Package, some $2,500 worth of back-up camera, park-distance controller and navigation system. If we were going to be stuck with iDrive, we were going to get some features with which it would work.
Including a $775 destination charge, our Platinum Bronze Metallic X5 has more than $13,245 worth of options. With a base price of $55,275, the X5 4.8i is already a tough pill to swallow, but at our as-tested price of $68,520 even an anaconda would require the Heimlich.
Why We Bought It
Growing pains hurt, and while we'll always long for our younger days, growing old sure beats the alternative. BMW created the market for premium, high-performance SUVs (no, the Lamborghini LM002 doesn't count) with the BMW X5, and the 2008 X5 is no different. But can BMW's badass in a Brioni suit still hold our attention, or has the prospect of real utility spoiled the dream?
Stay tuned to our long-term blog for the next 12 months as we put 20,000 miles on our new 2008 BMW X5 4.8i.
Current Odometer: 2,550
Best Fuel Economy: 17.6 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 13.3 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 15.5 mpg
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
During my first night in the BMW X5, I had a hard time opening the center console but eventually managed to put my iPod in there for safekeeping. Each side opens up from the center.
Later, when I tried to retrieve my iPod, I couldn't get the doors open again. It took me a good ten minutes to rescue my iPod from the X5's clutches and I was only able to open one side of the console...
For the rest of the weekend, I never managed to open the center console doors. They were just plain stuck.
Here's a view of the buttons from behind the shifter:
It's just a simple button/latch configuration. But somehow they don't want to open for me. Ed went down to our garage with me to check it out. It does open, but you really have to press down on it.
Yes, I've been hogging the X5.
But it's such a pleasant car to drive. It's comfy, it's cozy and it allows you to make other motorists on the freeway a distant memory in the rear-view mirror.
I drove it down to Costa Mesa this weekend to the Orange County Performing Arts Center — a beautiful place, if you've never been there... I tried to take a picture of the X5 outside the modern façade, but alas, my camera didn't cooperate with the bright lights vs. night sky atmosphere. So I went artistic with PhotoShop.
I used the navigation system to guide me there, even though it's super easy to find being right off the I-405. But I wanted to see how it behaved. It suggested a different route to the freeway than I would normally take, which saved me some time. It's always nice to find alternate routes in L.A., even if they only save you 5 minutes. The audio guidance was off and I didn't bother to put it on. The map clearly led me through each step of my journey.
Most SUVs take to our track like I would take to attending a taping of "Dancing with the Stars." Actually, on second thought I don't think it's possible for an automobile to perform ritual suicide. Anyway, the BMW X5 has always been a different animal, with better-than-the-pack handling and an overall character tuned definitively for the road. The numbers our long-term X5 generated at the track back that up, but they are far from the abilities of a 5 Series wagon.
For comparison, the slalom and skidpad numbers are virtually identical to those of the last Acura MDX we tested, but a fair bit better than our long-term Cadillac SRX. The X5 brakes and acceleratesbetter than both, although with its V8, the latter comes as no surprise. I'm eager to see how the new Infiniti FX50 will stack up when it arrives in our garage shortly.
UPDATE: Turns out I have a horrible memory and we actually did get video that day (we just did it after testing). Because of certain technical issues, I've dropped in the video links below rather than embedding video. Forgive me.
0-30 - 2.6 seconds
0-45 - 4.8 seconds
0-60 - 7.1 seconds
0-75 - 10.5 seconds
1/4 mile - 15.4 seconds @ 92.3 mph
Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot: "Although frustrating, at first I like the X5's new shifter ... Forward for downshifts, backward for upshifts ... just like it should be. Engine is smooth and sounds great, but wouldn't be half as impressive with one less gear."
60-0 - 123 feet
30-0 - 31 feet
Jacquot: "These are impressive braking numbers — especially for a non Sport Package X5. Pedal feel and response remained consistent throughout."
Jacquot: "Heavy steering is very noticeable on skidpad as well as in slow maneuvering."
Jacquot: "Stability control is always on, but works well. Approach the X5's limits carefully without blowing through them and it seems BMW's stability control is very effective at achieving the driver's goals. It goes where it's pointed. Get stupid, however, and all is lost to the electronics and physics."
My last fill up of the BMW X5 cost $75.29. Yikes!
Fuel tank capacity in the X5 is 22.5 gallons. With the fuel warning light on, I put 19.715 gallons of premium into the X5 tank at $3.819.
Two subsequent trips back and forth to work (about 80 miles) and I'm already down to 3/4 of a tank...
Our best tank achieved so far: 17.6 mpg
Our worst tank so far: 13.3 mpg
The V8 BMW X5 with an automatic transmission is rated by the EPA at 14 mpg city / 19 mpg highway.
The average of all our fill ups is currently 16.6 mpg.
If you can afford to spend $68K on a luxury SUV, then I guess you can afford to spend $75 a week (at least) filling it up. But many less expensive SUVs cost just as much to fill up.
When shopping for a vehicle, remember to consider what it really costs to own and maintain before you make a purchase. Edmunds has a handy tool called TCO, True Cost to Own.
TCO factors in depreciation, interest on your loan, taxes and fees, insurance premiums, fuel costs, maintenance, and repairs based on your zip code over a 5-year period. Of course, it can't predict your exact costs but it can give you a good idea of vehicle affordability.
Here are the TCO results for the 2008 BMW X5 V8in our zip code.
TCO tells us the average cost per mile is around $1.25. You can even compare costs to similar vehicles.
Have you used TCO to help with your car purchases?
Tell us how you are coping with the high price of gasoline. Are you driving less? Driving more conservatively?
On a lighter note, here's last night's CA sunset as viewed from the BMW X5:
Living On Easy Street... If I Can Find It
Springtime is full swing in the South Land; in fact it was the hottest weekend on record for this time of year. It's a perfect time to get rid of all my junk, get some tax write offs all while enjoying the nice weather with the X5's near full-length sunroof.
Temperatures got into the high 80's around LA. I had the sun shade open and the suns heat started to cook the cabin. Blasting the AC helped, but the heat radiating from the glass kept the interior toasty.
With some junk I out of my apartment and the six bags of clothes I got out of my girlfriends closet, we started the Saturday with a run to Goodwill. But soon after the pleasant weekend out in the X5 hit a snag in the weekend pleasure cruise as we tried to find our way to a birthday party in the South Bay.
The nav system didn't have listings for some towns that might otherwise be considered parts of larger cities. We tried and tried but couldn't figure out which city Rolling Hills Estates was a part of. Long Beach, Palos Verdes, Palos Verdes Estates, maybe by street? None of our ideas worked. Maybe we both idiots, but my girlfriends' iPhone came to the rescue in the end.
The real pain came Monday morning when I filled the tank. The X5 requires premium fuel at $4.019 a gallon. Fifty-one bucks later I saw that I'd only gone 59 miles. I guess I really had a lead foot this weekend. Like the previous post stated, if you can afford this car, then fuel costs aren't going to be such an issue.
Find a person who likes iDrive and I'll show you 48 others who think it stinks. Although I've pretty much gotten the hang of it, that doesn't mean I like it. You can get the hang of cleaning toilets, too.
But this morning I've found something iDrive is good at, very good at actually. The iPod connection and control is probably the best I've come across. Although the iDrive and its menus are overly complicated for simpler tasks likechanging a radiopreset or stereo mode, they area good match for controlling an iPod's more complicated arrangement of playlists, albums and artists. They arealso accessed pretty quickly (some systems have annoying loading times) and you can also control it while driving, unlike our Scion.
The Scorsese video below is a small glimpse of how quick and easy this iPod connection is. And no, there is no excuse for having Avril Lavigneon theiPod artists list (I actually paused on it in disgrace), even if we do come from the same Canadian province.
I have cold hands. Back when I used to live in cold climates, they would belike freezer packsfrom about November to April — big hit with girlfriends. Although California has improved the situation, my hands still get a little cold and unlike Indiana or Toronto, I'd look like a moron if I went around Santa Monica with gloves on.
While managing editor Donna DeRosa loves herself some heated seats for a wonky back, I found myself just as happy with our X5's heated steering wheel included in the $900 Cold Weather Package that also features Donna's heated front seats, a ski bag and retractable headlight washers...
Unlike a few other heated steering wheels I've come across, the X5's doesn't roast your hands, it provides gentle warmth. It'slikedriving with your hands on a cup of tea, which I'm actuallydoing in the midst oftyping this.
Just finished up my first stint behind the wheel of an X5 since they were actually a novelty, just beginning to roll out of the BMW plant in South Carolina, and have to hand it to the boys from Bavaria (by way of Spartanburg) - except for the overkill on electronic accoutrements, they still do it good.
After 1,295 miles that included a fewhundred on back roads in Northern California's Russian River wine country and a run down the state's scenic Highway 1, I can report that the ride, handling, power and comfort of our long-term 2008 X5 4.8i left nothing to be desired. Even the iDrive wasn't too obnoxious once I ran through its various permutations a few times.
But (there's almost always a "but") I couldn't believe how much greasy black brake dust the 19-inch alloys collected.
Here's a picture of a clean wheel.
And one after1,200 miles.
I had to use half a can of hand cleaner to get the stuff off after checking the air pressure in all four tires.
A relative who's a longtime BMW mechanic says filthy wheels are a way of life with Bimmers. "They use hard pads and soft rotors," he tells me. In addition to making lots of dust, they also stop on a dime, but wear out rapidly. "I can't tell you how many four-wheel pad and rotor changes we do," he said.
I can't believe the people who pay $68,000 for one of these things – or a mere $55,000 without all the options — haven't lobbied the*&!@ out of BMW to change the brake pad composition or install brake dust shields as standard equipment so they don't get their hands dirty (of course, most probably never touch the wheels, but that's another blog) and the wheels – which are designed to be seen — stay shiny.
"No it won't."
We were both right.
Yesterday after much debate with my wife, I drove our long term BMW X5 to the bed store and bought our three year old daughter her first big-girl bed. But there was no way I was going to pay the $100 delivery fee, so down went the X5's seats and up went its tailgate. Sure the mattress and box spring were sticking out a bit, but not enough to be a problem...
At least that's what I was going to tell the officer.
Still, the last thing I wanted to do was deposit the Merilux Comfort Firm Twin into the middle of Sepulveda Boulevard, so the ride home was slow and steady. I avoided the freeways for obvious reasons, and made it home without drama or police interference.
So the next time somebody accuses the BMW X5 of not being a useful SUV, you tell them to see me.
Shocker of the weekend - the X5 4.8i is not for the slight of wallet. The 200-mile round trip to mom's house on Sunday required 12.5 gallons of gas. That's 16mpg for the mathematically challenged. Not terrible for a 5,333 pound vehicle driven with little regard for mileage, but given its need for premium fuel, it was a $50 trip...
Last night, I decided to give our long term 2008 BMW X5 4.8i a safety check.And so I did, while eastbound on Kentwood Blvd. In just seconds I checked the truck's oil, brake pads and brake fluid from the driver's seat. I never cracked the hood, never skinned a knuckle, heck, I never even stopped the truck.
Say what you want about BMW's iDrive system, it does have its moments of greatness...
After more than 9,000 miles in just three months our long term BMW X5 needed its first bit of service; it was a quart low of oil. Well, problem solved. We poured in 1 quart of Mobil 1. Total cost: $6.59...
I had our 2008 BMW X5 4.8i for Memorial Day weekend. No surprises here - it's a sweet ride. Besides the obvious attributes, I also happen to like its overall size. The X5 isn't plus-sizedlike the now-departed Q7 and is therefore sportier to drive and easier to park...
Since I was taking my family to visit my in-laws on a weekend full of crazy California drivers, it was nice to know that the X5 had my back with solid safety scores andall the usual safety features. It also comes with run-flat tires, adaptive brake lights and brake drying.
Fuel stops were eye-opening, of course. But I have to assume that if one has the coin to buy an X5 4.8i (ours has a $68,000 MSRP), $160 for fuel over the weekend wouldn't be budget-breaking.
I'm sure everybody has experienced the unpleasantness of getting into a parked car that's been sitting out on a hot summer day. For the X5, BMW offers an iDrive-based feature to help alleviate the unpleasantness.
You can program the X5 to turn on its climate control fan (to draw in fresh air) at a set time. For example: say you've gone shopping at the mall and know you'll be done about 5 p.m... You can set the fan to turn on at 4:35 p.m. so that the interior will be much cooler when you get back.
Though I wasn't able to fully test the effectiveness of the feature, it does indeed blow low-speed air through the vents when activated.
It occurred to me that this is a feature that only becomes possible when a car has a control interface as powerful as iDrive. It also occured to me that you're not exactly out of luck if your car doesn't have automatic venting — just crack open the windows an inch.
Our 2008 BMW X5 4.8i is equipped with the optional ($1,700) rear entertainment system. The location of the 8-inch screen is unusual - it's mounted between the front seats. The system is easy to use, and it sounds pretty fantastic. There are two power points, two headphone jacks (not wireless), a remoteand a set of RCA input jacks...
The only significant downside I can think of is that the screen is potentially more prone to be scratched or damaged due to its location - my thoughts went towards errant little feet or loaded cargo. When not in use, the screen does rotate 180 degrees to face the front, at least, offering some measure of protection.
What do these items have in common?
...and with the back seat of our BMW X5 4.8i?
You guessed it. They all have "shaker" in their names. Okay, so the BMW's back seat isn't called a shaker, but it should be.
We don't often get the chance to evaluate a vehicle from the backseat, and it's hard to turn off the Edmunds ratings machine, constantly running inside our heads. In this case, even if we wanted to, we really couldn't ignore the X5's back seat ride.
Editorial Director, Kevin Smith (the other Kevin Smith), and I rode together in the X5's multi-adjustable amazingly-roomy otherwise-comfy second row seats some 130-miles; from an undisclosed parcel of land (future Edmunds test track?) in California's central valley to our Santa Monica offices.
I hadn't noticed the choppy ride on the way up because I was driving. This time, however, Dan Edmunds was driving and, having been a ride-and-handling engineer at two major car companies prior to arriving here, told us all the reasons for the X5's belly-bouncing ride: rear springs were designed to accommodate the X5's newfound third row of passengers and/or cargo and the non-adjusting dampers are tuned with too much rebound damping. Solutions? Air springs, adjustable dampers, unfashionable high-profile tires, or some combination of the above.
Adding a third row, as BMW did with the 2008 X5, might increase its seating capacity, but it also degrades the ride during those times when there are only 3 or 4 passengers aboard.
I have no doubt that the rear entertainment system in our X5 is useful for keeping kids occupied in back, but the placement of the screen is annoying. It's attached to rear of the center console, so when it's flipped down the chances of whacking your elbow on it are roughly 100%.
Then why don't I just flip it up you say? Well, yeah, sure I could do that, but that doesn't excuse the fact that it's a poorly integrated unit...
If it was a $20,000 Saturn I could deal with it, but this is a $70K BMW, I shouldn't have to put up with anything.
Besides being a bit thirsty, I think the X5 is a pretty solid vehicle. It's comfy, fast and has a slick design.
Except for the auto stick.
In the grand scheme of things this is a minor blip, but I honestly think it's the brainchild of an engineer with too much free time... There is nothing wrong with the tried and true PRNDL stick, but the Günter and pals went ahead and made this nouveau version.
I feel it's awkward to use, except for the button on top that'll drop you quickly into Park. Is the push of a button that much of an advantage over six inches of travel? Not really in my opinion.
After leaving the street fair in the BMW X5 on Sunday, my daughter asked, "Momma, what's this?"
Glancing up in the rearview mirror, I realized she was holding a piece of the X5 in her hot, little hand.
"I didn't do it," she said. "It was already on the floor."
Sure, I thought, asking her to slide it under the front seat so it didn't get stepped on before I had a chance to check it out.
Of course, once it was tucked out of sight, I completely forgot about it until I got to the office this morning...
Perhaps you can tell me where this piece of trim belongs before I have a chance to go down to the parking garage and look myself?
2008 BMW X5 Goes Camping
I say "Camping" because had this been a true dehydrated-food and filter-your-drinking-water type expedition, I wouldn't have had to play this three-dimensional game of Tetris with our largest cooler, sand toys, mini boom-box, etc. Still, I managed to get four-days of food and 4-year old entertainment under the cargo tarp of the X5. I folded one of the second-row seats down, but it all fit. Follow the jump to see how camping for the camping-averse looks.
Pretty nice accommodations, huh? El Capitan Canyon is just 150-miles from Long Beach, or about a 20-minute drive north of Santa Barbara CA. I'm not promoting this place (though it is pretty cool), but they offer cabins like this one in various sizes with bathrooms, spa-style tubs, and a mini fridge. We thought this would be a low-impact introduction sooty s'mores and charred tri-tip for our daughter whose idea of roughing it has thus far meant missing an episode of Little Bill. It was nice to forget about traffic and to miss a few days of tragic news reports. Fuel economy on the 295-mile round-trip was 17.1 mpg. Woof!
Sure our 2008 BMW X5 is a city dweller, and sure it's probably more suited to the racetrack (we did order the sport package) than the unpaved road, but what the heck, lets go off roading.
Okay, so it's not exactly the Rubicon, but a good hour of this deep silt had our X5 workin'. To keep moving we had the stability control system off and the truck's big 4.8-liter V8 near the top of the tach. Never got stuck, though, and the truck's all-wheel drive system never tried to eat itself or lock up in befuddlement.
We also have high praise for the Beamer's air conditioning, expecially its recirculation featurewhich kept the dust and the 105 degree desert heat on the truck's outside.
Tune tomorrow when I actually try to put a full grown human being in the X5's third row seat.
I've found the trick to getting good service in the greater Los Angeles area: Bring a $70K SUV to BMW of Beverly Hills (or buy a Saturn). From beginning to end this was a sharp, well executed service visit. There was nothing fancy or particularly special, just competent employees who do good work in a timely manner.
The maintenance light was illuminated and with 13,511 miles on the clock, it was expected. I made the appointment online through Beverly Hills BMW's website. It was a pleasant change from the usual disinterested and hurried cashier / receptionist. The virtual calendar clearly showed what days were available, and what times. Good system. I liked it.
Once we got to the dealer there was no fussing around with pencil and paper, our service advisor simply took the key, slid it into a reader on his desk and got the full vehicle history: How many miles we drive per week, odometer reading, VIN, what services were required. It also told him that the X5 was low on wiper fluid.
The X5 needed an oil change, a new cabin filter, and a new air filter. The filter's are not surprising given the deep, fine silt we were slogging through just a few weeks ago.
We're also experiencing a grinding noise when raising the driver seat (lowering it is fine) and a similar grinding noise when telescoping the steering wheel (tilt is fine). The key did not know this information.
The oil change, washer fluid, and filters were done by noon. We got the call at 11. Being a new BMW, there was no charge for any of this. The seat and the telescoping wheel both required parts that had to be ordered. We'll update you when they come in and when they are installed.
I can't believe it, but I'm starting to feel at home using iDrive in our long-term 2008 BMW X5 4.8i.
I still don't think it's the best interface out there, but when you're entering a specific address, with a street name and house number, it's quite straightforward to use. I especially like how you can enter each bit of information separately in whatever order you like — and how you can easily switch between entering a house number and an intersection.
However, I don't know if I'll ever feel at home using the automatic transmission's funky gear selector. Scott Jacobs criticized it previously, but I'm going to have to whine a little more. Specifically, I thought at first I might be too dumb to drive the X5, because I couldn't get it into reverse.
A little RTFM set me on the right path: You have to press the little button on the left side of the shifter to select "R." Yet, it's not a button you would expect to have to press on a frequent basis, since it's small and damped like a radio preset button. Why do I have to press it at all?
We've already told you about the fart noises coming from telescoping steering wheel of our long-term 2008 BMW X5. It plays the toot salute everytime you climb into the car and the wheel moves itself into the predetermined position. Parts are on order to fix the problem and it has been the only scar on the BMW's quality record. Not bad for a vehicle that has covered 15,000 miles since January.
Well, this weekend I discovered the X5's second small glitch. This rear headrest is jammed. Won't go up, won't go down. No big deal, but it can make the installation of some kid seats more difficult (notice I installed ours on the other side). We'll get it fixed when we return to the dealer to fix the SUV's flatulence.
Big Bear Lake, CA
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, CA
In the last 10 days I've driven our long-term 2008 BMW X5 1,016 miles. Aside from a few days of my basic 8 mile (each way) commute, the mileage was accumulated on two family road trips.
The first trip was from West Los Angeles to the mountain resort town of Big Bear Lake about 120 miles northeast. To get there you run about 85 miles or so of freeway and 35 miles of twisting and turning mountain roads. The second trip was from West Los Angeles to Monterey, California about 350 miles due north, and it can be as much freeway and as much two lane as you want, depending on how much day you want to eat on the journey.
After that much time in the X5 I'm sold on BMW's now larger sport utitlity. It's fast, comfortable and just spacious enough for the Oldham clan to pile in. It's also really fast on a mountain road. In the BMW tradition is offers far more grip, grunt and brakes than my family would allow me to use on the twisty bits. And it cruises at 100 mph like a German sports sedan.
I'm also amazed at the X5's high comfort. I spent seven hours in it yesterday driving home from Monterey. We took the long way, hitting Highway 1 down to Big Sur before taking Highway 46 east to the 101 south. Even after all that, I arrived home ready for more. No backache. No buttache. No numb legs. My wife and kids too.
It's not perfect; the transmission locks out top gear in sport mode, iDrive is complete madness and mileage is what anybody should expect from a V8 powered tank like this; 18.5 mph on the highway, 13.3 mpg in the city and 16.2 mpg in mixed conditions. Oh yeah, pack your gas card baby. Still, no Buick Enclave will ever be this much fun.
This is a fine vehicle, and it's a true BMW, as engaging and beautifully built as it is useful.
Back on July 18, I posted that our 2008 BMW X5 4.8i returned from its first service with a clean bill of health. Well, all but that squeaky steering column and driver seat that was squealing against its tracks. Both of these issues required parts to be ordered. Parts, it turns out, that weren't very easy to get hold of. It was nearly a month later that got the call from BMW of Beverly Hills that the parts were in and ready to be installed.
Again I made the appointment online. As much as I liked doing this online the first time I thought I'd try this one by phone. No luck. I tried calling three times and only once was I connected to a person in service. She advised that I book the appointment online because her computer was down. (Thinking about that sentence too hard will turn anyone into a technophobe.) The online process was, again, painless and quick. Scheduling my appointment for the next day was no problem, though there was no quick-check box for "replace steering column." Broken headlight was the closest option given.
Our X5 was dropped off at 7:58 and same-day return was probable. I got antsy around 4:00. The car could be ready by 6:30 that evening, but it wasn't probable. He asked if the next morning was acceptable. It worked by us, though we would have appreciated some more warning.
The following morning the car was ready. All of the parts and labor were under warranty.
Many tankfuls of premium unleaded have come and gone in the life of our long-term BMW X5 since we last reported its fuel economy.
Our lifetime average is now 15.7 mpg. Before this update, it had been 15.9. Before that it was 16.6. I feel a trend.
The farthest traveled on one tank was recorded by Karl Brauer back in May: 364 miles (during which he got 17.5 mpg).
We've managed a couple tanks in the mid-18s, and a couple way down in the 10-11 mpg range.
Someone even pushed the fuel envelope once and waited until the 22.5 gallon tank only had .398 gallons left in it to mosey on over to the gas station. It wasn't me. I swear.
Altruism. Not a word that is normally associated with me. As a native Los Angeleno, I'm quite content being self-serving and self-involved. Imagine my surprise when I volunteered to be a designated driver for a group of friends. Granted, these friends were exceptionally attractive members of the opposite gender - ok, so maybe this wasn't as selfless as I lead on...
That was my pitch to the keeper of the keys. My personal cars don't have enough seats and I was really hoping to procure something with a bit more style than the usual fare that I'm offered (I'm the new guy, so it's usually the Saturn Aura or Diesel Jetta). In a "Help a Brother Out" moment, the keymaster came through. Our BMW X5 - Four doors, easy entry/exit, decidedly upscale interior and ride, and quiet enough to hear the conversations.
The X5 was perfect. My passenger easily found the tunes she was in the mood for on my iPod via iDrive. Entering the address of bachelorette number two proved a bit more problematic, but before too long we had audible instructions to our next stop. In heavy Hollywood traffic, the X5 easily sliced through the throngs of inattentive drivers and the shoddy Melrose pavement was smoothed over by its supple suspension. The rearview camera made me look like a parallel-parking pro and let's face it, I felt pretty good driving an upscale SUV in image-conscious L.A.
We ended-up closing down one of the finest West Hollywood restaurants and in my sobriety, I realized that next time I should probably hire car service. Having all of my faculties among inebriated aspiring starlets is not nearly as fun as I thought. Much like a Tarantino movie, I hung in there out of morbid curiosity (seriously, shooting hoops at midnight and losing a game of H-O-R-S-E to a red-headed model in stilettos?). Only in L.A. - and I'd have it no other way. BMW X5, you can be my wingman anytime!
X5 good. X5's transmission bad.
There's a lot to like about our long-term 2008 BMW X5 4.8i, but its 6-speed automatic transmission is not one of them. And after this past weekend of head butting with the damn thing I need to vent.
The unit has three modes: D, S (Sport) and M (Manual). And they all have their deficiencies. In D it's lethargic, won't kick down without full throttle. In S it's alert, butjumpy and jerky. And in M it starts in 2nd gear.
Around town, I usually put it in S and deal with the jerkiness, but then you have to remember to put it back into D once you merge onto the highway because top gear is locked out in S. Trouble is, now the trans is back in lazy mode. So gaining any kind of passing power requires you to either floor the gas pedal to get the gear down you're looking for, or quickly pop the shifter back over into S. Usually I pop it over, which means that after the pass is made, I must remember to push the shifter back to D to get 6th gear.
Another quirk of this situation is pushing the shifter up into neutral by mistake when trying to execute a manual downshift. This is a result of you having forgot that you put the transmission back into D for highway cruising. If it were still in S, the manual gate would be active.
Got all that? Bottom line:X5 good. X5's transmission bad.
I just saw a dark blue X5 and it looked really sharp. There's something about the dark color that hides the black plastic bumpers. Our Long Termer looks kinda cheap because of the black bumpers that contrast with the light colored paint. I know it's supposed to be rugged and all as BMW calls it a Sport ACTIVITY Vehicle as opposed to a regular SUV but I'd rather have body colored bumpers - the chance of me taking this thing off-road is very slim.
I've driven our long-term 2008 BMW X5 twice in the past three months. On both occasionsI was pulled over by Johnny Law.
I gotta stop driving this thing.
I just spent about a week in the X5. I like it, the transmission is too jerky (first is too short)but otherwise it's a comfortable SUV.
On a three hour road trip, I noticed there are too many levers - short levers, long levers, levers with, with switches ontop of the levers - I felt like an antebellum riverboat captain bleeding off steam as I adjust the steering wheel, set the cruise control and check the outside temperature. Maybe GM's cruise/turn/high beam stalk isn't so bad after all. Anyone think I'm full of it?
There's no worse request than a friend asking for a ride to or from the airport. The traffic, jockeying your way to the curb, trying not to make eye contact with the airport cops who are yelling at you to move along, the whole process really blows.
But last night I decided to surprise a friend who was arriving at LAX, and the BMW X5 was my willing accomplice.
Any car that can persuade me to go to the airport of my own volition must be fun to drive.
I don't know if it was due to the X5's massive engine or that people weren't caffeinated just yet, but I every time I punched the gas from a traffic light I left my fellow commuters in my dust trail by massive margins.
The X5 is nice to your ego.
It's the automotive equivalent of Rock-Paper-Scissors, and it goes like this: Wiper defeats Rain, Rain defeats Carwash and, as we recentlyconfirmed with our 2008 BMW X5, Carwash defeats Wiper.
So we picked up what pieces we could find to see if we could humpty-dumpty the thing back together again.
The key is getting the spring in the right way. Thecoiled end goes in the wiper body and the crook in the straightend must hang down where you can see it easily. Why? You'll soon see.
Getting to this point is easy, as thepoints to which the spring's hooksattachare hard to miss. All that is required now is a measured application of force; grab onto the wiper and pull hard to the right.
Eureka! Note how the crook in the spring hangs down.
Ifthe spring were positioned any other way, I wouldn't be able to do this without breaking something.
No tools were required. It took me about3 minutes.
The worst part is this: there is a crack in the main pivot shaft (not shown). It looks like it will hold together, but we'll see. And of course the mostobvious piece, the decorative screw cover, is the piece we didn't find at the carwash. Its absence didn't prevent the fix, but now theBMW'shiney is showing a bit of age.
You're seeing the same view of the long-term 2008 BMW X5 thatI saw yesterday morning. I came out groggy-eyed to get the morning paper, and there she sat in my driveway with all four windows fully down and the sunroof partway open.
Large blobs of dew were pooledon the hood and roof, but the interior seemed dry enough. And none of my neighbor's many cats were curled up inside, so no damage done.
A quick read of the manual reveals that this is in fact a feature called "comfort opening". If one presses and holds the unlck button on the remote for more than 2 seconds, all of the windows start coming down in unison. A 5 second hold lowers them all the way, like this.
The remote must have gotten pinched in my pocket when I sat down in the house sometime last night. It's happened before with panic alarm buttons.
When I lived in Phoenix I would have killed for a way to remotely roll down the windows before I sat down inwhat amounted to an oven. But knowing thatmy car could sit unlockedand wide open all night without my knowledge isn'tnearly asconvenient.
Further manual-reading shows that this feature isn't one that can be customized or shut-offvia the extensive iDrive menus. It should be.
On the plus side, if one touches and holds the top of the door handle for 5 seconds, the windows will all roll up and the sunroof will close after the doors lock. Now that I can use.
I don't have much new to add about our 2008 BMW X5 — I just liked this photo. It shows the BMW in what is arguably its natural environment, Newport Beach, California.
Never seen this part of the OC (don't call it that)before?We'reparked just off the side of Back Bay Drive, a one-way road/two-way bike & jogging path that runs along the eastern flank of the tidal marsh known simply as the Back Bay.
The BMW's large panoramic sunroof, which I usually have no use for,allowed the girls to stand with binocularsand look at the wildlife along the route. What they didn't notice is that the work of some of Newport Beach's finest plastic surgeons was simultaneously on display on the jogging path.
Near the northern end of Back Bay Drive you'll find a humungous Mercedes dealership which reportedly sells more AMG's than any other singleBenz storein the world, Germany included.
All in all, it's a worthwhile side trip when you're in the neighborhood.
I tried to find a way to fold it out of my way, but my arm was so numb and tingly from repeated beatings that I simply gave up.
Any car that spends time parking in a city will have at least one intimate encounter between it's wheel and the curb. No matter how good the driver, it happens. If you're going to come in and comment "i've never done that", well, your day will come.
While I'm never surprised when a wheel gets curbed, this one was a shock even to me.
I got a call about the BMW X5 this morning, the tire pressure light was on. Right front. Sure enough the right front tire was low and from my flashlit view, there was no foreign object embedded in the tread. Off to Stokes I went.
10 minutes went by and our guy came out with the news, the front right wheel had been curbed and bits of concrete and curb paint was lodged between the rim and tire causing a slow leak. It could be cleaned out and reinstalled without a problem. There was no charge for the repair.
I'd never seen that happen before. Any of you?
After weeks of indecision (there are about two dozen cars to choose from) I've decided to drive our long-term 2008 BMW X5 from L.A. to Detroit. It'll be good test of the truck's cross country and winter driving abilities. Plus it has nav, satellite and all that good stuff. All season tires too.
Should I make it to Detroit alive, I'll leave the BMW with Dan Pund, our Detroit Editor, and drive our long-term Cadillac CTS back to California. Regulars on this page will remember that Dan drove the Caddy from L.A. to Detroit about a month ago.
I'll blog from the road if I can, but fatique and the Detroit Auto Show might get in the way of that. Chances are I'll catch up on the posting when I return.
I will Tweet, however. That I can promise you. So if you care to tag along,go to the insideline.com Twitter page and follow my trip. I'll try to make it interesting.
I hit the road early Thursday morning.
Ok, fine, that picture wasn't taken in Colorado (Wrightwood, Ca if you must know) but that's where our 2008 BMW X5, piloted by Inside Line Editor-in-Chief Scott Oldham, is right now. While I didn't get an exact location from him, Eastern Colorado was mentioned and that leaves an estimated 1,200 miles to Detroit and his reunion with the Cadillac CTS. Oh, and there's some Auto Show there, too.
While I can't call for an actual convoy on this trip, follow him digitally via Twitter on both this trip and his return from the Motor City in Cadillac's finest.
Turns out, the boys (and girls) from California left Detroit just in time. A deep freeze has settled into the Upper Midwest. I hopped in my new winter-approved long-termer, the X5, this morning to find that the temperature read-out registering -4. That's not on any kind of wimpy Celsius scale. No, no, it's the big F, my frigid friend.
So you'll excuse me if I don't really care at the moment about ride or build quality or acceleration or any operational aspect of the X5, other than those involved with creating and disseminating heat. And that brings me to the BMW's seat heaters, which are simply magnificent. I have long held that if I can't make myself uncomfortably hot with seat heaters then they are just not powerful enough. I want the extra margin of heat on top of what is comfortable just, you know, just in case. And the three-step BMW units will absolutely toast your buns. And it is mornings like this one that convince me that a heated steering wheel is not a frivolous thing, but indeed, a near-necessity. You activate that separate from the seat heat, by pressing the spoke-mounted button with a pictogram of what looks like a steering wheel with an exceptionally hairy hub.
Hell, I would advocate the implementation of some sort of electro-shall with detachable ear muffs and maybe some plug-in leggings with booties. Although I would settle for a heated tunnel between my back door and the office.
There are many things to like about the X5 such as its exterior design, size and handling. There are a couple of things to love about the X5 such as its stonking V8 power. And there is at least one thing to hate about the X5: Its standard pant-dirtying rocker panels.
For whatever reason, BMW grafted onto the SAV's rockers a gray plastic shelf that is exceptionally good at collecting dirt, slush and mud and then delivering them to your left pant-leg as you try to exit the vehicle. In this way, the X5 is the anti-Ford Flex, which not only doesn't force you to leap out of the vehicle but keeps any potential contact area clean.
Not a deal breaker, I suppose. Still, a guy likes clean pants.
Some called it a stupid idea, including my wife, but my drive from Santa Monica to Detroit in our long-term BMW X5 was a blast, and a hard and fast education into the good, bad and ugly of BMW's big SUV. I spent three days essentially locked behind the wheel of the X5, only stopping for gas, bladder relief and the occasional photo.
Most of you know all of thisbecause you followed my progress as it happened on the insideline.com twitter page, but for those of you who missed it, here are the highlights and photographic evidence of day one.
I left Santa Monica late, about 10:15 a.m., with the X5's navigation marking a path through the northern United States. As you can see in the photo, the distance was mapped out at 2,297 miles to my waiting hotel room in downtown Detroit.
As you can see from this photo and the photo on the previous page, most of day onetook placeunder blue skies. It wouldn't last. Most of day two and all of day three were in either freezing rain or driving snow. By now (this is many hundreds of miles into the trip) I was sure I chose the right vehicle for the run. The X5 could not be more comfortable on the interstate. The driver's seat is wonderfully supportive and the driving position kept me cramp-free.
Somewhere in the Nevada desert (I mean, this was performed by a professional driver on a closed course) I found out that the X5 is a real BMW up over the century mark. It likes to cruise about 120 mph, but fuel mileage takes a severe hit. This was a rare occurrence. The further north I got, the more weather I hit and the slower I had to drive.
I think this is somewhere in Utah on day one. The X5 covers almost 400 miles on a tank, so each day would require only two or threegas stops. Day One Totals: 780 miles, 75.5 mph average speed and 18.8 mpg. After enjoying the snow-covered scenery of Utah and western Colorado, I decided to stop and sleep in Grand Junction. Pushing farther into the mountains and the weather I knew was ahead seemed foolish in the dark. The coming elevations were extreme and would be much easier to pass in the daylight.
Day Two of the Great X5 Santa Monica-to-Detroit Road Trip started with the white stuff. I awoke at the Grand Junction Holiday Inn Express to find the BMW X5 covered in a dusting of snow. Nothing severe, but enough had stuck to the roads that I quickly appreciated the X5's all-wheel drive and state-of-the-art electronic stability control system. The truck's seat heater, steering wheel heater, strong wipers and fast-acting defrosters had me on the road quickly. Remember, the X5 may be built in South Carolina, but BMW HQ is in Bavaria, and it snows quite a bit in that part of the world.
More day two highlights on the next page.
Yup that's snow. There wasn't much of it, but it was so cold outside that ice was the real problem.
Through Vail the scenery got that much more beautiful, but the snow increased. The X5's big V8 handled the altitude without a problem, as even summits as high as 10,000 feet seemed to go unnoticed by the power plant, but the snow continued to accumulate. Here the Colorado State Police make the truckers put on chains for the drive through the mountains.
The Eisenhower Tunnel west of Denver. It seems to go on forever. As usual, there was real weather waiting for me on the other side.
Beats the office. On these wet roads, even with temperatures in the 20s I would cruise at 80 mph with no trouble.
I think thisis somewhere in eastern Colorado. I do remember the severe winds. It must have been 20 below zero with the wind chill. The winds were so strong it was actually hard to keep the 4,700-pound X5 in its lane for a stretch. Fuel totals for day two: 908 miles, 71.5 mph average speed and 17.8 mpg.
A rare break in the weather. No snow at the Nebraska state line.
It was about now, more than halfway through day two, that I realized that the BMW's navigation system doesn't have enough detail on its maps. Look at that. Are you going to tell me that there are no towns at all on I-70 between my location and Lincoln? It made it a little hard to plan your gas stops and sleeping locations. At least BMW's lawyers let you play with the system while the car is moving.
After Nebraska comes Iowa. The X5 continued to shrug off this kind of weather. I could still cruise over 70 mph without fear. Sure, others were off in the ditch, but the X5 was so surefooted, so planted to the road, I felt invincible. I slept in Des Moines.
On day three, from the heart of Iowa to Motown, I covered all 600 miles in a snowstorm. At some points, vision was down to a few car lengths and the interstate was pure white, especially in Michigan, where they seemed to have parked the plows. Damnbudget cuts.
Several times traffic slowed to a crawl. And very often I was cruising with the X5's six-speed transmission in 4th or 5th gear so I would be able to use engine braking and not just the brakes, should I need to slow or stop. I also counted 18 cars and trucks off in the ditch, ranging from four-wheel-drive pickups to Peterbilts and one lone Porsche. And one time, deep in Michigan, a guy in an almost new Jag S-Type spun right in front of me. Miraculously he didn't hit anything, but I'm sure he had to change his panties.
Despite such contitions, I averaged 60.5 mph and 17.1 mpg. I also arrived at my hotel feeling like I could go another 400 miles. I was wired. Six-hundred miles in a snowstorm really forces you to be alert. I didn't even blink east of Chicago. I wolfed down a beer and a burger before my adrenaline simmered down.
This was a great trip in a great truck. If you haven't road-tripped in a while, get out there. And don't wimp out and take the southern route.
There are more day-three highlights and photos on the next page, and forgive me for all the behind-the-wheel shots; it was cold out there.
I was without an ice scraper. But the X5's wipers and defrosters had me on the road in about 10 minutes.
More proof I was in Des Moines. Seriously, this is to show the road conditions. Changing lanes was tough. If you were going to slide off in the ditch, it was probably during a lane change.
Things got worse in Detroit. When no black asphalt was peeking through the snow it was time to slow down a bit. Notice I have the X5 in 5th gear for engine braking.
The Giant Tire. This is when you know you'reclose toDetroit. It was once a Ferris wheel, built for the 1964-'65 New York World's Fair. It has sat along I-94 at the Uniroyal sales office in Allen Park, Michigan, ever since. By the way, I averaged 69.2 mph and 17.9 mpg for the entire three-day trip.
I arrived in Detroit around 9 p.m. Saturday night. The next morning I got this warning on the iDrive screen. And sure enough the right rear was 10 psi low. We pumped it up and it's been fine since. Hard to explain since I, of course, checked the tire pressures before leaving Santa Monica. I did, however, think it was cool that the X5 tells you which tire is low. Most cars don't do that.
Remember when we wrote that the long-term X5's right rear tire was down 10 pounds of air pressure? This would have been moments after Editor in Chief Oldham arrived in Detroit after two-thousand-and-whatever miles. Right, well, turns out somewhere along the way (my guess, for no good reason, is Indiana), the X5's right-rear picked up a self-tapping screw that had self-tapped itself right in between the tread blocks of the big Michelin.
It did a fine job plugging its own hole too, because the tire held air for many, many days before finally tripping the X5's tire pressure monitoring system again. I took the X5 over to a local Belle Tire location and they plugged the hole and even gave me back my (or Oldham's) screw. It cost $20.
I am moved by muscle cars. I can appreciate a big, ol' luxury boat. And I even like the occasional drive in a pick-up truck. But, honestly, I'm most comfortable and generally happiest in a relatively small, relatively lightweight car. This makes my growing affection for the decidedly beefy BMW X5 4.8i something unusual.
Everything about this vehicle is brawny, thick, heavy or solid, including its heavy-duty as-tested price of $68,520. And at more than 5,000 pounds of solid German/American goodness, the perception of high weight is reality. But it's almost shocking how easily the X5's V8 moves this two-and-a-half tons. Surely, the engine must be underrated at 350 hp. And somehow, even without the sport package, the X5 is nearer to being nimble than anything this big has right to be.
I don't need all this size. I certainly don't need to sit up as high as I do in the X5's driver's seat. But damn if I don't like it. The only real downside, assuming you have the means to make the monthly payments, is the big fuel tab. Since it's arrival in Detroit less than a month ago, the X5 has averaged 14.2 mpg. With the X5, you get size and you get speed, but you can't have everything.
The Spacey Dong Chime Edition
Inspired by High Chief Oldham's genre-defining video performance detailing the annoying chimes of the Ford Flex, I have made my own short-feature movie of the BMW X5's start-up/warning chime.
But it's not a chime. It's more of a dong, really. A dong with a slinky, wavering fade-out. This same sound has been slowly making its way into all BMWs, since it appeared in the too-weird-for-prime-time 7-series years ago.
Anyway, it brings me a sort of spaced-out peace. Listen to it in the hastily shot video above. Then I finally realized why it fills me with a child-like wonder each and every time: It is almost exactly how my head remembers the sound of The Jetsons' doorbell.
The BMW X5 let me know over the weekend that it was a little thirsty for a quart of Castrol's finest 5w-30 synthetic. When I turned the engine off Sunday, the little Aladdin's oil lamp warning appeared in the driver information center, accompanied as always by a "dongggggggg."
So I checked through the iDrive information system and saw that same bit of information relayed to me in an entirely different graphical way — the engine needs a quart of oil. Because I wear suspenders, a belt and I bolt my pants into my hip bones every morning, I decided to also check the dipstick (that inconspicuous-looking black plastic nub behind the oil filler in the picture below). Guess what? The engine needed a quart of oil. You'd have to be willfully abusive to your vehicle to miss triple redundancy like that.
I grabbed a quart of Castrol, since I was instructed to by the cap on the oil filler, for $7.41. You might be able to tell from the other photo below that I should have used a funnel since the access to the oil filler is compromised. But I only dripped a drop and the car is fine.
Tomorrow morning the X5 and I will depart for the Chicago auto show and at least one of us is looking forward to the drive.
Despite the widespread availability of airplane flights between Detroit and Chicago on which I could fly to the Chicago Auto Show, I make an annual habit of tempting the weather gods and hitting I-94 for a little bonding time with whatever I car I happen to be driving in early February.
Save for the year that I took a V-12-powered BMW 7-series, this year's mount, the long-term X5, was the finest road companion yet. The X5's high-speed stability is spectacular — almost as if it was designed by engineers used to driving on unlimited Autobahns. The driving position is excellent. The seats provide good thigh support, something many manufacturers neglect. And the iPod integration is easy to operate. So that's one iDrive-based feature that's not infuriating to use.
The trip takes four hours on the dot each way and is roughly 600 miles, total. So we averaged somewhere in the mid 70-mph range. The X5 returned 17.6 mpg in all highway driving (with a few assorted full-throttle, on-ramp accelerations thrown in). It's not the most efficient way to travel, particularly for one guy and one bag, but it surely is a satisfying way to. It is greatly preferable to riding on an air bus.
Of all the dubious achievements credited to BMW's iDrive, I do not remember Destroyer of Marital Bliss being on the list.
Here though are snippets of a couple of telephone conversations I had with my long-suffering wife recently. The set up is that I've taken her car to the office to check the brakes. She's driving around in the X5 for the day.
Wife: Your daughter wants to listen to "Little Ghost."
Me: Okay, it's on the iPod.
Wife: Yeah, how do I do this?
Me: Um, well. Okay. Hit the big MENU button. Okay, now push the big knob in the direction of "Entertainment."
Wife: Okay. Now what?
Me: You've got to find the AUX setting. It's in one of those menu bars along the top. I don't know which one.
Wife: [sighing, fumbling]
Me: It's White Stripes.
Wife: I know that.
[an inordinate amount of time passes]
Wife: Is it the album "Get Behind Me Satan?"
Me: Yeah, you're in! Just push down on the knob and then rotate until the song title is highlighted, then push the button.
Wife: Okay. Thanks.
See, I thought, iDrive isn't that difficult to operate. If I can act as the help line for it, how bad could it be?
Me: Hey, honey.
Wife: How do I get this stupid navigation lady to shut up? She's talking over the song.
Me: Uh, navigation? Aren't you just going to the grocery store?
Wife: Yeah, [background: "Make a U-turn if possible"] Uhg! Stupid thing!
It was then that I realized that I essentially re-learn many aspects of iDrive's operations each and every time I drive the vehicle. Or rather, I take stabs at what seems like the right moves until I've failed to get what I want so frequently that only the right answer is left.
Then I recalled it took both Executive Lead Senior Super Editor Ed Hellwig and myself 15 minutes and the owner's manual just to find Chicago's McCormick convention center one morning on our way to cover the auto show.
The time has come, BMW. I can defend you no longer. It is time for Gen II iDrive to make its way through the lineup.
Look, I like to plan for the future as much as the next guy, assuming the next guy doesn't really like to plan for the future. But I just got a warning from the BMW X5 long-termer that it would like an oil change.
Well, it would like an oil change in 1,800 miles anyway. Now, it's true that our long-term X5 has accumulated miles at an average of more than 2,000 per month, but our vehicle is a little unusual in this regard. It would take the average driver about a month-and-a-half or more to rack up that number of miles. And every time that average driver started up his X5 he would get the yellow warning and alert-dong notifying him of a service that's not required for many weeks.
But okay, better early than late, right? So we've got an appointment to get new goo and filter tomorrow and the service department of our local dealer promises it will cost us nothing, despite being early.
Curiously, the driver-information center between the gauges says we're looking at a time deadline of October, 2009 to get the service done. Stranger still, the Service Requirements portion of iDrive estimates a date of July, 2010. We can only assume this is referring to something else but we can't figure out what exactly that might be.
The X5 just got back from its second, and last, oil change during its stay with us. It took one hour — exactly the amount of time the service guy estimated when we made the appointment. It cost us nothing, as is the way with new BMWs.
We test drove the customer lounge at Erhard BMW in Bloomfield Hills, MI and found that the chairs were not long-term supportive but the all-you-can-eat doughnut bar suited us just fine, despite a narrow selection. Curiously, BMW owners in suburban Detroit apparently really like People magazine judging by the mountain of issues in the lounge.
We also had the rear-wiper nut cover — which our service man, Richard, took to calling "the doo-hickey" — replaced for $6.44. It was lost in a California car-wash incident some time ago.
I'm a set-it-and-forget-it guy. I leave the automatic climate control system at somewhere between 69 and 72 degrees on any car I drive and leave it. Cranking it to 85 degrees doesn't make an 18 degree morning tolerable any quicker than setting it at 72.
Which is why, years ago when I first encountered BMW's manual intensity settings for its automatic climate control system, I thought it was a gimmick. Just another layer of complexity in the brands increasingly complicated control systems.
Briefly the system works like this: You set your temperature as normal. Successive pokes at the AUTO button will change the intensity of the climate control operation, including the fan. So you want some hot air blowing on you? Crank it to Intensive. Want to hear a quiet piece of music without cranking the audio system to compete with fan noise, punch up Soft. You can also adjust it through iDrive, of course. But that's a minimum four-step process.
Look, sometimes you want 72 and sometimes you want 72, if you know what I mean. Could I just manually adjust the fan and get much of the same benefit. Yes, but why should I. I drive a $70,000 BMW.
Contention: A Hill Descent Control system on the strip-mall off-roader X5 is like having a tow/haul mode for the automatic transmission in the Miata.
Look, I know that it doesn't really cost BMW anything for the lines of computer code that applies the brakes automatically and frequently enough to keep this beast crawling down inclines. Seems like the one good thing BMW might have gotten out of its unfortunate and costly days owning Land Rover.
But, come on. I'd bet less than 10 percent of X5 owners even know what that button is for much less that they can vary the vehicle's target speed between 4 and 15 mph using the button.
(Photo by Kurt Niebuhr)
Remember a few weeks ago, the post I did about shift patterns as mandated by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 102 (FMVSS102)? Of course you do. A page-turner like that? How could you forget. Well I went ahead and re-read that section and saw nothing in it about forcing the car into park if the vehicle is in motion and the driver door is opened. Why would I look up something silly like that? Glad you asked.
Open the door on the 2008 BMW X5 when the car is in drive and the transmission slams itself into park. PARK! WHILE MOVING! It's upsetting and confusing when this happens at a 2mph roll as the X5 is being used to collect orange cones murdered during slalom testing. It's scary and just plain wrong when it goes into park — instead of, say, neutral — at 11mph as we try to test the limits of just where this boat will stop trying to kill itself. The X5 will also throw itself into park from reverse at similarly low speeds. So much for peeking out the door to avoid that big curb.
Further proof this SUV needs a manual transmission. The Cayenne offers one.
There was some gnashing of teeth 'round the home office when we were ordering our long-term X5. This is because once you see a sport-package X5 fitted with the optional 20-inch wheels and fat, high-performance treads, you can't get it out of your head. It just looks so good.
That's the X5 I want to drive. It's just not the one I want to live with. You see, there's this frozen precipitation that falls from the sky and accumulates on everything where I live. You know how fun that stuff is on summer rubber? None.
The 19-inch wheels with Michelin Latitude all-season tires are notably less bitchin' looking. But it's a great all-around set up. They proved to be excellent in one of the snowier winters in Michigan history. And, at least on the X5, they don't give up much in the way of dry performance. With them, the X5 still stops from 60 mph in 123 feet, one of the better performances available in the world of crossovers. And our long-termer made it through the slalom at a surprisingly fast 62.9 mph. And it circled the skidpad at .82 g. Not bad. Not bad at all.
And when you factor in not having to swap out summer tires for winters each year and not having to deal with the terrain tracking exhibited by X5s with the 20s, I'd say there's not much compromise is making the sensible choice here.
Professional driver. Closed course. Hey you stupid, don't try this at home.
Fourthings. One: The X5 is dead stable at these speeds, although there is a fair amount of wind noise. Two: No Tahoe or Flex or Enclave or SRX or Durango can approach a buck fifty, so there's still something special about the X5 and other performance minded German utes like the Cayenne. Although I'm sure a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 could swing it. Three: It was a steep downhill. Four: With my foot to the floor, the computer said mileage at this velocity was 7 mpg.
Pictured is dash of our Long Term 2008 BMW X5 just before a much needed fuel up. (Yes, I run the tank low. It's okay if you don't. I think it's fun.) How many miles are on the trip odometer?
FYI: The 08 X5 has a 22.5 gallon fuel tankand gets an epa rating of 14 city/ 19 highway,16 combined.
Winner gets absolutely nothing. Bonus nothings for guessing how many gallons of the good stuff this fill required.
Somehow we've managed to go through almost a year in a BMW without really ever talking much about the steering system. Compared to almost any steering system in anything with a remote resemblance to a sport-utility vehicle, the X5's is fantastic.
If that seems like damning with faint praise, it wasn't meant to. But neither is the X5's system entirely faultless. It's nearly perfect on the expressway when a little heft and a relatively slow ratio off-center result in a steady, composed demeanor — exactly what you want for high-speed runs.
Around town, though, that weight seems unnecessary and unwelcome. Now, we're not talking heavy like the old days of non-assisted steering here. But it will come as a surprise to the uninitiated. And, as on most crossover/SUV things the ratio isn't particularly quick, even though the standard X5 system uses a variable-ratio rack that quickens the response the farther from center you guide it. But the weight combined with the relatively slow ratio and the X5's bulk can still mean a whole lot of work in parking situation.
If there's one vehicle in BMW's lineup that could genuinely benefit from the company's Active Steering system, it's the X5. At speeds up to 55 mph Active Handling uses a quick ratio that results in only two turns lock-to-lock — giving the driver more turning response for a given input. At higher speeds the system uses a slower ratio to maintain stability. We don't really care for the system on the nimble 3-series.
But if you're in the market for an X5 we would say you should test drive one with Active Handling and one without. It is a stand-alone option which cost $1,400 for the 2008 model like ours. It's since gone up to $1,550.
By now you've probably noticed that we're featuring the BMW X5 this week.
Now it's your turn. Tell us what you want to talk about on the BMW X5.
Who will be first to post?
...Quando with a guess of 243 miles! Context clues, people! In the image posted you can see I'm in DS — drive sport — that can't be good for economy. Also to consider: I live in the city and never once for these 230 hit a freeway or even an uncongested street (but you couldn't have knownthat). Closest estimate for gallons:kurtamaxxxguy who guessed 20.5.Our 2008 X5 took 20.429.
(And to those who asked: It's an old picture. The X5 is in Detroit but in honor of Car of the Week, I pulled some things from my library.)
A couple of you have asked how the X5's headlights perform, noting that most shoppers test drive a car during daylight hours and therefore have little or no opportunity to test a vehicle's lighting performance. Good point.
I'm as sensitive as the next guy to good nighttime lighting. Well, rest assured that the X5's lights are dazzlingly bright. Whether this annoys oncoming drivers I cannot say. I certainly have not had anyone flash their high-beams at me. That was a common occurrence when high-intensity discharge lamps were first arriving on the market.
As you'd probably suspect, the X5's lights are automatic, self-leveling HIDs. They're standard on all X5s, even the six-cylinder models. They're bright enough in the low setting that I rarely need to use the high-beams which scorch the surrounding shrubbery with lumens. The only optional part of the headlight system as fitted to our tester is the retractable headlight-cleaning system which comes as part of the $900 Cold Weather Package and also includes heated front seats, the much-loved heated steering wheel and ski bag.
So if you're worried about X5 headlight performance, don't.
In a bid to appear like responsible adults we ordered the $1,200 third-row seats option on our long-term X5 instead of the monster 20-inch-wheels option. They are mutually exclusive options.
We're not saying it was a mistake, per se. But we can say that if we were buying an X5 for personal use we'd save ourselves the $1,200. And if we really needed three rows of seats, we wouldn't even consider the X5.
The two folding mini-buckets in the way-back are simply not very useful. But what about kids, you say? Well, there are no Latch attachments for the third row which would mean you'd have to use the old-school belts. And beside, we think some of our child-safety seats are bigger than the X5's third-row buckets. Although the kids would at least get an HVAC vent and a couple of cupholders back there.
And what about cramming adults back there, just for short trips? Stop being ridiculous. We crawled back there and it hurt. We don't dislike anyone that much — certainly not anyone we'd allow into our car. Even employees of BMW North America will admit that offering the third row in the X5 was simply a marketing exercise and not a particularly useful option.
During it's stay with us the X5's rear-most seats remained folded into the floor basically always. There they added weight and cost and became the locus of resentment for staffers who really wanted the big, meaty rear tires.
Thanks to gooney911 for today's favorite caption.
These also gave us a good chuckle:
Dear, why'd you pack a shovel for dinner and a movie? (oldchap)
Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! (smilez)
Oldham flees to Mexico before the CHP can nail him for doing 90MPH in the Edmunds LT Smart (deagle13)
Honey, can we just stop and ask for directions?! (cruiserhead1)
I told iDrive 'no freeways' and it routed me here. (vwthing1)
Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book. (mnorm1)
I can't believe we're having to park THIS far away from the Pottery Barn. (Franchitti27)
What was your favorite?
Our BMW X5 got a little dusty on its way to Beverly Hills.
I suggest: "Jed Clampett 2009"
What have you got? Keep 'em clean. Get it? Keep 'em clean? Heh.
We'll post our favorite at 4:00 PM Pacific Time.
Think back seven years. Mortgage lenders hadn't torpedoed the economy yet, and gasoline prices held within a publicly accepted range. These were the days when the sport-utility vehicle reigned supreme. Poor fuel economy and trucklike handling were tolerated in the name of ground clearance and a third-row seat. It was in this era that BMW spawned its first SUV, the X5.
Surprise was our first reaction when BMW placed its badge on the hood of an SUV. After all, this is the brand that built its image on performance sedans. But a short time behind the wheel made it clear the X5 was no ordinary SUV. This wasn't just another family room on wheels. It was fun to drive. With the X5, BMW successfully infused the temperament of its sedans into the body of an SUV.
And with the second-generation X5, BMW prepared its SUV for another decade. Which is where we came in with the 2008 BMW X5 4.8i.
Why We Got It
We couldn't refuse the opportunity to subject a 2008 BMW X5 4.8i to the long-term test gauntlet at Inside Line. Our reasoning was twofold. First, time has dealt our youthful spirits a bum hand. Marriage, kids, responsibility and all of the baggage attached required the utility of an SUV. But performance-oriented vehicles still get our blood pumping. So we found an outlet for both needs in the X5.
In 2007 the BMW X5 received a full redesign, marking its first-large scale update since the model's inception. Suspension alterations were made to compensate for the increased dimensions of the vehicle — dimensions that now allowed for a third row of seating, which wasn't available in the previous-generation X5. Would the third-row seats see use over 12 months of ownership? Or would they spend most days stowed in the floor as ballast?
Circumstance kept the SUV out of reach and off the long-term blog pages during its first year of production. We didn't miss our chance the following year and ordered up a 2008 BMW X5 4.8i.
We added more than 2,000 miles to the X5's odometer each month. If you were to ask Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh how we surpassed the 26,000-mile landmark so easily, he would attribute the accomplishment to the X5's easily accessible power. Its 4.8-liter V8 is a beast, and seemingly delivers all 350 horsepower at tip-in. Of course, Kavanagh swore the X5 smelled like doughnuts after Johnny Law pulled him over for speeding in the truck twice in three months.
Inside Line Editor in Chief Scott Oldham blamed driver seat comfort for the X5's high mileage. Of 30 available long-term cars, he chose the X5 for a three-day winter drive from Santa Monica, California, to Detroit. And his only complaint was regarding the transmission. Oldham noted, "X5 good. X5's transmission bad. The unit has three modes: D, S (sport) and M (manual). They all have their deficiencies. In D it's lethargic and won't kick down without full throttle. In S it's alert but jumpy and jerky. And in M it starts in 2nd gear."
Inside the cabin of the X5 we had an epiphany that a short-term test of a BMW would never have inspired. That is, we found the iDrive experience almost pleasant. Senior Editor Erin Riches proclaimed, "I can't believe it. I'm starting to feel at home using iDrive in our long-term X5." Once comfortable with the system, we benefited from a great iPod interface, timed climate control system and maintenance warning readouts. Senior Editor Daniel Pund brought us all back to reality, however. Pund wrote, "Of all the dubious achievements credited to BMW's iDrive, I don't remember Destroyer of Marital Bliss being on the list." Attempts to talk his wife through the details of iDrive over the phone one afternoon proved futile. Pund concluded, "It was then I realized that I essentially relearn many aspects of iDrive's operations each time I drive the vehicle. Or rather, I take stabs at what seems right until I've failed to get what I want so frequently that only the right answer is left."
When it comes to the topic of maintenance, BMW is truly remarkable. We visited the dealer when the X5 requested service at 13,000 and 26,000 miles. A third appointment, between these milestones addressed a creaking driver seat and steering column. This appointment assured us that BMW was being secretly run by machines. Vehicle Testing Assistant Mike Magrath arranged the service: "I scheduled the first appointment online. As much as I liked doing this, I thought I'd try this one by phone. No luck. I tried calling three times and only once was I connected to a person in service. She advised me to book the appointment online because her computer was down. Thinking about that sentence too hard will turn anyone into a technophobe."
We didn't pay one cent for scheduled maintenance while we owned the X5. A few bucks for a rear wiper cover, a few more to fix a flat tire and two quarts of synthetic oil set us back no more than $50 over the entire year. That is impressive.
Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $14 for two quarts of oil
Additional Maintenance Costs: $6.44 for rear wiper cap, $20 for a tire patch
Warranty Repairs: Creaking driver seat and steering column
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: 1 night for parts installation
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel Economy
All long-term vehicles are tested at the beginning and end of their service. We compared the test results of our X5 at these intervals to find that it matured well with age.
Acceleration and braking figures both improved. At the time of its final test the X5 reached 60 mph from a standstill in 6.8 seconds and completed the quarter-mile in 15.2 seconds at 92 mph. This marked an improvement of nearly 0.3 second over the results of its first test. The brakes also benefited from time and proper bedding-in. Their stopping distance from 60 mph shortened from 123 feet to 115 feet after 20,000 miles of use. Of the brakes' capability, Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton said, "The brakes feel really strong and resist fade admirably. Braking distance grew by just 6 feet after four consecutive stops. There is no ABS flutter. The pedal stayed firm and offered good modulation."
Dynamic tests didn't see the same kind of improvement due largely to the limits imposed by the X5's stability control system, which can't be switched off. The 5,100-pound SUV matched the figures posted during initial tests. It generated 0.82g on the skid pad and maneuvered through the slalom at 62.9 mph. Following these tests, Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot noted, "Its heavy steering is very noticeable on the skid pad and in slow maneuvering. Approach its limits carefully without blowing through them and BMW's stability control is very effective at achieving the driver's goals. It goes where it's pointed. Get stupid, however, and all is lost to the electronics and physics."
It was at the track when we accidentally learned of one odd little aspect of the BMW's safety net of electronics. When the door of the SUV is opened while the vehicle is in motion, the transmission slams into Park. We encountered the issue at idle, and were afraid to test it any faster. Makes you wonder if transmission failures fit into the free scheduled maintenance plan.
Best Fuel Economy: 23.1 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 9.3 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 15.3 mpg
We ordered a 2008 BMW X5 4.8i with an MSRP of $68,520. There was no skimping on the extras, and perhaps these extras account for its relatively high resale value. According to Edmunds' TMV® Calculator, the X5 depreciated 26 percent after one year and 26,000 miles. We are curious to see how our recently acquired 2009 Infiniti FX50 retains its value by comparison.
True Market Value at service end: $50,709
Depreciation: $17,811 or 26% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 26,358
We learned a lot from a year of BMW X5 ownership. Free scheduled maintenance is clearly the greatest deal around. We drove a 2008 BMW X5 4.8i around for a year and racked up more than 26,000 miles for the cost of gasoline, plus 50 bucks. This is some bargain.
When the time came for the acclaimed third-row seat to take center stage, it was nowhere to be found. We folded the seats up from the load floor to take pictures and laugh more often than they held passengers. They were even too small for children to fit comfortably. Next time around we'd trade this row of seats for the Sport package without hesitation.
BMW did not disappoint with the X5. We're no longer surprised to see an SUV with the Bavarian badge. But we are still shocked at the idea of the transmission slamming into Park while it's still in motion.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.