March 25, 2009
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.