As the X5 winds up the highway along the shore of the Horseshoe Bay, we're more aware of luxury than performance. We notice the command driving position, the slim yet supportive seats, and the new iDrive with its fixed, 10.2-inch video screen protruding from the dash and a control knob onto which you can scribe a letter with your finger and trigger a reaction. The optional Harman Kardon audio system plays full-bandwidth music files in a rich way that will make you throw away the crappy compressed MP3s from your iPod. The second-row seat has a useful 40/20/40 split, a third-row is optional, and the tailgate is power operated. Everyone can see the scenery, has a cool drink at hand that doesn't spill over the bumps in the road, and feels happy. All the other aspects of the 2014 BMW X5 -- the appearance features, the powertrain performance, and the impressive safety technology -- are just background music to this central experience.
At the same time, this experience can be had in a bewildering number of equipment combinations. (Ready? Take a deep breath.) The twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 makes 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, while the twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 makes 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Then you can get the six-cylinder engine in the customary all-wheel-drive X5 xDrive35i or in the new, rear-wheel-drive sDrive35i. Plus there's a twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 diesel expected in the spring, which will make 255 hp and 413-lb-ft of torque. We found the personality of the V-8 engine to be somewhat stolid, while the diesel proved livelier, yet the eight-speed automatic really proved to be the dominant player in the powertrain.
If you like, you can get 2013 BMW X5's tires dirty, just as we did on a little loop through the woods at the Whistler Mountain ski resort. The all-wheel-drive system's electronic sensors will take care of the traction -- even the steep downhill parts that are scary -- so you'll be a hero to your kids when you show them a view of a mountain snowfield in mid-September. Of course, this 4960-lb vehicle with 8.2 inches of ground clearance and wide all-season tires is really meant only for mild roadside adventures, and you could probably go to the same places in something far less sophisticated, much as the short gravel trail to Brandywine Falls next to Hwy 99 can be walked in cocktail heels (as we've seen demonstrated by a woman of our acquaintance). The truth is, the BMW X5's all-wheel-drive magic is more likely to be appreciated on an icy paved road in winter than a two-track dirt road in late summer.
2014 BMW X5
|Price:||$53,725 - $69,125|
|Engine:||3.0L twin-turbo I6, 300 hp/300 lb-ft; 4.4L twin-turbo V-8, 445 hp/480 lb-ft; 3.0L twin-turbo I6 diesel, 255 hp/415 lb-ft|
|Drive:||rear or 4-wheel|