The diesel engines we’ve been promised for the past few years are finally hitting the U.S. market. Anyone who has travelled to Europe probably noticed that about half of the vehicles on the road were powered by diesel engines. The current crop of European diesels headed to America are incredibly clean and refined with virtually no noticeable diesel traits other than superior fuel economy.
I was particularly surprised by how high the engine in the X5 35d will rev. Last night I was driving with a friend, and the subject of the Toyota recall fiasco came up. To demonstrate how easy it could be to fix the sudden-unintended-acceleration dilemma, I floored the accelerator and shifted into neutral. I was surprised that the diesel engine raced up to 5000 rpm before hitting the rev limiter. It wasn’t that long ago when gasoline engines in SUVs hardly revved past 5000 rpm.
There’s a little more diesel clatter coming through the cabin in the X5 than an Audi Q7 TDI, but the engine is still far quieter than most consumers would expect from a diesel. Power delivery is also quite good since the torque comes on strong and quickly. Leaving a stop feels very quick, so drivers are unlikely to have complaints about acceleration unless the vehicle is at highway speeds, a common complaint since diesels are typically down on horsepower compared to gasoline engines.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
With every diesel SUV variant that I drive, I wonder why people are still buying the gas alternatives. Compared to its V-8 counterpart, this BMW X5 xDrive35d is just as comfortable, significantly more efficient, and less expensive. Rated at 19 mpg in the city, and 26 mpg on the highway, the X5 35d is also more fuel-efficient than the Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec and the Audi Q7 TDI. As Phil mentions, the BMW diesel is a bit louder than both the Mercedes and the Audi, especially when cold or under acceleration. However, that’s a negligible tradeoff for the excellent flexibility of this engine.
The 5000-rpm redline is great for hard acceleration, but what really impresses me is the on-tap power for moderate, in-gear acceleration. Where other vehicles are often calling for downshifts, the BMW is capable of giving a smooth, quick response just by adding more fuel. The rest of the driving experience is also very good. The ride is gentle without being soft, the transmission is rather transparent, and the steering is excellent, although quite heavy at low speeds.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
This X5 came as a winter blessing to frozen tundra called Michigan. Its massive sunroof had me sitting back in awe at the stoplight as I soaked up the sun kissing my face… that was until the idiot behind me decided to break the mood with his horn. Dude! My moment of bliss!
Inside it’s clear that the X5 is a member of the BMW family, with the typical if not dated lines much similar to other BMWs of the last several years. Nonetheless, it’s still ahead of its domestic counterparts. Visibility is very good, and the vehicle felt in control and not bulky or top heavy.
The X5’s diesel is a bit louder than other similar engines I have driven this year. But you will be surprised how quickly the turbo will get you merged into traffic before you find yourself braking for the guy going slow in the left lane! The BMW’s power and smoothness easily put you in danger of speeding tickets.
Kelly Ryan Murphy, Creative Director
The turbo-diesel X5 feels incredibly torquey and peppy around town, particularly for such a large vehicle. Mix that with the excellent fuel economy (19/26 mpg EPA city/highway versus the six-cylinder gasoline version’s 15/21 mpg and the V-8 edition’s 14/19 mpg), and you’ve easily got yourself the best X5 powertrain on the market today, as I expressed after driving a similar X5 35d last summer.
That vehicle had the old iDrive system, but thankfully this 2010 model had the newer system, which is quicker, easier to use, and has more buttons surrounding the iDrive knob. Strangely, though, this iDrive had a “NAV” button but no navigation system. In any case, I’d much rather have this test vehicle’s heated steering wheel than a navigation system anyway.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
This BMW X5 35d is the latest in a long list of excellent German diesels that have cycled through our office in the last several months. I agree that the BMW diesel engine is a bit more noticeable than those in either of its main competitors but it’s fairly inaudible once you’re underway.
As with many models in BMW’s current lineup, this X5’s agility belies its weight and high stance. The ride is excellent over most surfaces but can become a bit jarring over severely potholed pavement and as Eric mentioned, the steering requires far too much effort at low speeds but is otherwise perfect.
The interior is straightforward and attractive but doesn’t have the look and feel of a $57,000 luxury sport utility. When comparably equipped-and similarly priced-Audi’s Q7 TDI feels far more luxurious.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
2010 BMW X5 xDrive35d
Base price (with destination): $52,175
Price as tested: $57,225
3.0-liter in-line 6-cylinder turbo-diesel engine
xDrive all-wheel-drive system
Dynamic stability control
Hill decent control
Xenon adaptive headlights
iDrive system with on-board computer
AM/FM stereo CD/MP3 player audio system
Adaptive brake lights
Options on this vehicle:
Cold weather package — $1250
– Heated steering wheel
– Ski bag
– Heated front seats
– Heated rear seats
– Retractable headlight washers
Premium package — $3400
– Power adjustable steering column
– Power tailgate
– Universal garage-door opener
– Digital compass mirror
– Lumbar support
– BMW assist with Bluetooth
iPod USB adapter — $400
Key options not on vehicle:
Technology package — $2800
Premium sound package — $1850
Sport activity package — $3500
Rear climate package — $900
Active ventilated seat package — $2100
3rd row seat — $1700
Head-up display — $1900
Navigation — $1900
19 / 26 / 22 mpg
Size: 3.0L turbocharged diesel in-line 6-cylinder
Horsepower: 265 hp @ 4200 rpm
Torque: 425 lb-ft @ 1750-2250 rpm
Curb weight: 5225 lb
18 x 8.5-inch aluminum wheels
255/55R18 all-season tires
Competitors: Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec, Audi Q7 TDI