Ergonomically pleasing and attractively styled, the X5's interior has lost little of its class and quality. Highs are the lovely round instruments, the tasteful mix of materials, and the large, in-dash color monitor; lows are second-rate plastics here and there, the pointless insert-key-then-push-button starter, and the absence of shift paddles. Thanks to a 4.5-inch increase in wheelbase, a 7.4-inch-greater overall length, and 2.3 inches more width, the X5 offers more shoulder and legroom, an optional third row of seats, and 2.8 cubic feet of additional cargo volume. The symmetrically split-folding rearmost bench, which adds $1200 to the price of the X5 4.8i ($1700 to the X5 3.0si), is easy to erect and fully adjustable, but only physically fit short people will care to sit in it. The new X5 does not come cheap. The 350-hp V-8 version costs $55,195, some $8600 more than the lesser-equipped, 260-hp X5 3.0si. The various option packages can add $15,400 to the grand total, and with stand-alone add-ons such as rear-seat entertainment, premium leather, and keyless access, you're looking at nearly $75,000. Yet even when it's fully loaded, the new X5 is rather low on bling--by street-cred standards, there is too much black plastic and not enough chrome. But the proportions are perfect, the surfaces flow beautifully, and the cutlines have been calmed down considerably compared with other recent BMWs. Dislikes? The carryover split tailgate can be a nuisance when heavy loads are involved, the curb weight of the admittedly stiffer vehicle has gone up by a considerable 408 pounds, and when you travel with seven, the cargo compartment measures only 7.1 cubic feet.
What makes the new X5 stand out in the crossover community is the way it performs, handles, and holds the road. According to BMW, the 4.8i accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, and with the proper tires it can top out at an electronically limited 150 mph. Our test car averaged only 11 mpg, suggesting that the official 15/21 mpg estimate is theoretical. In exchange, the X5 provided the kind of driving pleasure we would have expected from a 550i wagon--despite the greater weight and higher center of gravity.
Because of adaptive drive, body roll is never an issue, nor are squat and dive under acceleration and braking. And beefy twin-piston brakes provide drama-free deceleration.Upcoming engines are bound to further enhance the X5's appeal--a hybrid drivetrain developed with General Motors and DaimlerChrysler, a turbocharged V-8 good for more than 400 hp, and a 300-hp, state-of-the-art twin-turbo diesel. Not to mention the all-new X6, which will carry the DNA of the X5 in a four-seat coupe wrapper starting in early 2008.