A "Sports Activity Vehicle" for the family man (or woman!) The X5 accelerates nicely anywhere in the powerband, despite my tester being equipped with the entry-level powertrain.
Bigger SUVs have become more and more commonplace around here, both in suburbia as well as the urban core of Toronto. Just over a decade ago, BMW saw a place in the market for what they like to refer to as a Sports Activity Vehicle. This 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i is a first-year model of the third-generation X5, and I spent a week with it to figure out whether or not I would like it over its competition.
I’ve spent a good chunk of this past winter driving the latest in BMW’s lineup. With the introduction of new lines such as the 4-series and the 3-series GranTurismo, the guys over in Germany sure have been busy. The X5 I was handed is the entry-level powertrain choice – the infamous BMW “35” engine. This inline-6 has a displacement of 3.0L and is turbocharged. It is a twin-scroll, single turbocharged engine with gobs of torque (295 lb-ft, to be exact). Being an all-season vehicle, BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system is standard on this model.
The X5 accelerates nicely almost everywhere in the powerband, despite my tester being equipped with the “small” engine. It’s by no means fast or ground-crushing, but if you’re looking for speed, BMW will gladly sell you the fire-breathing X5 xDrive50i, complete with a boosted V8. The ZF-made 8-speed automatic transmission is just as smooth in this application as it is elsewhere. I think the target demographic for the X5 xDrive35i will never find themselves complaining or desiring more power. Handling is excellent; the electric steering is responsive enough and stops the X5 from feeling as floaty and disconnected as certain competing SUVs. Despite its size, the BMW DNA is evident and the SUV is pretty involving to drive.
Naturally, fuel economy isn’t exceptional. Running 91-octane premium fuel, I averaged 12.5L/100km in combined driving over ~250km. If economy is what you’re after, my preferred model of X5 may be in your future – the diesel-powered X5 xDrive35d can get as low as 7.5L/100km in highway driving. It also has enough torque to haul the X5 around whilst snapping your neck backwards. The fuel economy on my xDrive35i tester is a bit deceptive, as the huge 85L tank takes a bit longer to drain than you might expect, leaving you with a $100+ refuel bill.
All-new for 2014, the redesigned X5 seems to be a bit softer than the outgoing model. It’s evident that BMW focused on ensuring that their largest “Sports Activity Vehicle” is just as comfortable as it is sporty. I spent virtually no time in “Comfort” mode, opting for “Eco Pro” most of the time to conserve as much fuel as possible. I actually did notice a significant difference in fuel consumption using this mode. In “Sport” though, the X5 comes alive. Throttle response is significantly sharper, and it almost feels as though the thing shrinks as you go faster.
I personally preferred the styling of the outgoing BMW X5, but this new one is by no means unattractive, and has some nifty styling cues that help it stand out from the crowd. For one, the LED turn signals above the headlights make it look like it has furrowed eyebrows – a particularly angry and aggressive look. I like it. The split tailgate makes for both a rugged-look as well as easier loading; another great touch from the Bavarians. Perhaps steering away from the muscular, sporty lines of the previous-generation X5 was a good decision after all; this more conservative styling will undoubtedly bring more potential customers to their nearest BMW dealership.
Completely loaded to the gills, my tester came in at just under $80,000 as-tested. Ticking off option boxes such as the Premium Package, BMW Connectivity Group, and the optional Comfort Seats add that touch of individuality to the existing luxury that is required by the premium SUV market. Other toys on my X5 included the Bang & Olufsen sound system, a panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, and optional wheels (swapped out for a smaller 19” set on beefy winter tires). Foregoing some of the big-ticket options can still give you a nicely equipped X5 xDrive35i in the $60,000 range, which is right in line with its competitors.
I will say though that rather than opt for the Bang & Olufsen stereo in this car, I would forego that option and stick with BMW’s partnership with Harman-Kardon. While the B&O is a great setup in most of the Audi lineup, as well as other vehicles in the BMW line (such as the M6 Gran Coupé I drove last summer), the audio stage in the X5 coupled with the tuning of this stereo just doesn’t do it for me. I tried fiddling with every single one of the equalizer settings, but I just couldn’t get it to sound the way I wanted it to. I’ve heard the Harman-Kardon setup in a similar X5 though, and it’s excellent. Plus, it’s significantly cheaper too!
The 2014 BMW X5 is undeniably different from its predecessor. The xDrive35i model is a competent and very pleasant truck, and is a great choice for those looking for a solid family vehicle. Those open to an alternative option within the X5 lineup should definitely check out the diesel model, it takes an already-good SUV and adds that finishing touch that would make it exceptional. Tick off the Harman-Kardon and the Comfort Seats and you’ve got yourself a vehicle that brings smiles to the whole family for years to come.
2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i Gallery