Edmunds conducts a Full Test of the third-generation 2014 BMW X5 SUV. Includes driving impressions and instrumented performance test results.
Times, they sure change. Years ago the idea of the original X5 sport-utility vehicle from the Munich automaker was a brazen move, one that loyalists viewed as a sure sign of the impending apocalypse.
By comparison, the 2014 BMW X5 has it easy. After all, the BMW SUV has been an unqualified success and is now firmly entrenched in the consumer psyche. It's now accepted as a given that a large proportion of the automaker's lineup consists of similar such non-sedan-shaped vehicles.
With the 2014 X5, BMW's task was simply not to screw it up.
Looks Beefier; Isn't The outgoing second-generation X5 was among the best-looking — dare we say the best-looking? — SUVs on the road: a tough aesthetic act for the third generation to follow. Like an older brother, the 2014 X5 isn't quite as buff-looking, appearing slightly dowdier and more slab-sided than its predecessor.
Yet this new model is actually trimmer than its predecessor, shedding around 170 pounds. It's not enough of a difference to transform this SUV into something else entirely, as it's still an exceedingly heavy (4,836 pounds according to our scales) and large vehicle. But every bit of weight lost is always welcome. We're looking forward to the day when BMW proliferates the lightweight carbon-fiber chassis construction of the i3 and i8 across its entire range.
In the meantime the new X5 introduces a raft of enhancements that collectively serve to elevate this, one of BMW's most important models in the USA. We tested a 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i, the all-wheel-drive variant of the five- (or seven-) passenger SUV, to assess how the new changes stack up.
Sharp On-Road Dynamics Despite the 2014 BMW X5's heft, it manages to drive smaller than its 115.5-inch wheelbase (the same as before) might lead you to believe. It is this quality that has become the calling card of the X5 in its class. Of course, canyon roads generally aren't the habitat of creatures such as this one, but you can dial things up to a decent clip and the X5 will play along eagerly, demonstrating adroitness within the context of full-fat SUVs. Turn-in from the electrically assisted steering is precise and friction-free, while the outgoing X5's oddly heavy weighting at low speeds has been alleviated in this generation. The new X5's rack may not faithfully transmit to the driver's hands the mineralogy of every pebble on the road, but it's otherwise difficult to fault.
Physics caught up with this big wagon when at max attack on our test track, where it behaved more ponderously than it did on the road. Suspensionwise, our test vehicle was equipped only with the optional Dynamic Damper and rear axle air suspension package. The active dampers in this package are adjustable over two modes but adjust automatically within each mode to road and conditions and driving style. Also, the package's rear air springs provide self-leveling when heavily loaded.
Owners who crave a sharper edge to their SUV will need to drop a few thousand dollars more for the Dynamic Handling package, which includes active stabilizer bars. Our X5 tester came with all-season run-flat 255/50R19 Goodyear Eagle LS2 tires, which reached their limits at 0.82g on the skid pad and contributed to a 61.5-mph slalom performance.
Braking from 60 consumed 117 feet, a result made more respectable by the X5's arrow-straight and drama-free composure. What's more, in routine driving the pedal offers excellent modulation, lending an even more carlike feel to the way the X5 conducts its business.
The ride quality is a tick more compliant than the outgoing X5, though rough patches of pavement can occasionally still betray the stiff-sidewalled nature of its run-flat tires. It's the exception rather than the rule, and we expect many owners will find the ride quality quite acceptable.
Carryover Six-Cylinder Still Impresses If there's a better six-cylinder power plant out there today than BMW's corporate turbocharged, direct-injected, 3.0-liter inline-6, we've yet to find it. It's a beaut, delivering uncanny refinement and a broad swath of torque across the rev range. Nor is the 300-horsepower inline mill ever overmatched by this big SUV's ample curb weight.
We clocked the X5 at 6.1 seconds to 60 mph (5.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip) on its way to a 14.5-second quarter-mile result at 94.8 mph. That's plenty quick by the numbers, and more importantly, there's willing thrust underfoot in day-to-day driving. It's all enough to make one seriously consider whether the thirstier, more powerful (and more expensive) V8 option is really necessary.
In the mixed driving of our standard evaluation loop, the six-cylinder-equipped X5 returned 21 mpg, bang-on its EPA combined fuel economy number (18 city/27 highway). The eight-speed automatic plays along, too, delivering crisp, smooth shifts and eschewing the slop typically associated with torque converter-equipped automatics. Standard for 2014 is a standard stop-start system, which boosts fuel economy in stop-and-go driving if you're willing to live with a brief pause before forward progress commences.
Upscale Interior With Standard Navigation Cabin refinements have resulted in a space that's functional and attractive, with panels that are uniformly more expensive-looking than ever. It's a genuinely plush place to be, once you manage to clamber over the protruding running boards that, ironically, do more to hinder ingress than aid it. Road noise is limited to a remote hum, though we picked up a wind whistle at freeway speeds that seemed to originate from the driver side A-pillar.
Navigation is now standard, and 2014 marks the first time iDrive 4.2 shows up in the X5, complete with touchpad control. We still prefer to use the knob, which moves through solid, discrete detents. If only we could one day convince the Germans that clockwise-to-zoom-in is more intuitive than the other way around.
Though our tester lacked the optional third row, its second row offered a 40/20/40 three-way split-folding seatback. Total cargo volume is up marginally from the last generation as well, and the rear hatch offers a clamshell-style opening with a power-operated upper section.
It Will Cost You So the third generation sees incremental improvements in many areas. The downside is that it all comes with a pretty hefty price increase: xDrive35i model stickers rise by $7,600. Its base price of $56,025 does include a few new pieces of standard equipment, but tick a few boxes and things continue spiraling upward at an alarming clip.
Our tester, an xLine trim — equipped with the Cold Weather Pack, Driver Assistance package, Lighting package, Premium Pack, the aforementioned suspension and a space-saver spare tire — stickers for $67,375. And the price tag could have gone higher, even without stepping up to the V8.
It's a stiff sticker to be sure. But the traditional X5 virtues have only been burnished by the 2014 model. It's still a relatively keen driver, with boosted refinement, new technologies and improved sty... On second thought, three out of four ain't bad.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
We get behind the wheel of the refreshed 2014 BMW X5, a further evolution of the sporty SUV that introduced the idea of a fun-to-drive family hauler.
Before the first BMW X5 arrived way back in 1999, most SUVs were built for tackling mud, climbing rocky trails and towing ski boats. Their clumsy on-road manners were something you endured for the pleasure of sitting high, mighty and apparently invincible.
But BMW reckoned there was a market for a sports activity vehicle rather than a sport-utility vehicle, and while it's easy to argue about the semantics of these labels, what Munich had in mind was a big all-wheel-drive beast that you would actually enjoy driving.
BMW was not alone in realizing that the off-road element was a lot less important than a four-wheel-drive's implied prestige, imperious seating and ample cabin space. The X5 ended up a pioneer, to be followed by the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7 and Range Rover Sport. That success is one reason why the styling of this third-generation X5 "refines and reinforces the X5's look of presence and elegance," according to designer Olivier Heilmer, rather than offering anything truly new.
More Quiet, Less Weight That said, this midcycle update goes to the X5's core, its chassis reworked to add strength and lightness and the shell now 5 percent stiffer without imposing a weight increase on a vehicle that's significantly better equipped. Some versions weigh much the same, but others are as much as 200 pounds lighter. Drag has been reduced, too, the coefficient of the slimmest-wheeled version dropping from 0.34 to 0.31.
The toughest mission, however, was to tackle criticisms of the outgoing model's ride and refinement. Reducing noise transmission via the front bulkhead, the glass and the wheel housings has cut noise levels by a useful 2.5dB average across the range, while new seats similar to those in the 7 Series sedan have quelled vibration.
There are numerous changes to the suspension which has been reworked to smother small bumps more effectively. This has been achieved, says BMW, by changing the front suspension geometry, relocating the lower spring pans to sit closer to the axle and improving bump-stop progression. The springs are softer, too, and the dampers have been recalibrated to suit. The rear axle gets the same spring, damper and bump-stop mods, although its geometry remains the same. Most significant of all — though not necessarily beneficial from the driver enjoyment perspective — is a switch from hydraulically assisted steering to the electric variety.
More Power, Eventually At launch, the most powerful drivetrain available comes in the xDrive50i, which combines a twin-turbo 4.4 liter V8 with an eight-speed paddle-shift transmission and all-wheel drive. A 3.0-liter straight-6 powers the xDrive35i, while the diesel-powered xDrive35d model will join the lineup next year. For the first time, a rear-wheel-drive X5 will also be available with the 3.0-liter gasoline power six only.
Output in the 2014 BMW X5 V8 climbs 10 percent to 450 horsepower and torque is up to 479 pound-feet. It's enough to shave half a second from the 0-62-mph time, which falls to an impressive 5.0 seconds flat. BMW says fuel economy improves a little, too, but there are no EPA numbers to back that up just yet.
Despite all the grunt, and the traction to make maximum use of it, the V8 X5 is not the fastest thing off the line. The engine and transmission need a few moments to absorb your right foot's command before launching the BMW forward with the urge you'd desired moments earlier. It's a pause that appears when you're on the move at lowish speeds, too, although switching to Sport mode does a bit to enliven the drivetrain. The twin-turbo V8 does make a nice sound, however, providing a satin V8 beat that turns impressively muscular when the throttle is sunk deep.
Deft Chassis, Dulled Steering Not surprisingly, the X5 chassis is more than capable of handling the V8's efforts. Or it does in the form we tested the car in, which included the $4,500 Dynamic Handling package, which adds an air-sprung rear suspension, adjustable dampers, active antiroll bars and cross-axle torque-vectoring. The standard setup is rather ungenerously specified with steel springs, conventional shocks and passive antiroll bars, a combination we didn't get a chance to sample.
Even so, we would recommend the upgraded setup for two reasons. The first because this is a big load carrier in need of self-leveling, the second because we suspect the ride will need softening for broken tarmac moments. Dialed in to Sport mode, this X5 proves satisfyingly agile through bends both tight and sweeping. It's a vehicle that feels smaller than its bulk implies, and certainly nimble enough to entertain. It's also stable, steers accurately, stops convincingly and rolls enough to let you know what you're doing without turning remotely floppy and uncooperative.
A shame, then, that the new electrically supported steering takes the edge of this accomplishment by coming over curiously vague through the first few degrees of its movement. This faintly disconnected feel applies in both Comfort and Sport modes, too. Happily, it does little to undermine the accuracy of the X5's steering, but it does dim the sporting appeal of this sports activity vehicle.
As for the ride, it swallows most small bumps whole as promised, although the odd clatter across ridges and potholes in Sport suggests that it's the Comfort damping mode you'll mostly want on U.S. roads. It's unfortunate that in this setting the steering is a little too light — and you can't mix and match the steering, drivetrain and suspension settings to achieve an ideal blend.
There's no shortage of electronic driving aids in other departments, however: lane-keeping, radar-controlled cruise that extends to traffic jam stop-and-go, and (from December) a lane-keeping traffic jam assistant, too. Night vision and BMW's excellent head-up display also appear on an expensively lengthy options list.
Cleaner, More Spacious Cabin Inside this X5 you're greeted with a slightly more sophisticated cabin than before. Apart from the permanently affixed infotainment screen, the architecture is essentially familiar, right down to the signature twin air-vent stacks at the dashboard's outer edges.
But there are subtle improvements, such as the gentle curves of the decorative wood, aluminum and double-stitched leather that heighten the luxury ambiance. They make up for some of the more pedestrian switchgear in the center stack that looks a little cheap.
Solid rear-seat space is another one of this X5's upsides, a factor made even more useful by the very comfortable back bench. There's also slightly more cargo room thanks to some packaging changes, along with the continued option of a third row, now split 40/20/40. It's still far from a full-size SUV in this regard, but for those who only occasionally need a third row, this X5 is more useful than it has ever been.
Hasn't Forgotten Its Roots At its heart, though, the X5 is still the sporting SUV that it was back in 1999. Perhaps too much so aesthetically, as this restyle is certainly short of imaginative flourishes. BMW would doubtless argue that the existing formula is very successful so there's little reason to make drastic changes.
It's certainly more polished this time around with its mix of big cabin comfort, luxury trimmings, sporting performance, all-weather security and accomplished manners. The 2014 BMW X5 is slightly spoiled by the V8's lazy step-off and that flawed steering feel, but neither shortcoming is pronounced enough to dampen the average buyer's enthusiasm for it.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
The 2014 BMW X5 is a midsize luxury crossover SUV which comes with potent engine choices, a luxurious interior and a huge list of features. The 2014 BMW X5 comes in the rear-wheel-drive sDrive35i, all-wheel-drive xDrive35i, the diesel-powered xDrive35d, and the 445-horsepower xDrive50i.
You still occasionally see original, first-generation BMW X5s on the road. In today's context, they look a little awkward. Their narrow width and tall body evokes a 5 Series wearing platform shoes. But credit BMW's foresight; the Germans knew what America wanted before we did: a luxury SUV that didn't drive like an SUV.
Fourteen model years later, BMW is hoping that it still knows what you want with its redesigned 2014 BMW X5. Performance? Luxury? Utility? Yep, it's all still here. BMW says it wanted to keep everything previous X5 owners liked. But it also wanted to bring the vehicle as up to date as possible. And we have to admit, it makes sense: Even last year, the final year of the previous, second-generation model, the BMW X5 was one of our favorite picks for a midsize luxury crossover SUV.
For the 2014 model, you get the feeling that BMW is stepping carefully. The new X5 looks a lot like the previous model. It's a handsome rig to be sure, but at first glance you might mistake it for an older X5 or even an X3. Overall size and weight are pretty much the same, effectively guaranteeing the X5's capable handling and stability remain intact. The interior is similar as well, though this time it's a bit roomier and classier-looking. The second-row seat is now split in 40/20/40 sections, improving utility, and a third-row seat is still available. Of course, the X5 can still be loaded up with features to your heart's content, and this year you can select different design themes for a bit of extra customization.
Under the hood you'll find another round of déjà vu. The turbocharged inline-6 in the 35i trim level is still available and unchanged. The X5 50i's turbocharged V8 is still here, too, though it now produces a heady 445 horsepower and gets slightly better fuel economy to boot. The most intriguing choice this time around is the 35d model and its diesel-fueled engine. Its 255-hp output is essentially the same as before, but it gets a few tweaks and is finally paired to the eight-speed automatic for even better fuel economy.
The original X5 entered a small field of competitors back in 2000, but midsize to large luxury crossover SUVs abound now. And that presents you with some choices. From a family-hauling standpoint, the 2014 BMW X5 still isn't ideal. BMW's own X3 isn't that much smaller, for instance, and although the X5 does offer a third-row seat, it's laughably small compared to those in the less expensive 2014 Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60. And if it's performance you're after, the new 2014 Range Rover Sport and 2014 Porsche Cayenne are also excellent choices. But overall, we think very highly of the latest X5 and gave it an "A" rating. Even with subtle improvements, it's a paradigm for a luxury crossover with presence, power and refinement.