When it comes to luxury crossover SUVs, the 2010 BMW X5 is the standard-bearer in terms of handling and performance. However, it comes up a bit short on utility and value when stacked up against the competition.
BMW is best known for coupes and sedans that blend performance, comfort and luxury into an intoxicating stew of automotive goodness. Understandably, then, there was some apprehension when the German manufacturer announced plans to build an SUV in 1999. BMW loyalists fretted that it would be an affront to everything they had come to know and love about the brand. But in the decade since, the BMW X5 hasn't just proved itself worthy of wearing the blue-and-white Roundel -- it has almost single-handedly defined the luxury crossover SUV segment.
The 2010 BMW X5 adheres to the same principles that made it a leader in the first place. Performance is as prominent as ever, thanks to a taut suspension, all-wheel drive and a choice of three very capable engines. From the base 3.0-liter inline-six cylinder to the torquey turbodiesel and creamy 350-horsepower V8, the X5's under-hood options will appeal to a wide range of drivers. A luxurious cabin with top-notch materials and admirable build quality furthers the X5's desirability, as do exceptionally comfortable front seats.
Building on these strong credentials, the 2010 model receives some welcome improvements to one of its biggest past liabilities -- the often-reviled iDrive control system. Previously saddled with an outdated earlier version, the X5 gets the latest generation this year. The new iDrive greatly simplifies operation thanks to new physical shortcut buttons and revised on-screen menus. The optional navigation system also sees an update with improved graphics and usability.
With the BMW X5's strong foundation and continual improvement, it's easy to see why it still ranks highly among our editors. But it is certainly not alone in this segment. Other luxury crossovers like the Audi Q7, Infiniti FX, Mercedes-Benz ML-Class, Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg provide competitive performance and quality, and the Acura MDX adds a bit more utility. Still, for loyal BMW drivers or those who just enjoy driving but need the functionality of a crossover, it's hard to beat the 2010 BMW X5.
The 2010 BMW X5 is a midsize luxury SUV available in xDrive30i, xDrive35d and xDrive48i trim levels. Standard equipment on the xDrive30i includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic adaptive xenon headlights, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats with driver memory settings, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, vinyl \leatherette\ upholstery, wood interior trim, the iDrive electronics interface and a 12-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD Radio and an auxiliary audio jack.
Aside from their different engines, the xDrive35d and xDrive48i trims are virtually identical in terms of standard and option packages (the 48i adds leather upholstery, however). Numerous option groups include the Premium package, which adds auto-dimming mirrors, a power liftgate, BMW Assist telematics with Bluetooth and -- for the xDrive30i and xDrive35d -- leather upholstery. The Sport Activity package adds 19-inch wheels, dark exterior trim, sport seats and a sport steering wheel. An M Sport package builds on the Sport Activity by adding body-colored M exterior parts, an adaptive suspension, a sportier steering wheel, aluminum roof rails and a higher top-speed limiter.
For technophiles, the Premium Sound package equips the X5 with a 16-speaker surround-sound audio system that includes a six-CD changer. The Technology package adds parking sensors, a back-up camera with a top view, digital music storage and a hard-drive-based navigation system with voice activation and real-time traffic. The Rear Climate package adds rear privacy glass, manual rear side sunshades and four-zone auto climate control. The Active Ventilated Seat package adds multi-adjustable front \comfort\ seats with ventilation. The Cold Weather package adds heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and a ski bag for the rear center pass-through.
Other stand-alone options include running boards, roof rails, upgraded leather upholstery, keyless ignition\/entry, active steering, a head-up display, an iPod adapter, a rear-seat entertainment system and satellite radio. A third-row seat is also available and includes a rear self-leveling suspension. Twenty-inch wheels can be added to the Sport-package-equipped xDrive48i.
The 2010 BMW X5 is one of the best-handling midsize luxury crossovers you can buy. Whether driving on back roads or on an endless expanse of interstate, the X5 is a champ. Some competitors offer more utility and off-road capabilities, but the X5 ably brings BMW's legendary handling prowess to the SUV arena, though the elevated ride height and considerable curb weight are noticeable on tight roads. Engine performance is strong with either the turbodiesel or the V8; the diesel is actually our preferred choice considering its impressive low-end torque, capable acceleration (it's just as quick as the V8) and superior fuel economy.
The X5 isn't perfect, though. We've found the steering to be overly heavy at parking lot speeds, even if its hefty nature adds precision on the open road. The optional active steering system eases parking maneuvers, but the downside is somewhat artificial steering feel. Road and wind noise are pleasantly muted, but buyers looking for a Lexus-like comfy-couch ride may find this Bimmer a bit firm.
There are three engines available for the 2010 BMW X5. The X5 xDrive30i is powered by a 3.0-liter inline-6 that produces 260 hp and 225 pound-feet of torque. Its EPA estimated fuel economy is 15 mpg city\/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. The xDrive35d features a turbodiesel inline-6 that produces 265 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque. This engine includes clean-diesel technology that allows it to be sold in all 50 states. Fuel consumption is an impressive 19\/26\/22 mpg, yet acceleration matches that of the pricier xDrive48i.
The X5 xDrive48i gets a 4.8-liter V8 good for 350 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. In performance testing, the 48i went from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates are 14\/19\/16 mpg. All X5s are all-wheel drive and come with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. Properly equipped, an X5 can tow 6,000 pounds.
Standard safety equipment for the 2010 BMW X5 includes antilock brakes, stability control, brake drying and standby features, a rollover sensor, front side airbags and side curtain airbags for the first and second rows. In government crash tests, the X5 scored a perfect five stars for frontal-impact driver protection and four stars for frontal-impact passenger protection. It got a perfect five stars for front and rear side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the X5 its highest rating of \Good\ in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
The X5's interior layout is restrained and elegant, with precise construction and high-quality materials. The front seats are nicely shaped and adjust for a wide range of body types (the optional comfort seats offer even more adjustment). With the inclusion of the latest iDrive system, one of our biggest pet peeves has been remedied. The new iDrive is much easier to operate thanks to the addition of physical buttons for commonly used functions.
The 2010 X5's cabin is not without its drawbacks, though. The second-row seats are mounted a bit too low to the floor, even though headroom is plentiful. Longer-legged passengers will likely bemoan this seating position, as it forces knees upwards. The optional third row is even more cramped and is suitable only for children. With both of these seats folded, cargo space measures 75 cubic feet, which is about average in this class.
Athletic handling, smooth powertrains, luxurious and comfortable interior, huge list of features, powerful and fuel-efficient turbodiesel option.
Ride may be on the firm side for some, heavy steering at low speeds, munchkin-sized third-row seat, hefty price.