My ride last week was a BMW X5 xDrive50i and given that I was shooting at Mosport all week, I didn’t expect to drive it much. For knocking around the dirty, dusty track, I usually prefer to drive my own crusty old 4×4.
To be honest, I’m usually drawn more towards SUV’s that excel in the U department more than the form department anyway but I decided to use it for the drive up to the track on Tuesday morning. That one drive changed my plan for the week. The X5 is an absolutely stunning back road cruiser and I couldn’t pull myself out of it for the rest of the week. It meant that I walked to many of the spots I would have gone in my own truck as I didn’t want to scratch the BMW, but I need the exercise anyway.
Our tester was equipped with the Executive, Technology and Audiophile packages, which means it had just about every option that has ever been devised for an automobile and likely a few that most drivers have never even thought about. From dark bamboo trim to heads up display, navi, voice controls, a killer stereo with satellite radio and much more, the 50i is a techno gadget junkie’s paradise.
While it may be redundant to say that the interior of a high end BMW is more than nice, there are a few things that must be mentioned. The 10 way adjustable power seats move in ways I’ve never experienced. The most useful is the seat back that adjusts for rake in 2 different ways and adjusts for width, ensuring the absolute best positioning for front seat passengers. In our tester, the seats are clad in black perforated Nevada leather. The fronts are heated and cooled, while the rear seats are heated as well. Perfect for keeping the spoiled chitlins from whining on a cold Ontario morning. The interior is concert hall quiet, perfect for enjoying the magnificent audio system. Overhead is a massive, 2 piece panorama sunroof that brings the outdoors in on a warm day. A nice touch is that both panels tilt, offering front and rear seat ventilation.
On the Utility side of things, the cargo area is as accommodating as one would expect in an SUV of this size. Here too, BMW has chosen a 2 part design for the tailgate. The upper section on our tester was power operated and allows for easy access to most items. The lower section is opened by an easy to operate latch and drops down to allow better loading ergonomics for larger objects.
I could go on for a couple of thousand words describing all of the cool features on the 50i, but the heart and soul of the thing is the drivetrain. Drive it like an old lady and it is a nice people mover. Add in a little more boot and the beast gently awakens and changes your perspective of SUV’s forever. Suddenly, all of the niceties aren’t so important anymore.
Working backwards from the norm for a moment, all four wheels are fed by BMW’s xDrive all wheel drive system. While all wheel drive may seem like a luxury to some, many of us consider it a necessity in snow country. In a vehicle as powerful as the X5 50i, the awd even comes into play on dry pavement if one is a little exuberant with the right pedal. A large, heavy SUV with lots of power needs a bit of help providing decent fuel economy, so BMW has fitted the 50i with an 8 speed automatic. Yes, I said 8! The unit shifts flawlessly in every driving situation. Shifts are barely perceptible during moderate driving, while more spirited driving produces crisp, smooth shifts both up and down.
Now that my attempt at creating drama is out of the way, lets get down to what makes the X5 xDrive 50i so special; The engine. Under the hood is an all aluminum, 32 valve, twin turbo V-8. The 4.8 liter, direct injected monster produces 400 horsepower and a whopping 450 lb-ft of torque, ensuring instant, stump pulling power at any speed. The performance is more fitting of a high end sports sedan than a utilitarian people mover. More so than any other SUV I’ve driven, the 50i is fun to drive!
So BMW’s drivetrain teams have stuck an 8 speed transmission on the back of a 400 horsepower V-8 in an attempt to deliver acceptable fuel economy numbers. How did they do? Surprisingly well if my week it any indication. My own 10 year old 4×4 with a 3.0l V-6 and a paltry 170 hp usually gets about 450 km from a 65l fill. Even with my rather enthusiastic right foot, 65 liters took us 473 kilometers. That works out to 13.7 l/100km, which isn’t too far off the published ratings of 12.9 l/100. While that number may sound a bit high to some folks, remember that this is a 400 horsepower vehicle that weighs 2,440 kg (5368 lb). Thinking back to my old V-6 truck, this is incredible efficiency.
Some critics flaw reviews that don’t include any negative points. Sadly, I only have one complaint about the new 2011 BMW X5 xDrive 50i and that is the fact that I won’t likely be able to afford one any time soon. A base (if you can call it that) 50i stickers for $74,300 cdn, while a loaded up version like our tester rings in at $88,500. We’ve reviewed other vehicles at this price point and quite frankly they’ve left me scratching my head wondering who would pay this much money for them. Perhaps their designers should have a look at the new X5 to see what an 80ish thousand dollar vehicle should be.