We’ve yet to meet a carmaker that regretted joining the SUV club, and the BMW X5 is a perfect example of why. Originally considered a "heretic" by us in our review of the first generation more than 13 years ago, the vehicle became an instant sales success. Its sporting credentials were strongly upgraded with the second generation for 2007, which was also given the full-fledged M treatment and, in Europe, as a tri-turbo M Performance diesel version.
For the first time in the history of the X5, and right from the market launch, BMW will also offer a rear-wheel-drive model—that’s the somewhat clumsily named sDrive35i. This version breaks with the dogma of offering only all-wheel-drive versions on the X5, as BMW seems to have realized that the off-pavement activities of most X5s are restricted to the negotiation of gravel driveways.
All engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Its behavior—as well as that of the chassis—is governed by a number of settings bracketed by the efficiency-loving "Eco Pro" and aggressive “Sport+” modes. The former can decouple the driveline when the driver lifts off the accelerator without hitting the brakes, as well as tailor the climate control and heated seats for maximum energy savings. Sport+ heightens shift and throttle response, firms up the optional adjustable suspension, and remaps the steering. There are also Normal and Sport modes.
By default, the chassis is tailored to please those who like a little spice in their driving experience, but it can be further enhanced. As mentioned, adjustable dampers are available, as is an M Sport suspension. But the pinnacle of performance is reached with the Dynamic Handling package, which incudes an active anti-roll system and, on xDrive models, a torque-vectoring function for the rear diff. The standard electric power steering is available with an active steering program that adjusts the steering ratio according to the vehicle's speed. With the X5, autonomous driving has essentially arrived: Traffic Jam Assistant will be available starting in December and not only controls the vehicle's speed during stop-and-go traffic but also keeps it centered in its lane.
Being a modern BMW, an ultra-sophisticated telematics and driver information system is par for the course. It features a navigation system with real-time traffic info and suggestions for when to take your foot off the accelerator; mobile-office functions and BMW's own apps are also included. The apps allow the driver to access essential motoring tools such as Twitter and Facebook, but only if he or she owns an iPhone. In BMW's world, Android-wielding lowlifes need not apply. When equipped with all-wheel drive, the X5’s screen informs occupants of vehicle roll and pitch and displays a compass, lest you get lost in the galleria parking structure.
Thanks to: Car and Driver