The BMW X5 4.8i has a dual personality. It’s like they took the soul of a performance sport coupe and transplanted in into an SUV. This comes courtesy of the hefty V8 engine, the choice in transmissions and the sheer eggheadry of the all-wheel drive system.
The engine’s quiet, so at first you may not notice there’s a grizzly bear beneath the hood. Eight cylinders and 32 valves are efficiently tempered by the Motronic ME 9.2.3 engine management system. But it’s a beast, releasing 350 horses onto the road at 6300 rpm.
To get the most from that bear, use the Steptronic transmission. A simple set of hand switches, it may not be as fun as your traditional stick but, once you’re used to it, it’s easily as efficient if not more so.
Accelerating hard in low gears gets you to the front of the pack lickety-split. It moves from 0 to 100Km in 6.8 seconds – impressive enough, but remember this is a 2360 kg truck. There’s 350 lb-ft of torque at 3400 rpm. (Specs indicate a top speed of 210 kph but, for the sake of insurance rates, my lawyers insist I didn’t put that number to the test).
Given all this power, you’ll be paying at the gas pumps. Even the most efficient big engines are still big. The X5 drinks a goodly 15.9 L/100km in the city and 10.2 on the highway.
Now, for a big surprise, accelerate hard in the turns. You’d think you were in a performance sedan, not an SUV. xDrive, the 4-wheel drive system, laughs in the face of physics – there’s so much happening here to keep you balanced. It sends power to both axles and modulates torque where there’s slippage without you necessarily even knowing. If there’s any excessive wheelspin, xDrive automatically employs the brake there, regaining traction – re-establishing stability and direction.
Style, make that lifestyle
When you’re paying well over $70,000, you expect some decent gewgaws. The X5 4.8i doesn’t disappoint. They’ve spent time thinking about the grace notes. For instance, a little flycatcher rises when you open the sunroof. Drop the sunvisor to open the vanity mirror; presto, a light goes on in front of a magnifying mirror, so you can see your crow’s feet and nose hairs.
Even the paint job is surprising. A ruby black that turns dark red in the sun.
The interactive iDrive system controls most other systems. Some reviewers hated it, finding it unnecessarily complicated – I got it almost instantly. It’s a fun, intuitive system, whose design is nostalgically reminiscent of an old turntable. Fiddle with everything from the inner climate to your destination plan to your iPod.
I also got used to the keyless entry fast. Provided the keys are on your person, slide a finger across tiny parallel lines on the door handle and the doors lock. Put your hand in it and they unlock.
There’s supple leather throughout the interior. The scent from the steering wheel lingers in your palms long after a drive that you’ve thoroughly participated in – even from this high up.
If you have the money – most especially the money for fuel – you’re in for a treat.
Type of drive: Front engine all-wheel drive
Engine: DOHC V8 32V
Power: 350 hp @ 6300 rpm, 350 lb-ft torque @ 3400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with Steptronic
Brakes: Inner vented disc brakes, front and rear
Fuel Consumption: 15.9 L/100km city, 10.2 L/100km highway
M Aerodynamic Package Includes:
Unique Rocker Panels
Extended Wheels Arches
Aluminum Satin Window Surround and Roof Rails
20″ V-Spoke Alloy Wheels (with Runflat Performance Tires F: 275/40 R20 / R: 315/35 R20)
3-Spoke M Multi-FunctionLeather Sport Steering Wheels
3rd Row Seats
Premium Package Includes:
LOGIC7 Hi-Fi Sound System
Technology Package Includes:
Rear View Camera
BMW On-Board Navigation
Head Up Display
Canada-US Navigation DVD
Premium Sound Package Includes:
HiFi Sound System Professional
USB Audio Integration
Price: Base MSRP $73,500
As tested: $94,900.00