The sporting credentials of BMW’s X5 have never been in question — but its utility credentials often left a bit to be desired.
Prospective buyers who needed third-row seating had to look elsewhere. And the original X5’s cargo-carrying ability was not much of an improvement over a typical mid-size sedan. So although it could leave most mid-sized SUVs tumbling end over end if they even tried to hold the same line in a high-speed corner, the X5 couldn’t hold as much gear or as many people.
It’s no surprise that the new ’07 X5 is bigger (though at first glance, it’s hard to tell, so subtle are the alterations to wheelbase and sheetmetal), can be ordered with third-row seating, and now comes with a much stronger 260-horsepower standard engine. Too, its upgrade V-8 has been punched out to 4.8 liters and 350 horses from last year’s 4.4-liter, 315-hp engine.
What is surprising is that the X5’s sports car–quality handling characteristics have not been hobbled by any of these changes. It’s typical that as a vehicle grows in size and becomes more “mainstream” and “family friendly,” it also becomes more like the typical middle-aged clientele that needs mainstream and family-friendly vehicles. Once-sharp reflexes and a firm suspension set up for enthusiast drivers are swapped for drop-down DVD entertainment systems for the kids and power-operated toys for the grown-ups.
The X5 has an abundance of the latter, including a “simplified” version of the infamous iDrive mouse controller (more on that below), available heads-up display and an electrically activated gear shifter similar to the system first used on the 7-Series sedan (more on that below, also).
But as I experienced firsthand during two days of flogging
new X5s (both the base six-cylinder powered 3.0si and the V-8 X5 4.8i) on some