They say the longer the job title, the smaller the job. In the automotive world, the longer the model name, the more hype, money and technology involved. For those of you new to this game, the BMW X5 xDrive 35d is BMW’s biggest SUV with all wheel-drive and a diesel engine. (No, it’s not a 3.5-liter powerplant, but alphanumerics outpaced pedantry a long time ago.) No matter what you call it, I’m an unabashed fan of the modern diesel-powered vehicle. With diesel more expensive that gas, and an intimate understanding of the overarching importance of depreciation, it’s not diesel’s fuel-efficiency that flicks my wick. I enjoy the beefy, progressive power delivery. The X5 xDrive 35d may be a belated entry into the diesel SUV market, but it’s no slacker underfoot.
BMW makes the world’s best straight six cylinder engines. This 3.0-liter oil burner builds on that reputation. Packing 265 horsepower and a thundering 425 pound feet of torque, the 35d motivates the 5,225 pound X5 from rest to 60 miles per hour in less than seven seconds– whilst delivering 26 miles per gallon on the highway. Using Detroit’s favorite mpg calculation, the 22.5 gallon tank could take you nearly 600 miles between fill ups. And you might even get chuckgoolsbee to provide some cheap, homebrewed biofuel.
The 35d’s oil burner’s blessed with a brace of blowers, and comes complete with all the usual BMW jiggery pokery (e.g. an aluminum engine block and third-generation piezo common rail direct injection). After an initial flat spot, the big ass Bimmer’s thrust arrives without a hiccup across the [admittedly short] rev range. In fact, the diesel engine is more lag-less (less lagged?) than the world-beating 3.0-liter twin turbo gas engine offered in the X6, while delivering 24 percent better fuel economy than the normally aspirated xDrive 30i.
In case I didn’t make myself clear: this is one sweetheart of an engine. BMW only offers it in the 3-Series sedan and the X5. Neither would be my vehicle of choice; the 3-Series sedan is too small and the X5 is too porky.
That said, the X5 xDrive 35d handles better than any 2.6 ton machine ought. As long as you deploy the word “relatively,” you could even say it’s fun to drive. Though grabby, the brakes are endlessly capable, lending confidence in all situations. The transmission lever is incredibly obnoxious from an aesthetic POV, but it works with admirable intuitiveness. The steering is weighty and confident at speed, but too heavy at parking lot velocities.
Most of the 35d’s operating controls felt unduly stiff, imparting a feeling of durability without the usual oil-dampened grace. The 35d’s doors closed with an impressive thunk, but the two piece clam shell trunk lid made a “ping” sound that suggested that Stuttgart is a long, long away from Spartenberg. The motors powering the electrically adjustable steering wheel were noisy and slow in their operation. Don’t get me started on the quality and comfort of the seats. The cows which donated their hides to the X5 must have led a horrible life, ate sandpaper or mated with lizards. In terms of comfort and support, even a boozed-up bum would find a park bench a better bet.
The 35d’s outward visibility is panoramic; why then are the blind spots so prominent? In addition, the 35d feels overly wide; narrow city streets are a genuine bother. Despite the vehicle’s girth, the use of interior space was no better than average.
I invited my wife to join me in evaluating the diesel X5, since she is more of the target for this kind of vehicle than I. On first blush, she felt the step in height was too high and complained that the side panels nicked her in the shins (the 35d’s optional running boards would have only exacerbated this situation). Next she complained about those hard, flat seats. To my surprise, she also objected to the large glass area, which made her feel exposed and vulnerable. When she felt the stiff steering at low speed and heard the sound of the diesel engine, she was convinced Lexus had a better alternative.
Admittedly, there is a bit more diesel clatter at idle than I would have expected. Worse, compared with the RX400 she covets, the X5 diesel is less fuel efficient (particularly in city driving) and diesel fuel is dearer. So much for the coveted female audience.
Again, I reckon BMW put this superb engine in the wrong car. TTAC’s own, Alex Dykes has written-up the many fine Euro-wagon options available here in America. We just need to wake up and remember our station wagon roots; the first time I kissed a girl was in the third seat of a gigantic Oldsmobile station wagon facing the wrong way for the entire world to see. I miss the wagon days and I don’t need a crossover to make me feel like a real man. A BMW xDrive 35d 5-Series Wagon would stretch the boundaries of mnemonics, but it would stand a better chance in the diesel-aversive U.S. market.