X5 4.8i Review

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz

The vast majority of today’s SUVs and CUVs share the same modus operandi. They’re good for a bus, bad for a car. They’re thirsty, overpriced, overweight and over here. Most now come complete with a market-mandatory third row that’s as about useful as a werewolf at Trader Vic’s. So when I read BMW’s characteristically modest tagline for their new X5 SUV CUV SAV on their official website– “Room for everything except improvement”– I considered myself an honorary Missourian. Ultimate driving machine on stilts? Show me.

The X5 is the very model of a major modern BMW that quotes the stance historical. It’s a tremendously busy design, festooned with strange shapes and littered with unexpected creases and lines. Despite die Bangle Boyz’ attempt to transform the Bimmer’s two-box SUV shape into something more exotic, the marginally longer, taller and wider X5 still looks like a two-box SUV tweaked to look like something exotic. The rear remains especially boxy, tilting its posterior upwards in a distinctly French sort of way. In sum, from twenty feet away, the X5 looks handsome enough.

Stepping inside the X5 is like stepping into a VIP suite at the Bellagio. BMW’s draped and slathered the cabin in thoroughly decadent materials. My tester’s buttery dark brown Tobacco leather (the X5 is built in the Carolinas, after all) is the business. The switches, buttons and mellifluous stereo are sybaritic enough to satiate Audi-ophiles. Trillion-direction adjustable seats flatter the high roller's heiny. There’s a backup camera, heads-up display, a nifty electronic gear-shift lever and enough mouse driven gadgets and alphabet soup safety systems to shame an Airbus. Who could ask for anything more?

Of course my tester weighed-in at $70k. So yeah, you’d better feel like freakin’ royalty inside. In the back, serfs up! Or is that Smurfs? BMW recommends restricting the third row to passengers shorter than 5’7”. Lop another couple inches off that estimation (not literally) and it’s so true it hurts. Still.

The X5 is a full-figured kinda gal, tipping the scales at 5300lbs. Faced with motivating one so heavy, BMW didn’t dick around. The BMW X5 4.8i packs some serious heat. Its state-of-the-art V8 engine blasts-out 350hp @ 6300 rpm and 350 ft.-lbs. of torque @3400 rpm. The powerplant’s Valvetronic system works in conjunction with continuously variable valve lift control to eliminate the traditional throttle and help the engine breathe more easily. Double-VANOS then allows it to steplessly…

Snap the X5’s funky shift lever into manumatic, hold the six-speed autobox in first gear and mash the go-pedal. Two things happen. First, your backside notices how comfortable the seat is. Not for sitting. As a backstop. Second, the big bore V8 rips, snorts, and then rip-snorts down the road. At some point, the engine bellows and screams, filling the cabin with aural menace. The X5 4.8i sprints from rest to 60mph in the low six second range.

You know when they say, doh! I could ‘a had a V8? THIS is the V8 they’re talking about. Just like the old M5, BMW’s burbling bastard just begs to be beaten. To keep the universe in order, to fund the oil companies’ stockholders, you must oblige.

It gets better. On sinewy woodland B-roads, I could easily keep pace with two BMW cabrios, a 650i and 335i. Cough. Yes, my X5 4.8i came equipped with the $3600 Sport Package, blessing it with 19” alloys, Active Roll Stabilization and Electronic Dampening Control. Anyone with an ounce of petrol in their veins will order their X5 this way. The package kept the beast in line as though it was a vehicle half its size, while BMW’s e-nannies let you moon Sir Isaac Newton and flip off gravity.

Again, I don’t like SUVs. Unless I’m heading off-road or towing something heavy, I’d rather put my bike on a train and collect some carbon credits at the other end. As a jobbing auto journo, I have a hard time recommending any vehicle that gets 15/21 [yeah right] mpg. And now that BMW is rolling out an AWD 5-Series station wagon with the automaker’s magnificent turbo I6, it’s hard to make a case for BMW’s politically incorrect gas-guzzling locomotive-on-stilts.

But not impossible. Its own twisted way, the BMW X5 4.8i makes perfect sense. It’s got all the utility of the station wagon PLUS seating for you, four friends, and two employees from Willy Wonka’s factory. Inside, it’s Kubla Khan’s pleasure dome elevated for extra visibility, and that feeling of superiority no pavement scraper can deliver. The X5’s also got all-wheel drive for the snow. And then, then there’s that monster under the hood.

Yeah, that’s it: the engine. The V8’s the thing wherein BMW will capture the heart of a king. I guess they showed me.

Justin Berkowitz
Justin Berkowitz

Immensely bored law student. I've also got 3 dogs.

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  • Gsp Gsp on Feb 10, 2008

    I took delivery of an X5 3.0si about a month ago. About 1000 miles on it so far. Thoughts are as follows: - no problems with mechanicals so far, but have been driving it carefully during break in - fit and finish inside are impeccable - this is most of the way to a current gen 7 series - get the sport package which gives Adaptive Drive in the US (Canada gets screwed and has to order the $5k Dynamic Drive and is forced to take Active Steering for this option.) this SUV handles very, very well with this system - the iDrive drives critics mad - i like the system - the germans should leave the software to somebody else, but once you get used to it, the system works well... i have the USB option and don't even bother with the ipod as a USB stick is much cheaper and you can buy a new one when the bigger ones come out - my blackberry cell phone works very well with the bluetooth system - sound quality is great, people don't know they are on speakerphone at all - music fades when a call come in - talking with this system is a pleasure - the exterior fit and finish have some issues - generally my 323i from 1999 is better built on the outside - on the roof i noticed during my first waxing that there was some dark paint that ran about an inch from the sunroof area - pretty bad that this would be missed by BMW on a 60k car - the fuel filler door is not square, the front quarter panels are plastic, which is OK except they don't follow either the hood OR the door very well - the aluminum hood is cool, but you must be very careful with it or you will bend it - hoods are made of two pieces, the underside piece is not even with the top one, so it looks OK when closed, but looks like poor manufatruing when looking at the underside - unlike other german products (and BMW in particular) the cup holders are great - the basic sound system sounds good - i am an audiophile and think that all car systems sound horrible so thus i skipped the audio upgrade - the sound is better than my 323i upgraded system that cost me $1000 - the run flats haven't bugged me so far - but i will probably put regular tires on after they are used up - X5 without third row seating gets a compact spare setup (the only model that BMW do this with) - speaking of the third row, at $1800 for the odd time that anybody would (or should) have used it, i will pay them for a taxi - the engine is a gem, like all BMW inline sixes - this one has a (another BMW first) part magnesium part aluminum block - it is the lightest inline six engine on the road - an argument can be made that it is a more advanced engine than the TT 3.0, which still has the older inline six block - this light engine (350 lbs!) up front means that this will handle better than the V8 or the diesel that is on the way (the diesel has a steel black as all diesels must - HOWEVER - if you are a speed demon, which i am not - this engine may disappoint Generally this is a great car. Some people have had issues with it off the lot, but CR still has it as a recommended car. The dynamics of this car are simply far better than the competition. Adaptive Drive does not have an equal with any other SUV on the road. This is a tank. It is very safe. My insurance premium dropped 10% from my 1999 323i which is only worth US$8k at this point. The agent stated that injury claims are very low with X5's. One last point. Some people hate SUV's. Generally I was of the same attitude. However, in the BMW and Mercedes lineup, the wagons cost more than the SUV's and have less options. This was the deciding factor for me as I need the space, and I wanted (horrors!) a big safe car. I will update again after more experience with it.

  • Jstnspin82 Jstnspin82 on Nov 24, 2008

    The new X5 is very appealing, has smooth lines, and great performance. The new facelift takes styling cues from the M5 and sort a screams get the hell out of my way. While many do not like the new looks of BMW I think they are modern yet timeless. I like the new looks and you can always rely on the engineering and performance because BMW are the experts. Although the off road capabilities are not up to par with some others I think BMW will master that aspect in time. They have always been at the top for there all wheel drive in sedans and that engineering will flow more into the X5 as time goes by. The X drive handles very well on and off road on rocky terrain and dirt roads. It's just not a vehicle to climb the rocky mountains or ford huge rivers like a Land Rover but I don't think is aimed at that segment and if it were, given BMW's reputation it would be right up there with Land Rover. I am anxious to see where BMW takes there off road engineering with the X5 as well as the X6, especially with a need for alternative fuels and bio diesels which BMW is currently working on and have a Diesel out now for the X5 and 3 series for 2009.

  • Bob65688581 We bought zillions of German cars, despite knowing about WWII slave labor. Refusing to buy something for ideological reasons is foolish.Both the US and the EU have imposed tariffs, so the playing field is level. I'll buy the best price/quality, regardless of nationality.Another interesting question would be "Would you buy one of the many new European moderate-price EVs?" but of course they aren't sold here.Third interesting question: "Why won't Stellantis sell its best products in America?"
  • Freshblather No. Worried there will be malicious executable code built into the cars motherboard that could disable the Chinese cars in the event of hostilities between the west and China.
  • Bd2 Absolutely not - do not want to support a fascist, totalitarian regime.
  • SCE to AUX The original Capri was beautiful. The abomination from the 90s was no Capri, and neither is this.It looks good, but too similar to a Polestar. And what's with the whacked price?
  • Rover Sig Absolutely not. Ever.