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BMW X5 Road and Track Test

10/24/2006

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Its my last lap of the BMW performance driving center test track. Ive been going hard for about the last three hours memorizing the track, learning the abilities of my vehicle. I come flying onto the straight, slapping the shifter back twice as I hit the 6,500 rpm redline. I leave my braking for the last corner as late as I dare, smacking the electronic shifter forward twice to enter the corner in 2nd. The engine gives off an acoustically pleasing, electronically induced throttle blip for each gear down shifted. I lift off the brake as the back end gets light, and then I can feel all the electronics and hydraulics taking effect, trying exceptionally hard to keep the vehicle in the straightest line possible. Yes, I have the DSC turned off so I can get the wheel spin Im looking for, but this doesnt stop the adjustable dampers and active sway bars from working overtime to make up for its absence. Then the variable xDrive AWD system begins to compensate power to all four wheels in a final attempt to keep me honest.

But I have a couple tricks up my sleeve and once I settle into a very slight over steering drift, I then dab my left foot on the brake and hammer the throttle to hold the drift through the racing line. Im out of the corner feeling quite proud of myself... Ive finally overcome all the engineers hard work by taking the newest Bimmer to its absolute limit. I then exit the track where a BMW performance driving instructor flags me down before heading for the parking lot. "Wow, your really giving it hard to that X5 man!" Thats when reality smacked me across the face and I realized I was driving an SUV, and not what could have easily been mistaken for as a 5 Series sedan. No, the vehicle I was giving an absolute flogging too was actually a soccer moms chariot.

Entering Spartanburg South Carolina one thing becomes quickly apparent, there seems to be a lot of Bimmers around. Being a southern American state, I half expected to be surrounded by Detroit muscle and full-size pickup trucks with gun racks in their rear windows. Of course, Spartanburg is BMWs U.S. plant location, hence all the BMWs everywhere, a location the German automaker chose for the North American launch of its all-new X5.

When BMW unveils a new vehicle, chances are good it wont just make minor upgrades to improve the product amongst its industry rivals. No, BMW is the manufacturer that every competitor looks to when deciding where their products should be heading. So it came as no surprise that the brands execs, designers and engineers carpet bombed me with the improvements made to the new 2007 X5. I could have talked to engineers for days on end, learning about all the work that has been injected into it.

Like so many BMWs before it, the Bavarians have turned the X5 into the most technologically advanced SUV on the market in order to keep a couple of steps ahead of the crowd. Thats just what Germans love to do, no? I could easily write a five thousand word essay of the attention to detail spent on technological enhancements to the vehicles many luxury and convenience appointments, but Ill try to keep it short and to the point.

DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) and the xDrive AWD system is carried over from other BMW models. AdaptiveDrive which includes electro-hydraulically controlled sway bars, adaptive dampers and active steering has also been implemented. This system senses and adjusts suspension and steering components when drivers get aggressive. When the tires begin to loose traction, camber, steering angle, dampening and sway forces are all electronically adjusted every 0.1 seconds to give all wheels maximum grip on the road.

When stepping inside a BMW, the interior styling and materials always exude class and refinement. The new X5 is skinned with high-grade leathers, as well as authentic aluminum and walnut trim. The shifter is well placed and a good fat steering wheel gives great feel of the road and chassis. You can always count on a BMW interior to be a perfect mix between luxury and sport, and the new X5 does not disappoint.

The biggest change from last years X5 is the addition of third row seating, thanks to an increase by 7.4 inches in length and 2.4 inches in width. Folded flat into the rear, two additional seats can be flipped up to accommodate two extra children, or small adults depending on the length of travel. However, to use the seats the parcel shelf must be removed from the vehicle as there is no real storage space for the shelfs retractor. This becomes a problem when on the road if picking up people on the fly.

The second row seats are still as spacious and comfortable as usual and rear passengers are treated to their own DVD system, with audio and navigation displayed on an 8-inch screen located in the center console.

What would a BMW be without the infamous iDrive system? In the new X5, the improved system makes things less complicated with the addition of "favorite function" buttons in a separate console below the climate control. These buttons contain stored information the driver frequently uses, and can be accessed without scrolling through the entire iDrive system. To help keep a drivers eyes on the road, a touch sensitive feature is employed that displays the favorites menu on screen by simply grazing your finger over the buttons. You then pick the favourite you want by pressing the button the computer senses under your finger. Whew, pretty high-tech stuff.

Its good to see that all the technology doesnt stop at the chassis and interior, not to mention the engine that benefits from several ground breaking innovations such as VALVTRONIC intake induction. Both the 3.0- and 4.8-liter engines use this valvetrain instead of throttle bodies to control the amount of air-fuel mixture injected into the combustion chamber. This improves fuel economy and emission as well as enhancing throttle response. Magnesium alloys have also been incorporated in the crank case and other areas to make the new engine 22 pounds lighter. Other improvements include the use of 4-into-1 exhaust manifolds and BMWs VANOS variable valve timing, upping the engines performance.

Automobile.com









BMW X5 Road and Track Test
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