Consumer Guide will put the 2008 BMW X5 4.8i through its paces during our yearlong test.
Most SUVs focus on the "Utility" part of the designation rather than the "Sport" aspect. BMW is an exception. The company doesn't even call its X5 wagon a sport-utility vehicle. Rather, its term is "Sports Activity Vehicle" with an emphasis on "sport."
In addition to seeing how a very sporty SUV stands up to everyday driving, we are also taking this opportunity to see what it's like to live with BMW's controversial iDrive system. Perhaps using it on a daily basis over the course of a year will give us an appreciation for this oft-panned control scheme that governs our X5's audio, climate, and navigation systems.
Over the course of a year, each editor drives approximately 200 new cars and trucks. Most vehicles are evaluated over a two-week period; some are evaluated for six to 12 months. The vehicles we drive for this extended period of time are called Long-Term Testers.We are putting the top-line 4.8i model through its paces. Its 350-horsepower 4.8-liter V8 engine provides outstanding thrust, though smooth launches from a stop are complicated by non-linear throttle response. Our test vehicle rides very firmly, too much so for some of our testers. The tradeoff is handling response that puts X5 at the head of the premium-midsize-SUV class.
Inside, our test model shows solid assembly quality with materials that are generally appropriate for the price. We're not crazy about the overly sensitive obstacle detection system and the shrill beeps it emits. And iDrive? Some of our editors are warming up to it. One is even going so far as to call it "handy" once you become familiar with its operation. Others still feel it's too much of a nuisance to be practical for everyday use. Front-seat accommodations are first rate. The 2nd-row bench isn't all that spacious for two adults, let alone three, and the 3rd row is strictly for tykes.
As it sits now, X5 is creating more division among our testers than most vehicles. Some believe its tremendous power, excellent handling, and overall sense of refinement more than make up for its shortcomings. Others feel the hard ride, overabundance of technology, hefty fuel thirst, and steep pricing make it a questionable value. Time will tell if more people will warm up to this outside-the-box SUV.
Body Style: 4-door wagon Model: 4.8i Engine: 350-horsepower 4.8-liter V8 Transmission: 6-speed automatic Base Price: $54,500 Price As Tested: $64,070 Major Options: Third-row seat, Cold Weather Package (heated front seats, heated steering wheel, ski sack, headlight washers), Premium Package (BMW Assist, wireless cell phone link, automatic day/night mirrors, cargo net), Technology Package (front- and rear-obstacle detection, navigation system, rear-view camera, real-time traffic information), HD Radio Total Measured Miles: 9,497 Consumer Guide Observed Fuel Economy: 16.3 mpg Problems During Test: The driver's floormat anchor has pulled out of the floor.
Editors' Comments Tom Appel: X5 is full-time fun, part-time ute. It's expensive, overly firm riding, inexcusably thirsty, and I love it. Shopping for power, freakishly (for a truck) tight handling, traffic-friendly SUV ride height, all-wheel drive, and bonus cargo and passenger space when you need it? I got your ride right here. John Biel: The X5 can't seem to decide if it wants to be an SUV or a sport wagon. Fully committed to the former, it might have better 2nd- and 3rd-row seating. Fully committed to the latter, it probably wouldn't weigh nearly 5000 pounds. Fully committed to either, it could be worth its price. Jennifer Geiger: Yes, X5 4.8i is pin-you-in-your-seat fast, but it's also burn-a-hole-in-your-pocket thirsty. I also just can't get past its overall fussiness. iDrive takes some getting used to and is impossible to operate while focusing on the road. The overly annoying and distracting park assist function is easy to shut off, but comes back each time you put X5 in reverse. Those issues, coupled with too-touchy brakes and too-stiff steering make me want to take my $64,070 and shop elsewhere for a premium midsize SUV--or save $20,000+ and get a loaded Hyundai Veracruz instead. Ed Piotrowski: I've always had a thing for fast SUVs, and the X5 4.8i fits the bill quite nicely. This BMW has the added bonus of having more subtlety than a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 or Porsche Cayenne. It's not cheap, either in terms of its MSRP or its need for premium gas, but X5 delivers the performance, luxury, and versatility one can expect of a high-end hot-rod wagon. Don Sikora: The X5 has some sport, but there seems to be too many compromises so it doesn't have all that much utility. It is roughly the same size as a Chevrolet TrailBlazer (and nearly 500 pounds heavier), but the X5's interior is noticeably smaller than that in the body-on-frame construction Chevy. In particular, the X5 isn't comfortable for more than two adults, which seems incredible in a vehicle this size. Beyond the wonderfully strong but very thirsty engine, it didn't feel all that sporty to me either. Jack Stewart: The X5 is big on the outside, but small inside. The X3 would be a much better choice.
The 4.8i model is powered by a 350-horsepower 4.8-liter V8.