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2005 BMW X5 Test Drive Review

Now half a decade old, the 2005 BMW X5 continues to set standards for what a performance-oriented luxury SUV can be.

7.2 /10
Overall Score

A midsize 5-passenger SUV, the 2005 BMW X5 comes in 3.0i, 4.4i, and 4.8is model series, each equipped with a different engine. After a significant freshening for 2004, the 2005 X5 gets just a few changes for 2005. Automatic climate control is standard this year, new wood trim selections are available, and the 4.4i gains parking sensors.

Look and Feel

8/ 10

Though the BMW X5 has been on American roads for years, it can still cause a double-take as you reconcile traditional design cues like the kidney grilles, round headlights, L-shaped taillights, and classic Hofmeister kink applied to an SUV. Last year’s design updates certainly upgraded the appearance, and the new X5 4.8is looks terrific with its 20-inch wheels and sporty design cues.

BMW takes a traditional no-nonsense approach to the X5’s interior. A layered dashboard presents crystal-clear instrumentation, and high-quality materials are the rule. Controls on the steering wheel, as well as dashboard buttons and knobs, provide access to all functions and features.


8/ 10

The BMW X5 3.0i has a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine making 225 horsepower. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, with a 6-speed automatic available as an option. The company’s xDrive all-wheel-drive (AWD) system is standard.

Given that an X5 weighs about 4,650 pounds, you’re probably going to want the X5 4.4i, which is equipped with a 315-hp 4.4-liter V8 engine. It comes standard with a 6-speed automatic and xDrive.

For the best performance, choose the X5 4.8is. Its 4.8-liter V8 supplies a healthy 355 hp and gets the power to ground through a 6-speed automatic, xDrive, and huge 20-inch wheels wrapped in performance-oriented tires. It also gets bigger brakes to get this version of the X5 quickly hauled down from speed.

BMW uses a 4-wheel-independent suspension in the X5, with an available air suspension with automatic rear leveling. It offers 7.1 inches of ground clearance, which does limit the SUV’s capability off-road. But the X5 is most rewarding when driven on pavement.

For an SUV, the X5 drives more like a sports sedan than a sports utility, especially when equipped with one of the V8 engines. It is exceptionally stable at speed, a good thing since a 4.8is can nearly reach 150 mph. But in spite of sharp, precise steering and faithful brakes, there’s no getting around the X5’s hefty curb weight and taller center of gravity when the road ahead is twisty instead of straight.

If you’re looking for utility combined with maximum driving pleasure, you’re better off with a BMW 5 Series wagon.

Form and Function

8/ 10

As is typical of a German luxury vehicle, the BMW X5 has firm, supportive seats designed for all-day comfort instead of temporary, mushy plushness. There is plenty of room for four people, with room for a fifth when needed.

Cargo space, however, is paltry for such a large vehicle. This SUV holds just 23.8 cubic feet of luggage behind the backseat and up to 54.4 cubic feet of cargo with the backseat folded down. These figures are less than the BMW 5 Series wagon.

Standard equipment highlights include 17-inch wheels, leatherette upholstery, 8-way power-adjustable front seats, remote keyless entry, and automatic climate control. The X5 4.4i is equipped with 18-inch wheels, leather seats, and an air suspension with rear self-leveling. The X5 4.8is gets the most powerful engine, larger brakes, and 20-inch wheels.

BMW offers several option packages and stand-alone upgrades, depending on the model. The Sport Package is popular, adding a sport-tuned suspension, sport seats, and larger wheels. A panoramic sunroof is available, along with triple-zone climate control, heated front and rear seats, and a heated power tilt and telescopic steering wheel.

Tech Level

8/ 10

The X5’s standard stereo includes a CD player and 10 speakers, and the SUV includes a trip computer and a driver information center. A 12-speaker premium sound system is available, as well as a satellite navigation system and BMW Assist, a telematics service providing automatic collision notification and SOS emergency calling. BMW also offers a CD changer for the X5, but you cannot get Bluetooth hands-free calling capability.


8/ 10

Every BMW X5 has antilock brakes, stability control, and a full complement of airbags including dual front-impact, side-impact for the front and rear seats, and side curtain airbags. Upgrades include a BMW Assist system offering automatic collision notification and an SOS emergency call button, and visibility aids include optional parking sensors and a set of adaptive headlights that swivel with the steering to help drivers see around corners.

As far as crash-test ratings go, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the X5 5-star ratings in all but side-impact protection for the driver. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the X5 as Good in the moderate-overlap frontal-impact test, but the seats and head restraints are rated Poor.


3/ 10

Expensive and inefficient, a BMW X5 is not a cost-effective way to carry five people and cargo. And with just 7.1 inches of ground clearance, it’s not terribly capable off-road, either. As nice as this SUV is, and as good as it is to drive, the BMW X5 exists for just one reason. You want an SUV, not a station wagon.

Updated by Christian Wardlaw

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