BMW's base trim X5 luxury sport SUV features a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine producing 225 hp coupled with either a six-speed manual or six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. With the optional automatic transmission, Consumer Guide produced an 8.2-second 0-60 time, but found the six-speed manual stronger, almost "V8-like" (BMW claims 0 to 60 takes 7.8 seconds with the manual). It's "[s]mooth and torquey," according to Mitch McCullough.
Yet Consumer Guide commented that the 2.5-ton X5 tended to labor "in some situations" with the 3.0-liter six. Their testers averaged 14.8 mpg with the automatic-equipped X5. Reviewers found the six-speed manual and its clutch a bit tricky to use and recommend the automatic.
All X5s are equipped with BMW's xDrive, a full-time all-wheel-drive system, and Dynamic Stability Control, which incorporates electronic brake proportioning, traction control, Hill Descent Control, and an electronic stability program. xDrive electronically controls a multi-disc central clutch that starts with a 40/60 front/rear torque split and integrates the Dynamic Stability Control system to quickly adjust torque and traction front, rear, and laterally.
Reviewers report seamless, transparent functioning that results in "sports car handling," or as near as you can get with the X5's 2.5-ton weight and height factors. Of course, the near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution helps, as does the excellent BMW steering. The X5's huge ventilated four-wheel disc brakes are strong and fade free - no surprise, as BMW has "incorporated every electronic trick known to man" in this brake system.
As befits a BMW product, the interior is business-like but luxurious. Leatherette (vinyl) is the standard upholstery in the 3.0i. There are touches of wood or aluminum, and the soft plastic surfaces have the feel of leather. And as befits a BMW, the front seats are firm and supportive and almost infinitely adjustable. Rear seats are also comfortable with a recline feature.
Cargo space, however, is not up to SUV standards, being no better than that of a 5 Series wagon. Maximum cargo space is 54.5 cubic feet with the rear seats down; up, there's only 23.8 cubic feet. The 40/60 rear-seat split helps, but the height of the rear cargo floor makes loading more difficult than with a wagon. Reviewers, however, do like the "dutch-door" split of the rear hatch with a window that opens independently upward and a tailgate that drops down.
The 2006 X5 is one of the safest vehicles ever tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the 40-mph offset crash test. As a result the Institute rated it a "Best Pick" for safety. In addition to the specially designed energy dissipation unibody, the front seats get frontal airbags, side thorax airbags, and curtain head protection bags, which extend to protect the outside rear passengers.
Big, fast, luxurious, with a 6000-pound tow rating - yet some reviewers wanted more, like more cargo capacity. But it seems that those twin kidneys are all that matter to most buyers.