BMW X5 diesel – a smart extension of the brand

By Al Vinikour 

It never ceases to amaze me how tone deaf consumers and lawmakers have become when considering diesel power. Mention “hybrid” or “electric” or “fuel cell” and this same group will get wild in the eyes. Trying to emulate the European economy is not a good idea. Conversely, trying to duplicate Europe’s fuel choice is not a bad idea. Diesels have been around for about a century and ignoring it is like having Alex Haley as an uncle and not asking him about family history.

Consider this: where are you going to drive a 5,225-pound vehicle and achieve an EPA fuel economy estimate of 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway? Consider the 2010 BMW X5 xDrive35d, the diesel version of BMW’s popular X5 Sport Activity Vehicle.

The X5 first appeared in 2000 and the first advanced diesel X5 xDrive35d was introduced in the United States as a 2009 model (see MotorwayAmerica reviews 2009). It’s a feature-filled luxury vehicle. And no, a diesel luxury utility vehicle isn’t a Confederate Flag-laden Kenworth 18-wheeler with twin stacks and tufted-leather seats.

Outside it’s still possible to hear the familiar diesel engine rattle but it’s far from loud and obnoxious. I was able to sneak up on the Dunkin Donuts kid twice this week when he was dozing off at the drive-up window. You couldn’t do that with a twin-screw K-Whopper if you were the Rubber Duck.

The 3.0L 24-valve inline 6-cylinder dual overhead cam (DOHC) w/TwinPower Turbo technology, aluminum engine block and third-generation piezo common rail direct injection diesel is the heart and soul of this vehicle. It puts out an impressive 265 horsepower and an even more impressive torque rating of 425 pound-feet. High torque ratings have made diesels even more desirable and certainly quicker. The engine is mated to an exceptionally-smooth 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission.

The interior has all the luxury you’d expect in a BMW. Leather seating, well-laid-out instrument panel and center stack and lots of leg room in all seating rows. There is a learning curve on controls if you choose not to read the manual…and let’s be honest…who does? However, it’s not an impossible dream to master it in a few sessions in the captain’s seat so don’t be afraid.

There’s a deep center console storage box that’s located under a two-door, leather-padded arm rest. There’s also a pair of really good side-by-side, deep cupholders at the base of the center stack with good grippers – not the dash-mounted swing-out types that some engineer obviously designed during Octoberfest one year.

X5 contains the latest version of BMW’s venerable iDrive – a once-despised technology-run-wild gadget that’s been corralled in to the point that it offers an intuitive, quick method of shifting between comfort and convenience features, like audio system, temperature controls, vehicle settings, etc.

Options are shown on an 8.8” high-resolution monitor. My test vehicle did not come with the optional Navigation System nor the Head-up Display but were I to buy this vehicle – especially for the dollar segment it’s in – I’d pop for the approximately $3,000 (as part of a package) it cost for these features. This vehicle is an investment, not a grocery truck. Visibility is generally good but it could benefit immensely by having a blind-spot information system.

The ride is a little stiffer than some vehicles in this segment but that’s attributable to its parentage. When you think BMW you don’t think of a wallowing luxury car with large balloon tires. One thinks performance – and don’t forget the company’s slogan is “The ultimate driving machine.” The X5 is no exception.

Styling is eclectic. It’s not exactly designed to flow through the wind like a hot knife through butter but on the other hand it’s not a Tiger Tank roaming the Ardennes Forest, either. Other than the familial resemblance it has to its siblings – the X3 and X6 – there is no other vehicle that looks exactly like it.

It’s a head-turner but from a unique design standpoint – not for the luxury vehicle it truly is. And of course it contains the signature BMW twin-kidney grille. And to make the joy complete the headlights are self-leveling Xenon Adaptive units.

The X5 Dynamic Stability Control includes a range of new braking features: Brake Drying, Brake Stand-by, Brake Fade Compensation and Start-off Assistant. Also there’s standard Hill Descent Control and trailer stabilization.

As for ingress and egress you don’t have to be a Sherpa mountain climber to get in the X5 nor a Green Beret to repel outward. Unless you resemble Tattoo on Fantasy Island you aren’t going to have a problem. 

The base price of a 2010 BMW X5 xDrive35d is $52,025 (including $825 destination and handling). Granted, you can load one up to the tune of about $70,000, plus or minus, but how often do you get the opportunity to basically personalize a luxury vehicle? And if you’re future ever contains a BMW X5 like this one don’t forget to seriously consider ordering it with the diesel engine.

I’m convinced that someday those who do will be the brightest glow plugs on the block.


Base price: $52,025

Engine:  3.0L 24-valve inline 6 turbo-diesel

Horsepower: 265 @ 4,200 rpm

Torque: 425 pound-feet @ 1,750-2,250 rpm
Drive: AWD 

Transmission:  6-speed automatic 

Seating: 5/7

Wheelbase: 115.5 inches

Length: 191.1 inches

Curb weight: 5,225 pounds

Turning circle: 42.0  feet

Cargo capacity: 75.2 cubic feet 

Fuel capacity: 22.5 gallons (diesel)

EPA rating: 26 highway, 19 city

0-60: 6.9 seconds 

Also consider: Mercedes-Benz M-Class; Audi Q7; Porsche Cayenne; Cadillac SRX

The Good:

• Awesome power and technology
• Very smooth drivetrain

• Eats the highway for lunch

The Bad:

• Could use slight toning down of engine noise
• Vehicle in this segment should have BLIS as standard equipment

The Ugly:

• Affordability for the middle-class