BMWBLOG headed to Vancouver to test drive the new 2014 BMW X5 xDrive50i and 2014 BMW X5 xDrive30d
I stumbled out of the front of the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in downtown Vancouver, still in a jet-lagged stupor, to find an interesting sight across the street: dozens of 2014 BMW F15 chassis X5s lining the road, ready to greet their drivers. Under the soft morning light, the line X5s stood out against the modern architecture of the subway station behind it – half the cars in Space Gray and half the cars in Mineral White.
Feeling economical, my driving partner and I loaded up our gear into the expansive rear space of the new-for-2014 BMW X5 xDrive30d and hit the road for our first destination – a mountain just north of the 2010 Winter Olympics: Whistler Blackcomb. Upon reaching Whistler, we would be treated to a mild offroading exercise to reveal the more hairy-chested persona of BMW’s latest SAV offering.
Heaving up into the Ivory leather interior, it was immediately apparent at how far forward BMW have moved the luxury feel of the X5. Gone is the awkward split level dash used to accommodate the embedded iDrive screen – replaced by a lovely, cross-stitched dash with layers of leather that flow better with interior lines surrounding the raised, glowing 10.25 inch iDrive control screen. To add further ambiance to the interior, BMW have subtly lined the dash, doors and footwells in LED light. The driver has the option to cycle through any one of the three colors of orange, blue or white depending upon your mood. Yes, Ford did something similar with the Mustang but the application in the new X5 feels far more subdued and upscale – not unlike the ritzy bar at the hotel in which we were staying!
Driving Impressions of 2014 BMW X5 xDrive30d
Thumbing the start button, the X5 quietly flickered to life – the 3.0 liter turbocharged inline-six engine hardly conveying its 258 horsepower and, most importantly, its over 400 ft-lb of torque. Despite all of the grunt on tap, we serenely glided free of the bonds of Vancouver morning traffic and began to snake north on the aptly-named Sea-to-Sky Highway towards Whistler, British Columbia. Momentarily, I forgot just what I was up there to do for the day as the scenery managed to draw my attention from the X5. To our left were steep cliffs, tumbling into blue-green inlets with white-capped mountains in the seemingly unreachable distance. To our right, the sun was working to break above the nearly vertical, tree-littered cliffs above us, acting as a reminder of the elevations yet to be covered. Another thought continued to creep into my mind courtesy of BMW’s VP of Communication Dirk Arnold’s warning from the previous night: watch out for bears on the mountain and “do the American thing when escaping bears – run toward it, snap a picture and post it to Facebook before finding safety.”
Thankfully – the LED-lit blur of a rival X5 xDrive30d streaking by brought me back to the reality that I was sitting in an 2014 X5 and it was made for situations like those ahead of us. The X5 fleet caravanning up to Whistler all came equipped with the optional Dynamic Handling Package providing improved rear axle dampening via an air suspension as well as improved neutral steering and dialed back body roll. In execution, the steering has a muted feel overall with a noticeable injection of artificial weighting to simulate feedback. However, where the steering feels notably fake, its accuracy is not. Grab the thick-rimmed steering wheel and aim at the nearest corner and the X5 dispatches it with typical Teutonic efficiency. Overall, the sensation through the steering wheel always gave a sense of the X5’s presence on the road but it lacked an honest feel.
Thanks to the underlying suspension technology in the X5 that rivals what likely goes into an Abrams M1 tank, the X5 is able to pull off its greatest trick: hiding its weight by shrinking around the driver in faster bends. No matter the variety of corners Canada threw at the F15, it continued to impress us with minimal body roll and a conveyance of massive grip while the car was set to Sport+ mode. Clicking off upshifts via the steering wheel-mounted paddles the previously subdued note of the engine gave way to a distinctly diesel motor clatter with a hint of turbo “swoosh” at low revs before giving way to a more familiar inline six howl. Unexpectedly, despite the luxurious cocoon of an interior the exhaust note was omnipresent while the X5 was under load. While the X5 diesel felt moderately quick with just shy of 260 horsepower – the wall of torque proved that this SAV was more than capable of executing rapid passing of traffic on even the shortest of roads.
Streaking up the mountain we made strong progress towards our destination, caning the X5 up and down the hillside, working our way inland toward Whistler before hitting the a wall of slower moving traffic and construction. With our pace somewhat reduced, we slipped the SAV back into ECO PRO to dawdle our way up the switchbacks before looping back for our lunch time rendezvous with the X5 xDrive50i. Before our switch, the 204 BMW X5 xDrive30d left us its biggest surprise. After hours of being honed up and down the mountains of British Columbia the diesel-powered X5 has still managed to return fuel economy of approximately 27 mpg.
Not bad considering our overly twitchy right feet for the better part of the morning.
Driving Impressions of 2014 BMW X5 xDrive50i
After lunch, we handily swapped keys with another set of drivers to get our hands on the X5 xDrive 50i and its 4.4 literTwinPower turbocharged V8. In this spec, the X5 50i is up nearly 50 horsepower over the outgoing E70 model – the 30 ft-lb increase in torque certainly doesn’t hurt either. This particular model was an Mineral White exterior paired with the stylish, optional Mocha Interior Design Package and Fineline Oakwood trim. Despite being an $1,950 option – this color combination really set off the interior and felt both more handsome and more livable juxtaposed to the frightening-to-keep-clean Ivory White Interior Design Package.
Controls and seats dialed in, we pulled back onto the highway to climb up to Whistler. Hitting the road, the difference in the V8 versus the diesel six was night and day. While the diesel was all about the torque it didn’t quite jam you into the seats. This is where the TwinPower V8 comes in handy and makes for a good time as the flirty, outgoing sister to the slightly book worm-ish X5 diesel. Each time we prodded the throttle with our right foot, we were rewarded with a shove into the seat, a burbly V8 rumble and childish, uncontrollable laughter. This routine continued as any straight roadways presented themselves during our climb to the top of Whistler. Despite all of our fun we did notice an alarming trend in the number of signs warning us of bears the higher we climbed.
Up top, we’d yet to encounter any bears but we did meet up with an affable, young German who offered to guide us around an offroad course cut into the deep forests surrounding Whistler’s Olympic-grade ski slopes. With a quick tutorial and a few flicks of the iDrive knob we had the cool, if not a bit tech geeky, xDrive status pulled up to show the climb angles and balance of the SAV as we began to traverse the craggy terrain. The course proved to be a mix of steep inclines and declines over dirt and rock-laden paths that led up to a small plateau revealing that we were in a relative valley floor compared to snowy peaks on all sides of us. Upon reaching the top, we were treated to a dip in a mud pit to familiarize us with how easily xDrive systems are able to dispatch most hurdles thrown at it. Working our way across the trails, it did occur to me that most X5 buyers are likely to never subject a $50,000+ vehicle to such punishment. That said, it’s a relief on some level to know that the xDrive-equipped SAVs from BMW are more than equipped to take the occasional off-path safari whether it be for a camping trip or a tailgating an SEC game.
We weaved our previously Mineral White X5 – now an earthy shade of orange and brown – down the remainder of the undulating course coming away with the relative comfort of having a truck that was taking 16%+ inclines while thumping out beats from the 1,200W Bang & Olufsen 16 speaker sound system courtesy of the Executive Package. We also came away impressed from the course in that we showed up with an xDrive50i, ran the offroad course and then bombed along the circuitous roads leading back to Vancouver without changing tires much less trucks nor needed to refuel. An afternoon of running up and down the mountains and crawling across the offroad course left us with approximately 17 mpg playing with a mix of the Dynamic Control settings.
Coming down the mountain and back into the slow crawl of afternoon traffic in Vancouver I was able to reflect on the an entire day of living with an X5 in a variety of settings. I enjoyed my time with it, perhaps more than I expected I would. It was an SAV after all and aside from the physics bending X5M and X6 M – how much fun could they be? Very much so, actually.
The F15 X5 brings a lot of personality to the SAV game. It was a great deal of fun to manhandle the X5, in both diesel and gasoline guise, and the controls were confidence inspiring in that if you dialed steering into a corner, you knew the SAV would track through the turn – with strong brake pedal feel to ensure you were slowed enough to turn in and a snappy throttle to pull you out of the corner with the settings dialed to Sport+. If you want a more sporting X5 – the Dynamic Handling Package may be a must-have option.
From an exterior design perspective, most will notice that the F15 is a very conservative progression of the E70. Most noticeable changes are the optional full LED lamps and the protruding double kidney grille work. In all honesty, the change over was perhaps too conservative in that we mistook many an E70 as one of our F15 press car counterparts in the roads surrounding Whistler. However, the interior overhaul, while at first blush may look conservative, improves upon the interior in all of the right places. Notably the improved dash and feel of higher grade materials over the E70 make it an easy place to sit for a few hours.
In all honesty, outside of the M vehicles, the F15 X5 could be one of the best all-round BMWs on sale right now. It’s stylish and luxurious in that you can climb in and click off mile after mile in total comfort and then reveal the rest of its personality if asked when flipped into Sport mode by carving up curvy roads. Pushed further, the X5 will push its way through any hairy situation thrown at it to get you to your destination and not bat an eye at the request. For my taste, I would probably opt for the X5 xDrive30d given the similarity in overall options, vehicle dynamics and improved fuel economy to the xDrive50i. However, my guilty pleasure choice has to be X5 xDrive50i if daily practicality (and fear of more frequently buying new tires and fuel) were less of a concern. Whatever your choice, this, the third generation of X5, looks to be a successful endeavor.
We still didn’t see any of those damn bears on Whistler either. Perhaps the beefy 4.4 liter TwinPower V8’s raucous report was enough to hold them at bay?