Photos: Chris Neprasch
2010 BMW X5 xDrive35d
Another European Diesel SUV? Hardly.
Germans must think that American truck designers sit inside a Wal-Mart every morning, deciding over an Egg McMuffin that of the millions of customer requests, they’re going to make some sort of exhaust brake, integrated trailer brake and six-speed automatic transmissions standard. Don’t forget to employ circa Y2K European after-treatment technology, too. Redemption is sweet and we’ve finally prepared our comeback shall it arise in any future debates on historical automotive design.
Tucked away in the basement of the Hofbrauhaus, wearing Franz Beckenbauer jerseys and drinking enormous beers served by women popping out of their Dirndls, sit German automotive executives, deciding of the hundreds of different diesel passenger vehicles they produce, one thing they must bring over is a 4-door SUV. The SUV must have some sort of panoramic retractable glass roof and for diesels, displacement has to be limited to 3 liters. Don’t forget the all-wheel-drive and 19-inch performance tires you’ll find so useful with mud bogging and rock crawling.
At the end of that conversation, it was decided that Audi would call theirs the Q7, Mercedes got ML320, Touareg was assigned to Volkswagen and X5 xDrive35d became BMW’s flagship diesel SUV in the States. Everyone was told to sell them for between $50,000 and $60,000 and if the only thing capable of ruining the plan is if someone forgets to put some sort of iPod-influenced controller in the center console. Everyone was sent away to complete their projects and all would meet on the docks in the 2009 and 2010 with their finished products ready for shipment to the U.S.
That’s probably not exactly how it happened, but like the latest generation of American diesel pickups, European SUVs share a lot of striking similarities in the features column. Another thing they all seem to have in common is that even though everything looks
so close on paper, a Ram doesn’t feel like a Ford. Likewise, a Mercedes doesn’t drive like a BMW. They live in the same kingdom, but all are different animals with each handling its business in its own unique way. After some time with the 2010 BMW xDrive35d, the king of the European jungle may very well have a rotating propeller on the hood.
Six in a Row
Cummins owners and BMW xDrive35d drivers probably don’t have much in common. Most likely, they shop at different stores and frequent different restaurants. One thing they do share is being the sole, 24-valve inline six-cylinder entry in a class V-format engines. The BMW diesel is fed by third-gen piezo injectors using common rail direct injection with air coming into the engine through BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology. It also happens to lead the class with 265 horsepower at 4,200 rpm and 425 ft-lb of torque kicking in down low at 1,750 rpm, however, though it does have the most torque, its 6,000-pound towing capacity is at the bottom.
The xDrive35d lands in the middle, coming in about 50 pounds heavier than the Mercedes and almost 200 pounds lighter than the Q7 and VW. When you’re talking about 2.5 tons each it doesn’t seem like much, but less weight with more horsepower made for a 15.21 quarter-mile time at 88.6 mph, the quickest of any European diesel SUV we’ve tested. It might be the fastest, but acceleration of the xDrive35d doesn’t feel it compared to the V-format competition. Taking advantage of twin-turbochargers, the BMW provides smooth torque from idle to redline with the onset of power being more civilized as opposed to the jerkier power onset single-turbo vehicles.
Not A Sprinter
According to EPA fuel economy estimates, the 2010 X5 xDrive35 is good for about 19 mpg on the city and 26 mpg on the highway. We found the number to be very close and only slightly optimistic with a 17.8-mpg average during stop-and-go driving. On the highway, it was a different story and we logged nearly 500 miles attempting to duplicate it. During a 100-mile open-road drive with the cruise control set between 80 and 85, the BMW sipped fuel at 42 mpg. While we weren’t able to recreate that sort of economy, we did get 36, 38 and 39 mpg in the process.
One of the reasons we relied heavily on cruise control during testing because it was difficult to monitor speed on only feel. The long, broad torque combined with cruising speeds right in its sweet spot makes it easy for the speeding to get out of hand. Going 55 mph feels like you’re in a school zone. Drive what feels like 55 mph and you’re in triple-digits. The only thing comparable to the smoothness of the torque was the ride quality experienced while enjoying it.
The X5 xDrive35d is the only one in its class to use double-wishbone suspension in the front with multilink coils in the rear. It’s suspension and a 19.5:1 steering ratio provided gave us the best feel and feedback of the European diesels, though when it came to pushing it to its limits, the BMW plays second fiddle to the Touareg and Audi. Up front are big 13.7-inch discs and the rear uses 12.6-inch discs to bring the BMW from 60 mph to zero in 126 feet, once again taking the top spot of its competitors we’ve tested.
There are some things that should be standard when luxury automobiles are concerned. MSRP for the 2010 X5 xDrive35d is $51,300. The post-destination sticker price of the BMW we tested was $57,325. All sorts of neat options are standard. The Xenon adaptive auto-leveling headlights worked perfectly, lighting up the correct areas when cornering at night. It even has those trick windshield wiper systems that compensates wiper speed for rain rate. Of all these wonderful things it does come with standard and much-enjoyed optional packages like a $3,400 Premium setup that includes power doors and BMW Bluetooth Assist, there was no satellite radio and no navigation.
Let me get this straight: After taxes and title, I paid more than $60,000 for this BMW. It is a balanced family car that’s a blast to drive. I can sit in a comfortable leather seat while I call my mom by touching a single button on the steering wheel, use the fancy shift level to put the transmission into gear with another button. If I had kids, they could sit in the back seat, take advantage of individual seat rear seat heaters and dual climate control and I can’t listen to Howard Stern or find the closest Circle K? How does that work?
Get over that one little detail and BMW has set yet another benchmark for U.S. diesels. It’s not going to keep up with the Q7 through the turns, but get it in a straight line and nobody else can hang. Steering, stopping, economy, comfort and style, the X5 xDrive35d does everything great, but nothing excellent. It also doesn’t do anything poorly, average or above-average. Regardless, when no navigation and satellite was the only gripe in nearly 2,000 miles of driving, something was done right.
Weight: 5225 lbs
Weight distribution, front/rear 49.8/50.2 %
Liter/type/valves per cylinder 3.0/inline 6/4
Bore/stroke 3.31/3.54 inch
Nominal output hp/rpm 265/4200
Max. torque lb-ft/rpm 425/1750-2250
Compression ratio: 16.5:1
Type double wishbone
Front Anti-Roll Bar std
Front Shocks gas-pressurized
Front Springs coil
Rear Suspension Type multi-link
Rear Anti-Roll Bar std
Rear Shocks gas-pressurized
Rear Springs coil
Electronic Stability System DSC-X
Sequential Shift Control STEPTRONIC
Transmission 6-spd w/OD