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2015 BMW X5 Test Drive

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The 2015 BMW X5 is the best SUV for you if you like being master of most of what you survey.

This is a big, solid block of an SUV, proudly square in a field of increasingly rounded rivals.

That would include the Porsche Cayenne and Mercedes-Benz M Class – and even a slew of fastback-crossovers within BMW’s own camp.

Is this is still the shape you want to be in?

The original edition debuted for model-year 2000, pretty much launching the performance-luxury sport-utility segment.

The 2015 version belongs to the third-generation, introduced just last year with this premium midsize crossover’s sleekest sheetmetal ever.

Styling and dimensions carry over for 2015. Later in the year BMW will resurrect the ultra-performance M model and add a plug-in-hybrid called the eDrive.

The mainstays remain the six-cylinder sDrive and xDrive 35i’s. The xDrive35d is an intriguing diesel alternative. And back for 2015 is the V-8 xDrive50i.

That’s a mouthful of models — and this is just one item on the German automaker’s crossover menu.

Including jacked-up versions of its cars, that bill of fare encompasses the fastback X4 and X6 and the 5 Series GT. There’s talk of a Mini-based 2 Series Active Tourer, even a seven-seat X7. That leaves this vehicle and its smaller X1 and X3 siblings looking a little old-school by comparison.

The X5 still has its virtues. It’s the only BMW of any stripe that can seat seven passengers, and none canmatch its 66-cubic-feet of cargo volume. Those fancy fastbacks, they don’t have enough glass to equal the view you get from inside.

Every model is turbocharged and has an eight-speed automatic transmission. Aimed at sunbelt drivers, the sDrive35i is the first offering with rear-wheel drive. Like the all-wheel-drive xDrive35i, it can do zero-to-sixty miles an hour in an impressive 6.1 seconds.

The all-wheel-drive xDrive35d is among the most fuel-efficient SUVs in the class. It should easily eat up 600 highway miles between fill-ups, and still do zero-to-sixty in a brisk 6.5 seconds,

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With its 445-horsepower, twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8, the xDrive50i slots above the six-cylinders and below the mighty M.

It zips to sixty in just 4.7 seconds, although you will be a regular at the premium pumps.

Full details of the new M weren’t available in time for this review, but its 4.4-liter eight should deliver around 600 horsepower, more than 500 pound-feet of torque, and blast the 2.5-ton all-wheel-drive crossover to sixty in four-seconds flat.

At the other end of the spectrum, the eDrive combines a turbo four-cylinder with lithium-ion-battery power, creating an all-wheel-drive plug-in designed to travel 20 emissions-free miles before the gas-electric hybrid system kicks in. No word yet on its official fuel-economy numbers, though.

The M Sport option package includes an aero body kit and shadowline trim, plus a sport transmission with launch control that exploits all of the V-8’s 480-pound feet of torque.

Other packages include the dressy Luxury Line and the semi-active-suspension Dynamic Handling Package. For 2015, a beautiful Sport Leather steering wheel is standard and the price of selected options is lowered by up to $350 dollars.

Still, you may have to open your wallet if you wish to truly elevate the experience. Want a six-cylinder with leather upholstery? That’ll be $1,450. With a rearview camera? Cough up $1,400 for the Driver Assistance Package.

Pushbutton ignition is standard only on the V-8 versions. And while Bluetooth and USB linking are included, to get full hands-free smartphone integration it’s another $500.

No matter the trim level, the X5 makes you feel pretty large and in charge.

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The dashboard’s horizontal lines emphasize the cabin’s width. Materials quality is top-notch, with several varieties of optional wood trim or handsome textured aluminum.

The SUV has a spacious interior, on par with anything in the class. The seats are comfortable and supportive. Heated front buckets are standard. A heated second-row bench and steering wheel, along with headlamp washers, are part of the reasonably priced $550 Cold Weather Package. The third-row is toddler sized but does provide seating in a pinch. It costs $1,700 and includes a rear air suspension.

A power liftgate is standard, and dropping the clamshell lower section accesses a cargo bay that’s beautifully finished but a little small for the class.

As in other automatic-transmission Bimmers, the shifter is really an electronic wand that compels you to look at it, contemplate your gear-changing plans, then confirm your inputs.

Better executed is the navigation system. It’s standard, has a 10.2-inch screen, and responds to voice instructions or the iDrive central controller, which lets you trace-in commands.

Still, with BMW it should be about the driving experience, shouldn’t it?

And this one isn’t likely to disappoint. Armed with a near-fifty-fifty weight balance, every X5 takes corners with inspiring grip and composure. Oddly, its straight-line cruising that can be less than stellar. The steering is numb on center and the 20-inch run-flat tires available in several of the packages tend to tramline, wandering along those channels worn into some pavement surfaces. They hurt ride quality, too. Stick with the standard eighteens or available nineteens.

Sport, Comfort, and EcoPro drive modes are on tap, the last neutering some performance but assisted in its gas-saving mission by a quick-reacting engine stop-start system.

Both gas engines are turbine-smooth and very satisfying. And the 30 percent of U.S. buyers who choose the diesel are making a wise decision. It’s torque rich and clatter-free.

The transmission has been fine-tuned for better efficiency this year, and we seldom found it necessary to use the paddle shifters to achieve good throttle response.

As for pricing, the line spans a broad spectrum. No model is inexpensive, but then neither is any of the competition.

After a sizeable jump with the 2014 redesign, The carmaker holds the line on base prices for 2015. They’re competitive with rivals like the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, and Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and lower than those of the Range Rover Sport.

Options quickly pad the sticker price, of course. Our typically equipped test xDrive50i, for example, was $84,000. Cushioning the hit is free maintenance for the first four years or 50,000 miles, including all recommended service, plus brake and windshield-wiper wear items.

The X5 may be BMW’s most traditional take on the SUV but that doesn’t mean it’s not special. It’s got presence and performance — but so do the rivals. Shop the field. You won’t regret it.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]