There is something about BMWs that remind me of the New York Yankees: They're always good if not necessarily the best, their owners can be obnoxious and they can arouse juvenile envy. I am a Cubs fan, after all.
So when I got in the redesigned 2014 BMW X5 crossover, I was hoping to find the source of my unease with the German automaker. Instead I took a nap.
That's not to say there's anything boring about the X5. Tricked out with $15,000 in options to $70,975, the X5 xDrive35i is so comfy, roomy and intuitive to operate that pulling over to the roadside for some shut eye felt natural.
The X5 is a couple inches longer and nearly a couple hundred pounds lighter than the outgoing model, helping it improve on fuel economy by 2 mpg. Further boosting the fuel efficiency is a start/stop system that's easy to disengage if you want to manage more performance.
The engine is the same; the direct injection turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder that makes 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque is mated to the 8-speed automatic transmission for the all-wheel drive xDrive.
While it isn't nearly as outright fast as the xDrive50i, which has a twin turbo V-8 that goes 0-60 in 4.3 seconds according to Car & Driver, nor as sportily compact as the X6, the X5 is BMW's most appealing crossover that has set the standard for the segment since 1999.
BMW was one of the first German automakers to take its performance and luxury heritage into the irresistible crossover segment, and the third generation of the X5 hits a market inundated with every kind of luxury crossover, from the ubiquitous Lexus RX to Porsche's new junior Cayenne, the Macan.
The X5 is not just another crossover. This is a BMW, so sports-mindedness is everpresent. Three drive modes, including sport and sport plus, can deactivate the fuel-saving technology. I averaged just under 25 mpg at 66 miles per hour, two mpg shy of the EPA estimate but I wasn't driving at an optimal highway speed. Going 85 mph feels no different than 55 mph; the cabin is nap-inducing quiet, the ride is smooth and everything is within reach through the slightest motion. The defining element of the xDrive35i is comfort.
While the 10.2 inch screen is one of the biggest and clearest on the market, it has drawn some criticisms for not being molded into the overall dash design. It sits at the top of the centerstack, protruding from the dash like a neatly placed add-on. If it retracted back into the dash, like Audi's system, it wouldn't warrant any complaints.
Because the screen is a little higher up and not molded into the dash, your line of vision is never far from the road. Once you acclimate to using a control knob to navigate BMW's iDrive infotainment system, you'll rarely drop your eyes from the line of vision. The iDrive system's control knob is next to the gear stick, right where your hand should be with your elbow on the armrest. Four buttons above the knob select media, navigation, vehicle info and phone, all connected to a menu button. Once you're in one of the settings, the control knob takes over, enabling you to scroll, shift inputs, change settings and anything else. It is one of the most intuitive systems on the market, easier and more direct than Audi's MMI system, and less congested than Chrysler's UConnect, which relies on buttons on the front and back of the steering wheel. Climate and radio controls are complemented by traditional buttons that track horizontally in line with the overall design of the vents and the screen. It feels good, it looks good, and it works wonderfully, reinforcing that all encompassing comfort.
The only part of the X5 that feels off, (yes, I even grew fond of the neon blue mood lighting) is the electronic gear shift. To put it in park you push a button on the top of the stick. To take it out of park, push a lock button on the side of the stick. Instead of shifting all the way down to put it in drive, you one-click your way through the three options. Instead of pushing the gear up to go from drive to reverse, I found myself in neutral because I had to make two deliberate moves. I spent a week not getting used to this oddity.
Considering the options, like the driver assistance package ($1,400) with a split screen rear view camera and the plus package ($1,900) with blind spot detection, there are more inexpensive models but few can match the blend of performance and comfort. Like so many Yankees, the X5 is worthy of applause and admiration.
(c)2014 the Chicago Tribune
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