The first four-cylinder BMW X5 is also the first 2WD model. It's also the most affordable. Will a small engine dull X5's broad appeal?
Since the BMW X5’s release in 1999 the company has been riding the wave of a genuine sales success story that shows no signs of slowing down. The goalposts have moved ever so slightly with SUVs (even in the large class) shifting from AWD to either FWD or RWD as a nod to the fact that few, if any (especially at the premium end of the market), ever see a dirt road, let alone serious off-roading.
That’s where this 2014 BMW X5 sDrive 25d - the newest addition to the extremely popular X5 range – comes in. For starters, it’s the cheapest X5 (starting from $82,900) we’ve ever had in Australia. It’s also the first X5 in the range to go on sale as a two-wheel drive only. Lastly, it’s the first X5 that hasn’t relied on a six- or eight-cylinder engine for motivation, instead it’s powered by a smaller capacity, turbocharged four-cylinder.
I won’t lie. From the outset, before I even use the remote fob to unlock the doors, I’m skeptical. A four-cylinder X5? Surely it will be slow and lethargic. A 2WD X5? Wasn’t part of the X5’s extensive range of skills its competent AWD system that delivered handling surety? And just a tick under 83 grand isn’t exactly cheap either. For a 2WD, four-cylinder X5 no less. Yep, I’m adding two plus two and getting five.
If AWD is still important to you, the next model up the X5 tree is the xDrive 25d in AWD guise and it costs $87,900. An optional third row adds a not inconsiderable $4600 to the price. If you opt for the third row, you also get self-levelling air suspension for the rear end to better settle the X5 when it is fully loaded. Keep in mind though, that the third row is no limousine in terms of seating space. Great for younger kids, not so great for fully-grown adults.
Like the rest of the new X5 family, the sDrive 25d is bigger (and marginally roomier inside) than its predecessor all while using less fuel thanks to that diminutive 2.0-litre, twin-turbo diesel engine. The pricing structure of the new ‘cheapest’ BMW X5 is particularly impressive when you account for the fact that BMW claims to have packed in more than $14,000 worth of extra features over the previously $10,000 more expensive base X5.
Our test vehicle has been fitted with a few options that won’t break the bank but still help the bottom line stretch a little. Aluminium running boards ($850), a panoramic glass sunroof ($3700), interior and exterior mirrors with automatic anti-dazzle function ($700) and finally, the clever Surround View system ($1300). Add the cost of these options to the starting price of $82,900 and this test model will cost you $89,450.
You’ll be pleased to know I finally came to terms with my consternation and managed to take a seat behind the wheel and head out into the afternoon traffic. In short, I was genuinely surprised at how effortlessly the smaller engine manages to get the better part of two tonnes up and moving. There's 160kW on offer at 4400rpm, while the impressive torque figure – 440Nm – is available between a low 1500rpm and 2500rpm. The torque especially helps the sDrive 25d get from 0-100kph in 8.2-seconds.
A claimed fuel use figure of 5.8L/100km is worthy of note, and our city loop saw us net a figure of 6.2L/100km. I might have been concerned by the changes to the entry level X5, but there’s no doubt that a tested fuel return under 7.0L/100km for a full sized SUV is mightily impressive.
At no point did the small four-cylinder feel sluggish, short on power or torque, or out of its comfort zone. I was continually impressed the more time I spent behind the wheel. Across the broad range of daily driving tasks with four adults or one, the ‘baby’ X5 is a solid performer. If you spend most of your time stuck somewhere in the urban sprawl – and lets face it, most SUVs of this ilk do – there’s nothing you’ll want for if you opt for the X5 sDrive 25d.
For much of my city driving, I was happy to leave the X5 in ‘Comfort’ mode with the occasional switch to ‘Sport’ mode using the Drive Experience Control system which tweaks the engine and gearbox response. You can feel the difference and there is a discernible sharpening up of the experience when you switch to Sport from Comfort. Around town, and with the majority of potential owners in mind, my gut instinct tells me Comfort is the way to go, allowing the drivetrain to feel smoother and more relaxed.
While Comfort mode sounds good, the X5's suspension (which isn't adjustable) can be a little too stiff, which is not really ideal for an SUV. At low speed, the steering is perfect for parking and three point turns. At higher speeds it can feel a little light and vague.
The standard equipment list is long and highlights include quality leather trim, 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, electric tailgate opening and closing, reverse camera with front and rear parking sensors, 10.25-inch infotainment screen, satellite navigation and internet connectivity. The screen especially is a highlight. It’s crystal clear and never suffers from glare related viewing issues like so many do.
The interior is an impressive – and more importantly comfortable – place to spend any length of time regardless of how long the road trip. The technology is easy to access and easy to understand. I’m even begrudgingly coming round to BMW’s iDrive system after years of testing it.
After some initial trepidation, it only took about ten minutes for me to realise the four-cylinder X5 makes a whole lot of sense. The more I drove, the more I realised I’d come to the right conclusion too.
Often a vehicle is well and truly overpowered. Certainly powered beyond what the average owner requires. This BMW X5 sDrive 25d might be the entry-level model but it sits in a real sweet spot within the BMW SUV sphere. Sure, more powerful models are available, along with AWD models and variants with more luxurious trimmings. Around town though, you don’t really need any of that.
This new model is cheaper than an X5 has ever been so it will potentially appeal to a whole range of budget conscious X5 fans that might not have been able to quite stretch to one before. Now they can, and it’s every bit the X5 we’ve come to expect.