Cruise-control functions are located on a third stalk on the steering column, with wipers on the conventional, right stalk and a trip computer button on the left, turn-signal stalk. The switches generally have a nice, precise feel. It takes more effort to operate than it would if only the glass opened up and down. When the driver wants to shift manually, it works great, changing gears immediately with a quick movement of the wrist, up or down. It takes more effort to operate than it would if only the glass opened up and down. It's great for drivers about to take a spirited run through the canyon, but less so for passengers, and particularly the elderly, who have to climb up into the X5 and then slide over the bolsters into a front seat. The navigation system also comes with an 80-gigabyte hard drive this year, 15 gigs of which can be used to store music files.
And sport in the X5 context does not mean off-road capability. While the X5 has some mild off-road prowess, the xDrive all-wheel-drive system was developed for slippery roads and sporty driving rather than sand dunes and rutted hillsides. There is nearly 22 cubic feet for stuff behind the second seat: somewhat larger than the trunk in a large sedan, though the space is tipped up on its end, with a much smaller load floor. This system controls navigation, communication, climate, and entertainment functions, and the new buttons make accessing many controls easier and quicker. The optional premium stereo sounds fantastic, but we were discouraged from taking full advantage of its sound processing features because of the tedious, distracting iDrive sequence required to set them. Moreover, the electronic controls allow a driver to maintain full steering control in full-panic stops.
They're wide and deep, so anything you put here is likely to stay when you open or slam the door, and lined with rubber so contents aren't prone to sliding and making noise. The electronics also help keep the X5 balanced when braking hard through a turn, and they now include a feature that compensates for brake fade as the brakes heat up with heavy use. The X5 30i produces 260 horsepower and 225 pound-feet. Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive. Some drivers may find the X5's sensitive throttle annoying during a stop-and-go commute after a long, stressful day.
The X5 M model adds Dynamic Performance Control. Storage options inside the X5 are fair: Much better than the typical European vehicle a few years ago, but not up to the best in this class. The gasoline engines feature turbine-like smoothness. The X5 48i we tested was extremely quick to take off, in spite of its substantial 5,300-pound curb weight, with torque coming in a smooth, steady wave. The diesel engine clatters a bit when idling, especially when it's cold.
Moreover, the electronic controls allow a driver to maintain full steering control in full-panic stops. The center console is wide, almost massive. The lighting package isn't cheap but it is clever and effective. These so-called separation edges smooth air as it rushes over the back of the vehicle. The glovebox opens with a remote switch in the center stack, closer to the driver, and it's large enough to hold small items beyond the extra-thick portfolio for owner's documents.
We couldn't safely get near the limits of the X5 on public roads because its limits come at speeds far too high for public welfare. The system also sends drive to the rear end for corner exits, which contributes to its cornering prowess. It's eligible for a federal tax credit for extra efficient cars, and it actually produces fewer exhaust emissions than many gasoline engines. Its underbody is smoothed with various fairing devices. It's great for drivers about to take a spirited run through the canyon, but less so for passengers, and particularly the elderly, who have to climb up into the X5 and then slide over the bolsters into a front seat.
There is nearly 22 cubic feet for stuff behind the second seat: somewhat larger than the trunk in a large sedan, though the space is tipped up on its end, with a much smaller load floor. And sport in the X5 context does not mean off-road capability. It performs well in both government and insurance industry crash tests, and it has been designated one of the Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In other words, you can make these frequent adjustments easily without fishing through iDrive. Our only gripe with the packaging relates to the fat rear roof pillars.
Unfortunately, there are still too many things you can't adjust without delving into the iDrive menus. Everything, including the mirrors, can be adjusted with the driver in the driving position, meaning back against the seat rather than leaned forward to reach a switch or the rearview. With its sportier suspension, the M model sits 0. The top view allows you to see the sides of the vehicle when backing up, making it easier to parallel park. The rear seat backs fold forward easily, but not completely flat, so there a slight change in the angle of the load floor created. Sending more power to an outside wheel helps steer the vehicle through turns. The optional 19-inch wheels and high-performance tires grip pavement tenaciously, and the level of stick seems more impressive given the high seating position of the driver.
Once a driver gets used to the throttle, however, the 35d can really haul. The lower third drops down, once the upper portion has been lifted up. It can still require several steps to perform various functions, making tasks like finding a new radio station overly complicated, but we find the latest generation easier to use than its predecessor. In fact, it's a tenth of a second quicker than the much lighter, though not turbocharged, M3. The inline six-cylinder in the xDrive30i delivers the kind of response we expect in a sports sedan, and it shouldn't leave owners pining for the V8s. At times it feels rough or balky in its gear selection, almost clunky. In addition to the new X5 M model, 2010 changes to the X5 lineup include some equipment upgrades.