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BMW X5 - 2005 SUV Buyer's Guide

by Martha Hindes


If ever the term "point and shoot" could be equated with a vehicle, it would almost certainly have to be anything BMW. The Bavarian auto maker has made the mastery of precision driving a badge of honor. Choose a tight turn, point the vehicle in that direction and execute it flawlessly.

"Precision" doesn't translate as easily to a sport utility, where a taller, broader stance, higher center of gravity and more rugged all-terrain suspension can make handling less forgiving than that in a road car. Yet BMW achieves a high level of gut wrenching performance in its X5 with less sway and more authority than might be expected, especially in its latest iteration 4.8is with 355 lean and mean horses powering its ride.

BMW still avoids the sport utility designation, choosing Sports Activity Vehicle, or SAV, instead. We'll defer to their name choice while matching it hubcap to fender with the SUVs of the world. Differences in three models -- and three levels of performance -- depend largely on powerplant as well as amenities: The 3.0i's 255-HP inline six; 4.4i's 315-HP Valvetronic V-8; and 4.8-liter 4.8is (0 to 60 in 5.9 seconds). Whew!

The X5 got a major overhaul a year ago, and some nice refinements for 2005, including a dual-panel "Panorama" moonroof, dynamic auto-leveling Xenon Adaptive headlamps and auto dimming exterior and interior mirrors for all models. Upscale versions gain power adjustable lumbar support, ultrasonic parking distance control and wood trim and climate improvements depending on model. Those tweak the new XDrive all-wheel drive system, new six-speed manual or automatic (with STEPTRONIC on both V-8 models), freshened athletic exterior and more standard features added before. Options include self-leveling rear air suspension and adjustable ride height, 19-inch wheels and a host of classy interior comfort items.

For one interested in forking over big ones in the low 40s to 70-plus price range for the privilege, we think anyone who chooses the X5 driving machine is in for one heck of a ride.