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2012 BMW x5 xDrive 35d Clean Diesel SUV Review

by Martha Hindes

2012 Green SUV Buyer's Guide - Road & Travel Top 10 Picks

Audi Q7 TDI Clean Diesel

Jeep Grand Cherokee FFV

BMW X5 xDrive 35d Diesel

Lexus RX 450h Hybrid

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

When you have some serious SUV driving to do, isn't big a better way to go? Consider the need for third row of seating (assuming it will be occupied by those younger than 10). Think about the ability to go where something less nimble or less formidably structured would decline to venture. Think about the pure thrill of putting pedal to the metal in a vehicle that could leave a sports car in its wake on the neighborhood drag strip. Put those clues together and you might just have the 2012 BMW Advanced Diesel X5 xDrive35d SUV.

If the interminably long names that the German auto company seems to thrive on attaching to its Teutonic vehicles leaves you breathless, lets separate out what some of that means. This is a true sport utility vehicle and a big one at that, with the appropriate amount of snarl in its DNA to part traffic with its presence. It's not a soft, custard, mini traveler that would leave half the family back home for lack of space when the need is for seating for seven. It has some brute strength underneath its shiny facade. It thrives equally on all fours -- as in all wheel drive -- and a near perfect front to rear balance. And its powerplant -- for our Green SUV Guide -- is a fuel-efficient, sophisticated, scrubbed clean diesel that no longer bears the stigma once inherent in the title. (We'll leave gas-powered versions for another time.)

With major powerplant changes a year in its past, the X5 diesel version gets some welcome comfort and amenity touches for 2012. iPod/USB adapter becomes standard, as does park distance control, Hi-Fi sound, power adjustable steering column and power tailgate, plus more. For those in frigid winter climates the Cold Weather Package now includes heated rear seats. The Technology Package has high beam assistant, side view camera and head-up display for ease in reading crucial speed numbers at eye level without looking down. The top-line Premium Package gets a number of enhancements, including rear view camera with top view, rear manual side window shades, four-zone climate control and navigation system.

Mileage wise, the X5 diesel belies its size, earning EPA ratings of 19 city/26 highway miles per gallon. Blastoff from a standstill can launch it from 0 to 60 in a scant 6.9 seconds, brags BMW. That kind of chutzpah comes from its 3.0-liter inline 6 twin-turbo diesel powerplant that churns out 265-horsepower and 425 lb-ft of gut wrenching torque. The transmission is six-speed with manual mode. With clean diesel technology and mandated improvements in U.S. diesel fuel now in place it has a far gentler impact on the environment than diesels of the recent past.

Gaining traction from that power combo is a body with the authority of a true SUV, with long wheelbase for riding comfort, and short overhangs front and rear that won't get hung up in a ditch. Inside it still can confuse when it's time to select some entertainment or navigational details with its master dial control, although less than in previous years. (We suggest a learning session before hitting the highway.) But probably the most formidable feature is its pure driving pleasure, handling response and road authority that repeatedly has wowed Road & Travel testers, and publisher Courtney Caldwell every time she drives one.

This is as much a vehicle to take on a driving adventure filled with the nimble handling requirements of a sporty car. It just rides higher in the process. And we won't suggest taking a $56K-plus premium SUV on a rugged mountain climbing adventure unless you're one of the three winners in the recent half-billion-dollar lottery mega drawing. Repairing bumps and scratches from intruding rocks and branches can be costly. But we don't doubt that if you did venture out it would continue unscathed when the road turns from pavement to gravel to rutted sod. BMW refers to that capability as the X5's "other roads" talent. We think it's aptly named.

For more info on the BMW brands, click here.