Thursday, April 25, 2013

BMW's X5 is pricey, but pays generous dividends


Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at www.sacbee.com/business

Sacramento, California – BMW makes some very fine motorcars, and it also issues a challenge on its model names … like how long does it take you to remember the full name of your ride?

My recent tester had the paragraph-long title of 2013 BMW X5 xDrive35i Sport Activity.  For simplicity purposes, think big SUV.  Strong, robust, carries lot of people comfortably, carries lots of cargo.

You’re feeling good about things already, right?

Well, let’s look at the check.  The starting price on the tester was $57,700, not bad for a luxury sport-ute.

But my sticker showed the following add-ons: Convenience Package (including rearview camera, four-zone climate control, a voice-command system and real-time traffic info), Cold Weather Package (heated seats and steering wheel), M Sport Package (20-inch wheels and quality walnut trim to name two perks), M Performance Package, Premium Sound Package and a Technology Package (automatic high beams, side-view camera and a head-up display).

Bottom line: $74,595.  And wow, didn’t that grab my attention?!

Frankly, I can’t imagine paying that for an SUV, but since I had the ride for a week, I expelled my personal economic realities for seven days and enjoyed the luxury side of the street.

Technology eye-poppers and comfort/convenience features take up serious space across the X5’s dash, and you can count on spending some long nights with the owner’s manual to master all of them.  Rest assured that your tech/perk expectations – especially at this price – will be more than met.

For me, the X5’s performance was worth the weeklong experience.  Power flows with authority from a 3-liter, 300-horsepower in-line 6.  The X5 pretty much ate up everything around me on the road.  Accelerations from standing stops turned into silky-smooth runaways from lesser vehicles.  Steering was spot-on.  Slalom maneuvers were ridiculously perfect.

And yet, things in the cabin stayed quiet, and there was little jostling of passengers in the seats.  Nice work with the supporting frame, BMW engineers.

One thing that stood out to me was the width of the rear tires, which looked like the monster-size rubber they put on Indy Cars in the late 1960s.  I truly don’t know how much the rear tires contributed to stability, but they looked nasty (in a good way, I mean) and capable of crushing an oil barrel.

Gas mileage is an afterthought in this price range, but for the record, the numbers are 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

OK, this X5 is definitely in the high-end category, ideal for individuals whose annual stock dividends would pay for all the services in a typical American county.  So if you are in that prosperous group, wedge this X5 in somewhere amid your planned test drives of the Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover offerings.

This BMW might well win your heart in the end.

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