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Avg. Price Paid:$18,883 - $22,909
Original MSRP: $46,200 - $54,800
MPG: 17 City / 23 Hwy
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2008 BMW X5 Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 BMW X5 was new.

The 2008 BMW X5 offers two engine choices: The 260-horsepower inline six standard in the X5 3.0si is plenty strong for a family drive, and the 350-hp 4.8-liter V8 in the X5 4.8i adds the punch desired by true driving enthusiasts.

Consumer Guide reports "outstanding balance, grip, steering feel make X5 feel more like a sport sedan than an SUV." Along with plenty of power (particularly in the V8), the X5 has exacting steering, a sport-tuned suspension, powerful brakes and an efficient all-wheel drive system, causing reviewers to rave over its complete driving experience. The Kansas City Star calls the X5 "a pavement burner."

It's in the X5's performance that BMW gives its unique take on the SUV. "Compared with the Mercedes-Benz M-class," says Automobile Magazine, "the new X5 is still a little firmer, edgier and more aggressive in the way it translates driver inputs." Though the X5 pleased the majority of reviewers on the road, it isn't meant for off-roading. "Without a low range, all-terrain tires or adequate ground clearance, the X5 is still a soft-roader," explains Motor Trend.

With power to spare and handling like a sport sedan, MSN simply says the BMW X5 "is a kick to drive" while the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette adds that the X5 "corners aggressively, shifts firmly and accelerates powerfully."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 X5 is available as a 3.0si (with a 3.0 liter in-line six making 260 horsepower) or a more-powerful 4.8i (with a 4.8-liter V8 making 350 horsepower). The 4.8i has an admirable 6.4-second zero-to-60 time, and the 3.0si comes in at 7.8 seconds. As for top speeds, the 3.0si can get up to 130 mph, and though the 4.8i has a 150 mph top speed, its governor kicks in at 130. The X5's acceleration and overall speed are so strong that The Car Connection reports "anything like legal speed driving doesn't begin to challenge its composure."

The 3.0si makes 225 lb-ft of torque at 2,750 rpm. The 4.8i engine makes 350 lb-ft of torque at 3,400-3,800 rpm. As Autobytel says, "regardless of which X5 referenced, you're talking about a quick machine." That quickness can take a toll at the pump. The 3.0si gets an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 15 miles per gallon in the city and 21 miles per gallon on the highway. The 4.8i gets an estimated 14 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the highway.

Both of the powerful X5 engines are paired with a six-speed automatic steptronic transmission. The transmission was well-liked by all reviewers. "Shift timing, quality and firmness are what you'd expect from a BMW -- nicely aggressive when driving aggressively, but smooth as glass when you're just cruising along," adds Cars.com. Many reviewers bemoaned the lack of paddle shifters, which Autobytel called "a glaring omission." That aside, all reviewers liked the transmission.

However, it's in the transmission that the X5 makes no bones about the fact that it isn't intended for heavy off-road use. There is no low-range gearing, and the all-wheel-drive system is always on. "Going off-road?" asks Motor Trend. "Unless you plan on some light-duty action, the X5 isn't your rig." TopSpeed calls the transmission "road oriented," noting that it "directed 60% of the engine's torque to the rear wheels, making it feel as close as possible to the company's rear-wheel drive sedans."

The X5 has an admirable tow system, and when properly equipped the 4.8i can handle pulling up to 6,000 pounds.

Handling and Braking

A new double wishbone front suspension meshes with the rear multi-link setup and a body structure that's 15 percent stiffer than previous X5 models to give the X5 handling and ride capabilities characteristic of BMW. "We think the switch to a control-arm suspension up front -- BMW's first since 1961 -- is real progress," says Car and Driver. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette adds that the X5 "corners aggressively, shifts firmly and accelerates powerfully."

X5 families will enjoy a ride that most reviewers said is similar to any of BMW's other cars. The Atlantic City Press comments that "an all-new body structure gives the X5 great handling abilities and ride comfort." But in typical BMW style, the ride is best appreciated by the driver. "The ride is a bit harder than Americans typically prefer, but you want road feel in a BMW," observes BusinessWeek.

The same technology that forces the X5 to handle like a car makes it to steer like one as well. While the optional Active Steering makes the X5 easier to pilot than many SUVs, a minority of reviewers found the steering lacking. "BMW's active steering is an acquired taste," writes Automobile Magazine. "It makes maneuvering the X5 nearly effortless, but expect a learning curve before you're able to dial in precisely the appropriate amount of lock at any given speed." Given the X5's size, most reviewers found the steering heavy but responsive.

For the best driving experience, most reviewers agree that buyers should consider upgrading to the Sport Package with BMW's Adaptive Drive. This enhances the X5's handling on curves at any speed, and Active Roll Stabilization minimizes body rolls through even the toughest hairpins. These systems, when combined with the standard all-wheel drive and Dynamic Stability Control, not only make for an experience that will knock the driver's socks off, but also a safe, stable, and secure ride.

When it's time to stop the X5, the four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes don't disappoint. "The brakes are, of course, amazing," writes the Los Angeles Times. The brakes are made even more capable by dynamic brake control, which applies the brakes to individual wheels in slippery situations, and automatic brake drying to ensure the brakes don't become slippery themselves. Brake fade control and brake stand-by are also standard.

Review Last Updated: 2/18/09

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