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Second Chances

The BMW X5 sprints to the head of the sports-utility pack.

Dept. of the Interior: The expansive panoramic moonroof opens onto the elegant ivory white interior design package, one of two new cabin design schemes available for the 2014 X5. New Luxury Line and xLine packages also allow for further interior and exterior design personalization.

By the Numbers
Sticker $67,375 (as tested)
Under the Hood 3.0-liter,
turbo-charged, inline 6-cylinder
Curb Weight 4,680 lbs.
Horsepower 300 hp
Torque 300 lb-ft.
0-to-60 6.2 seconds

It has been about seven years since my last encounter with BMW’s X5, a week-long stint with the then-new second-generation model. The vehicle’s seemingly ubiquitous status in certain OC environs, coupled with my general fandom of the brand, meant I had high expectations for the midsize luxury SUV (or, as BMW insists on calling it, a sports “activity” vehicle). The X5 was widely considered a benchmark for sporty luxury utility. It was also a runaway sales success. What wasn’t there to like?

Turns out, quite a bit (at least for me). Significantly larger than its predecessor, the second-generation X5 struck me as soft, sloshy and slow; a lumbering behemoth with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for premium fuel. The word “sport” never entered my mind – shocking, given the company’s aptitude for engineering engaging driving machines. I simply did not understand the appeal. And so it was against this admittedly biased backdrop that I slipped behind the leather-wrapped wheel of the all-new 2014 BMW X5.

BMW claims the third-generation X5 is 200 pounds lighter and more aerodynamic than its predecessor. After just a few moments in my elegant sparkling brown metallic X5 xDrive35i tester, I believed them. This X5 immediately felt leaner and meaner. Nor did the new X5 disappoint in efficiency. Its “Eco Pro” driving mode, which combines engine operation, accelerator response and transmission performance into a lower-rpm driving style, appeared to genuinely contribute to more efficient performance. The X5 xDrive35i is rated at 21 mpg combined city-highway. Anecdotally, one tank of premium kept me going for a week of frequent freeway long-hauls. For those seeking the X5 xDrive35i’s more spirited side, the racy “Sport+” mode beckons.  

There’s more good news for fans of BMW’s sports “activity” lineup. The underpinnings of the all-new X5 form the basis of the forthcoming second-generation X6, the stylish genre-bending SUV-by-way-of-coupe, as well as its recently unveiled compact sibling, the X4. Based on the 2014 X5, my expectations for these vehicles are, once again, high.

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