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BMW X5 -- First Drive

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Spartanburg, SC Just this week I read a magazine article that discussed the seemingly hypocritical nature of some hybrid owners you know, the kind that extol the virtues of gas/electric power and blaspheme the petrol-swilling large SUV. Among the interviewees was a gentleman who owned a Toyota Prius for his long daily commute, taking advantage of that car's 45 mpg and admittance to his state's commuter lane, yet at home in his garage was another vehicle a BMW X5. Was he afflicted with multiple personality disorder, with one side dreaming of trees and the other standing front row at pro-Cheney rallies? No. He was simply enjoying all the automotive world had to offer. During the week, he saved time and money with his hybrid, and on the weekend he had some high-powered fun for tackling foul-weather road trips, luxuriously transporting passengers, or making a run to the home improvement warehouse. And for 2007, the BMW X5 has added style, added features, and room for up to seven riders.

Just don't call it an SUV. No, it's an SAV, or Sports Activity Vehicle, a leader in its segment that's built right here in the U.S. Since making its debut seven years ago, BMW has gone on to sell nearly 600,000 of these home-built SAVs, attracting a range of buyers with six- and eight-cylinder engines, manual and automatic transmissions, a promise of the brand's Ultimate Driving Machine character, and amenities expected from a premium vehicle.

When it arrives in late November, the 2007 BMW X5 aims to meet the challenge with a more powerful, 260-horsepower inline six, an available 350-horsepower V8, a new six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, a newly available third-row seat that pushes seating capacity to seven, enthusiast goodies like Active Steering and AdaptiveDrive, and a crisp, more muscular appearance. What buyers won't find is last year's manual transmission, a third-row seat that's terribly spacious, or what is an absolute must on any Sport Activity vehicle and a glaring omission paddle shifters. Even so, those few points are only enough to slightly dull the shine of the X5, which that starts at $46,595 and remains a helluva lot more fun than a Prius.


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