2015 BMW X5 SUV review: The best grand touring car with the most technology – ExtremeTech
The BMW X5 is the ultimate grand touring car of the 21st century, even if it’s an SUV. As befits a modern GT car, the X5 offers provides high speed transit, accommodations for two couples not one, navigation surpassing the finest Michelin maps, virtually no road or engine noise, and as much safety technology as possible for the occupants, pedestrians, and animals who wander onto the roadway. It just doesn’t have a swoopy roofline befitting James Bond heading for Monaco in his Aston Martin.
In fact, the X5 packs the best combination of technology, performance, luggage space, and comfort of any high-end vehicle on the market. The X5 has awesome self-driving assist technologies. The center stack LCD display is huge. BMW has the best cockpit controller, head-up display, and night vision. There’s a diesel option with 700 miles driving range. All this makes the 2015 BMW X5 the best premium luxury SUV and our Editors’ Choice for the very high end of SUVs. Tweak the options list to seat seven and it’s the perfect soccer parent hauler, too.
More tech done right, more to choose from
This is the third-generation X5, and this time around the ride is smoother, the steering is lighter, the fuel economy is higher, the cabin is quieter, and the telematics are better. The base X5 all-wheel drive model runs $57,000 and with options you run your tab almost to $100,000. The X5 we recommend is midway between, $75,000 or a $1,000 lease payment.
BMW has the core technology options for safe, assisted driving: adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic, lane departure warning/lane keep assist that keeps you centered in your lane as long as your hands lightly grip the wheel, forward collision warning, city braking, and blind spot detection with exceptional range. Some driver assist options cost half what they did five years ago, proving the auto industry is not immune to Moore’s law. BMW has new options such as night vision with automatic pedestrian and animal detection and (in Europe) headlamp spotlighting. Even though tech partner Autoliv supplies similar hardware to competitors, the BMW variant is a bit more advanced currently. Sometimes Audi is first (touchpad), other times Mercedes (over the air telematics updates), sometimes it’s BMW (networked suspension controls).
We’ll have another story discussing the technology behind night vision in cars later this week.
iDrive is now an advantage
While it’s traditional to gripe about the iDrive controller, the fact is, iDrive works better than any other automaker’s cockpit controller or touchscreen interface. iDrive can be learned, in the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. It’s better than a touchscreen interface such as on Cadillac CUE when the car is on all but glass-smooth roads. It’s better than voice input until voice recognizes any command you speak, not just the automaker’s preset list.
Buttons just ahead of the controller quickly access media (iPod, CD), radio, phone and navigation. After a bit, you know that if your hand is on the controller, if slide your finger forward and just left of center, you’ll always find the Radio button. The two buttons on each pair are arranged in a shallow V. The rear button’s downward slope confirms you’re on Radio or Navi, and the upward slope of its partner button indicates you’re on the Media (CD, iPod) or Phone button. This is subtle genius and if iDrive were a new Apple product, the stock would jump five points. The top of the big scroll wheel is a touchpad and you can write out a street address if you don’t want to dial it in with iDrive. You can also speak your destination, saying the street name, city and state in one shot. It works well.
BMW’s online and Connected Drive (telematics and smartphone) features are built around your phone, and an on-board 3G connection with Google search, a news feed, weather, Yelp, gas prices and the like. If you crash the car, BMW Assist on your smartphone can be controlled from the phone or from the iDrive interface. The telematics connection is a freebie for 10 years. BMW lets you snap your mobile phone into a plastic accessory cradle ($250) that provides power and an inductive (wireless) connection to the car’s antenna; in remote areas, you’ll still have service while other phones are unusable. It’s outrageous that a piece of plastic costs as much as the phone, but you are getting signal in the middle of nowhere.
Next page: On the road with the BMW x5
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