It might not seem like BMW has been selling its X5 for 14 years, but it has--the original debuted in 1999. Over the generations, the X5 has grown larger and higher-tech, but offered few "firsts" along the way. For the third-generation X5, that changes: this is the first BMW "sport activity vehicle" with available rear-wheel drive.
That's right--the 2014 BMW X5 will be available in sDrive35i trim, driving the rear wheels only. All previous BMW X-Series vehicles have come with standard all-wheel drive. The rest of the 2014 X5 range continues with all-wheel drive, of course.
The familiar--and not so familiar--powertrains
Gasoline engines are unchanged from the current X5's offerings: the N55 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder still rates 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque in sDrive35i and xDrive35i models; the xDrive50i still gets a twin-turbo 4.4-liter N63 V-8, but updates increase output to 445 horsepower (up 45 hp) and 480 pound-feet (up 30 lb-ft).
The extra power allows the 2014 X5 xDrive50i to reach 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, a 0.4-second decrease. The six-cylinder xDrive35i hits 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. No time has yet been released for the rear-drive sDrive35i, but we expect it to be very close to the all-wheel-drive model's time.
A diesel engine will also be available in the X5 xDrive35d. The 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder diesel generates 255 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, pushing the X5 to 62 mph in 6.9 seconds.
The diesel, like the rest of the X5 range, also gets an eight-speed automatic transmission for 2014, to improve gas mileage. An ECO PRO mode helps maximize the eight-speed's efficiency improvements, but BMW has not yet released estimated fuel economy ratings. The eight-speed transmission also offers a new launch control function to maximize acceleration from a stop.
The new look
On the styling front, the 2014 BMW X5 retains familiar proportions, with short overhangs, upright roof supports, and an aggressively modern take on the BMW kidney grille and front-end styling. Oddly--or perhaps not--BMW's new styling theme seems to suit the X5 better than other recently refreshed models.
Specifically, the kidney grille is wide, stretching from headlight to headlight. The headlights retain the four-round-light look within their aerodynamically sculpted enclosures; all models come standard with Adaptive Xenon lights. Below the grille, the front of the X5 has low, wide side air intakes; underbody protection panels; and, new to the X-Series, drag-reducing "air curtain" apertures placed vertically to guide air around the wheels.
Along the sides, character lines give a wedge-like impression, while the relatively upright nose, windshield, and rear hatch angles give a sense of size. At the rear end, three-dimensional LED light strips inset in the two-piece L-shaped lights give some visual flair, while "aero blades" help channel air through the roof spoiler to further optimize aerodynamics.
These core characteristics can be customized through the choice of a range of exterior appearance packages, including M Sport, xLine, and Luxury Line styles.
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