2011 BMW X5 Photo

2011 BMW X5 - Review


Sport Activity, Sport Utility--whatever you want to call it, it's the 2011 BMW X5, and it's a study in subtle refinement. No flashy doodads, no major upgrades--just a reworked drivetrain lineup to yield smoother driving and better fuel efficiency without sacrificing power or performance, with a few minor visual tweaks thrown in for good measure. So how does BMW turn such minor changes into a palpably better driving experience? Read on.

Disclaimer: BMW flew Motor Authority out to Miami for the international launch of the 2011 X5, and put us up in the fantastic Mandarin Oriental hotel, plied us with burgers and tried to feed us to the gators along the fringes of the Everglades.

The key change that runs throughout the new X5 lineup is the eight-speed automatic, which we previously reviewed in the 2010 5-Series Gran Turismo. As we noted there, the gear spacing is too close to allow for much fun in manual-shift mode, but in regular auto mode, this new transmission, paired with the new xDrive35i model's N55 engine, delivers on smoothness and offers enough fun for anything you're likely to get up to in a mid-range luxury SUV.

The Eight-Speed Transmission

2011 BMW X5 xDrive35i First Drive

2011 BMW X5 xDrive35i First Drive

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Besides chucking two extra gear ratios at the existing transmission, BMW upgraded the unit to engage the torque converter to 100 percent lockup at lower RPMs, and to remain fully locked at higher speeds, even when getting into the throttle. That results in a more responsive, manual-like feeling of connection between the throttle pedal and the gearbox, a feeling even more noticeable if you press the little Sport button in the center console. We did, of course, and never saw the need to un-press it.
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