Other steering-wheel controls in the 2006 BMW X5 are for audio and cruise control, and the wheel itself has power tilt and telescope adjustment, with memory positions matched to the outside mirrors and driver's seat. Climate controls reside separately beneath the main screen, with a row of switches below them for park assist, hill-descent control, dynamic stability control, and a rear-hatch release. The rear hatch is a two-piece clamshell affair, which also seems outdated and cumbersome, although a heavy-duty sliding load floor ($380) compensated somewhat.
The 2006 BMW X5 may no longer measure up on the interior-gadgets front, but its overall driving dynamics still feel modern. Our test car's 4.4-liter V-8 is now BMW's middle-range X5 engine option, with an available 4.8-liter motor starting at $71,100--compared with the 4.4-liter's base price of $53,600. With VANOS variable-valve timing, Valvetronic variable-valve lift, and a variable intake manifold, the 4.4-liter engine puts out 315 horsepower at 5,400rpm and a useful 324 pound-feet of torque at 3,600rpm. These numbers will satisfy all but the most delusional SUV buyers--or those lucky owners of the Porsche Cayenne turbo.
BMW's adaptive six-speed automatic is effective both in low-speed driving and when pushing harder. With light throttle inputs, fourth gear can be reached by about 20mph, but driven hard, the X5 accelerates briskly, taking just more than 6 seconds to reach 60mph from rest. Gears can be selected manually with the shifter moved sideways into its sequential gate, but throttle response is good enough in automatic mode to make this superfluous.
Handling is very good, given the 2006 BMW X5's heft and height. The sport-suspension option was satisfying, combining great roadholding with a relatively compliant around-town ride. As in other BMWs, speed-sensitive power steering provides excellent feel. The adaptive ride-height option ($500) was mostly a novelty in our short experience, but the extra clearance could prove useful for more intrepid X5 drivers (or in the snow).
The xDrive all-wheel drive works with standard dynamic stability control to send power to wheels with the most traction and cut power as required to maintain correct vehicle attitude. Hill-descent control is also valuable for loose surfaces, automatically holding the 2006 BMW X5 at a steady downhill crawl with no braking required of the driver.
Fuel economy is decent, with EPA ratings of 16mpg in the city and 22mpg on the highway. The trip computer registered 17.2mpg over the course of our week with the car.
The 2006 BMW X5 has dual front air bags with a front-passenger-detection feature, dual front door-mounted side-impact air bags, and a front- and rear-passenger head-protection curtain air bag. Government crash-test ratings are excellent: five-star frontal impact for the driver and the passenger, five-star side impact for rear passengers, and four-star side impact in the front seat.
Park-distance control (PDC) and adaptive xenon headlights are standard. PDC can be quickly shut off with the aforementioned pushbutton, which is handy, as the shrill tone quickly becomes a nuisance if not really needed.
As we found in the BMW 550i, the X5's rain-sensing wipers are very effective. Without any fussy overadjustment, this system just keeps the windshield dry--period. And it's the best of its kind we've tried.
Warranties for 2006 BMW vehicles are good for 4 years/50,000 miles, including roadside assistance. Rust-perforation protection extends to 12 years with no mileage limit.