2009 BMW X5 xDrive35d review:

2009 BMW X5 xDrive35d

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Starting at $47,500
  • Engine Straight 6 Cylinder Engine
  • Drivetrain All Wheel Drive
  • MPG 18 MPG
  • Passenger Capacity 7, 5
  • Body Type Crossovers, SUVs

Roadshow Editors' Rating

6.2 Overall
  • Cabin tech 6
  • Performance tech 6
  • Design 5

The Good Some of the 2009 BMW X5 xDrive35d's cabin tech features work very well, such as the iPod and Bluetooth phone integration. Handling at speed is particularly good, and the diesel engine gives it about 5 miles per gallon better fuel economy than the gas version.

The Bad The diesel engine makes for lagging acceleration from stopped, and produces more rattle than we would like. The old iDrive interface is still present in the X5.

The Bottom Line The presence of the old iDrive interface makes it hard to recommend this generation of the BMW X5 xDrive35d, and the diesel engine makes it more suitable for open-road conditions than congested city traffic.

With a twin-turbo diesel engine, the 2009 BMW X5 xDrive35d lacks the immediate acceleration of the V-8 gasoline version we tested previously, but BMW handling characteristics are there in full force, and the improved fuel economy is a bonus. This full-size SUV features all-wheel drive, and the diesel engine gives it the torque to handle some heavy-duty work. Where the gas version drove like a sports car, the diesel drives and sounds like a fast tractor.

One big disappointment in the cabin was the old version of iDrive. The week before reviewing the X5 xDrive35d, we spent some time with the 335d, the diesel version of the 3-series. That car had BMW's radical reworking of iDrive, which proved an excellent interface, and made going back to the old version painful.

On the road
Although we hate the old iDrive interface, its cabin applications are generally good, so when we took the X5 xDrive35d out for test driving, an iPhone was tethered to the iPod connector and simultaneously paired to the Bluetooth phone system. The phone system in particular works well, making all contacts from the phone available on the car's LCD.

Live traffic is a very useful feature on the navigation system, but iDrive makes finding this map difficult.

Creeping through city streets, the X5 xDrive35d 's engine sounded like farm machinery, and acceleration was hardly quick, showing noticeable lag before it got up and went. The steering also felt a little loose, something surprising in a BMW. But the tall front seats proved very comfortable, wrapping us in adjustable bolsters.

Once we found the map in the horrible iDrive menu, it showed traffic on all the freeways around, helping us find clear roads.

And it was on those clear roads that the X5 xDrive35d finally started acting like a BMW. Our car was equipped with Automatic Damping Control, a feature that brings in a sport button for the suspension.

On the freeway, with the engine running past its lag point, it was easy to get some real acceleration. And that acceleration didn't want to quit, either, pulling strongly well towards the triple digits.

And the X5 xDrive35d got even better after an exit out onto twisty mountain roads. Popping the weird-looking shifter into Sport mode-- a complement to the suspension's Sport mode--the tachometer showed higher engine speeds, giving more immediate power to rush the turns.

Once on the open road, the X5 handles very well.

Even with the transmission's Sport mode, we couldn't let the speed drop too much before a turn, or the car would be stuck in lagsville. But going in with some speed meant the X5 xDrive35d showed its true colors, staying flat as the g-forces attempted to pull it over. Under these circumstances, it cornered like a champ, making us think it would be best to tackle the densest city streets as if we were on a racetrack.

In the cabin
There are things we like about the 2009 BMW X5 xDrive35d's cabin tech, such as the wide screen set into the dashboard, with its assistance screen off to the side. You can, for example, set it to show trip information in one side and a map on the other.

Other uniquely BMW features are the star and diamond buttons on the steering wheel, which can be set to a number of different functions, such as showing the phone book or changing audio sources.

We enjoyed the panoramic sunroof on the X5, an uncharacteristically free feature.

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