BMW X5

Launched in 1999, the X5 is BMW's flagship mid-size SUV, or as BMW calls it, an SAV-- for Sport Activity Vehicle. From the very beginning, BMW worked hard to make sure that sporty driving dynamics and an elevated level of responsiveness were programmed into the X5. This means the X5 features not only a great deal of utility, but with BMW's all-wheel drive system, a sure-footed nature in a variety of terrains. Add to that BMW's trademarked build quality and luxury and the X5 is a versatile vehicle that's well-placed at the top of its class. Five trims are available, starting with the rear-wheel-drive sDrive35i and topping out with the X5 M.

The 3.0L inline 6-cylinder turbocharged engine in the sDrive35i and all-wheel drive xDrive35i makes 300 horsepower. The xDrive50i is fitted with an all-aluminum twin-turbo 4.4L V8 with variable valve timing and direct injection. It features what BMW calls a "reverse flow" setup, with its twin turbochargers situated within the valley between the cylinders. It makes 445 horsepower and 450 foot-pounds of torque. Powering the xDrive35d is a 255-horsepower 3.0L inline-6 diesel engine. The Variable TwinPower turbocharged engine also produces 425 foot-pounds of torque and delivers an EPA-estimated 26 mpg on the highway.

The performance-oriented X5 M is in a class of its own with a twin-turbo 4.4L V8 that makes 567 hp and 553 lb-feet of torque.

All the X5 models use an 8-speed automatic transmission. Brake energy regeneration is also used with the gasoline engines, which uncouples the alternator from the accessory drive system, allowing the battery to only be charged during coasting or braking. This, BMW says, results in up to 2 percent fuel economy boost.

The standard safety features list includes driver and passenger front and side units as well as head airbags for the first- and second-row seats. BMW also offers Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Hill Descent Control and Dynamic Cruise Control. Active Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning systems are also available. There's also a rearview camera that can provide a 360-degree exterior view, a Heads-Up Display that projects onto the windshield in the driver's field of view and a Park Distance Control system that alerts the driver of obstacles behind the vehicle while parking.

Three distinct lines are available. The Luxury Line includes 19-inch alloy wheels, chrome window surrounds and a sport leather steering wheel. The xLine features stainless steel underbody cladding front/rear, silver matte kidney grille, rocker panels and front air intakes, roof rails in Satin Aluminum as well as window trim made of the same material, unique 19-inch wheels and Anthracite headliner as standard. The M Sport package includes an M Sport steering wheel, a sport automatic transmission, sport seats and M-badged foot rests and door sills.

The X5 M is equipped similarly to the xDrive50i, but gets 21-inch wheels, auto-leveling suspension, driver-selectable adaptive suspension, a limited-slip differential and powerful M compound brakes. Unique sport seats with deep bolsters as well as a unique interior color are also included.

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Editors' First Take

Hydrogen seems to forever be the fuel of the future, but BMW thinks the renewable gas is finally, maybe, hopefully, almost ready for primetime. Perhaps it has something to do with Germany's recent 9 billion euro investment into hydrogen infrastructure. Or maybe it's because BMW has been co-developing fuel cell technology with Toyota. Either way, BMW is going to launch a small fleet of iX5 Hydrogen SUVs around the world later this year, and I recently got to sample a prototype at the company's cold-weather testing facility in the winter wonderland known as Arjeplog, Sweden.

The biggest takeaway from my brief drive is that the iX5 Hydrogen is almost unremarkably normal. That's not a bad thing; the iX5 feels as comfortable and composed as any other X5 variant, though that really shouldn't come as a surprise. Toyota knows how to make a fuel cell vehicle drive like a luxury car and BMW has plenty of electric powertrain expertise. Aside from the occasional hum of the fuel cell doing its thing, the iX5 Hydrogen is every bit as serene as I imagine a fully electric X5 would be. And don't worry, it's still down to have a good time.

Two 700-bar, carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic tanks house the hydrogen onboard, which is converted into electric power inside the fuel cell under the hood. On its own, the fuel cell produces 170 horsepower, which definitely isn't enough for this porky, 5,600-ish-pound SUV. That's why BMW also employs a larger electric drive battery, which can be charged via the fuel cell or through energy recuperation (like regenerative braking). Combined, the drivetrain makes 374 hp, which is plenty. For reference, the plug-in hybrid X5 xDrive45e has 389 hp.

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