2008 BMW X5 Review – A Recipe for Adventure

BMW Expert Reviews

2008 BMW X5

By R. Myint


  • Handling
  • Power
  • Styling


  • Cargo Capacity
  • Lack of rear hitch
  • Fuel mileage

Recipe for adventure:

Take 3 adults 3 bikes, and 3 days of mountain biking in Downieville, California. Add biking gear, camping gear and 2 full coolers. Place all items in the Ultimate Driving Machine, the BMW X5, and shake well. Cook the X5 over miles of freeway and twisty mountain roads for 6 hours and enjoy. Repeat as necessary for a fulfilling sensation that is tasty as a warm chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven.

2008 BMW X5

Driving Impressions

First things first – read the owner’s manual! There is a plethora of buttons, switches and controls that you need to know about before you attempt to drive the X5. Do not attempt to figure it out while you’re driving, unless you have an adept copilot. Speaking of a copilot, preparing to drive the X5 is like performing a pre-flight on an airplane. There’s a bit of set-up involved before you can begin your “flight”. The iDrive system needs to be programmed through the use of the controller. You can enter your navigation data, choose entertainment options, and also access an array of information with the system.

After completing your preflight and receiving takeoff clearance, you can get on with the fun part – driving.

Once you’ve got a grasp of the main controls then you can start to appreciate what the X5 has to offer. A push button start will fire up the 4.8 liter, 32-valve, V-8. Release the parking brake by pushing another button. Place the BMW’s steptronic transmission into reverse and watch the display as the rear view camera safely guides you back. Sensors will alert you when you get too close to other objects, such as trees, people, other cars, etc. Once you’ve cleared the obstacles, a touch of a button and flick of the shifter will get you into drive. You’ve got options here, as well – normal drive mode, sport mode, or manual shifting. The option you choose will depend on the road conditions and personal preference. I really enjoyed the sport mode as we snaked our way up through the mountains. The motor’s RPM’s stayed high and the suspension firmed up so nicely that I forgot I was even in an SUV. This was definitely the best thing about the X5. The only downside to the sport mode was watching the fuel flow gauge drop below 12mpg, a small price to pay for maximizing the fun factor.

2008 BMW X5 - iDrive System 2008 BMW X5 - Rearview Camera, Temperature, Audio Controls 2008 BMW X5 - 6-speed Electronically Controlled Automatic Transmission

Overall, I was awed by the performance of the X5. The acceleration and handling were excellent. The highly technical features, which include the dynamic traction, stability, and braking controls as well as the adaptive headlights really made driving the X5 a joy. As I mentioned before, driving the X5 is so much like driving a sports car that you forget you’re in an SUV. The options we got to enjoy on our X5 included the rear passenger entertainment center – Francis got in a couple of movies on the way up, the heads-up display which kept important data at eye level and HD radio which has a very nice sound coming through the 12-speaker system.

That being said, the X5 does have some minor flaws in the SUV category. Our X5 was not equipped with a trailer hitch, which would have made it easier for loading the bikes. Putting 3 bikes on a roof rack of the X5 took some work, because of the height and the fact that we didn’t want to scratch the beautiful white paint! The interior cargo space is a bit limited even with one seat folded down. My Honda Element hauls much more, but that’s like comparing a cup of coffee to a triple espresso. Also, as most sport utes go, the gas mileage isn’t that great – the X5 is rated 14mpg city and 19mpg highway. We averaged just over 14mpg on the trip up to Downieville. Blame that on the sport mode…but if you can afford the X5, I’m guessing you’re not overly concerned with the price of gas, or anything else for that matter!

2008 BMW X5 - Rear Entertainment System 2008 BMW X5 - Storage Space, Bike Rack 2008 BMW X5 - Split Folding Rear Seats for Storage


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