Automakers traditionally update a model, then leave it alone for three to five years, with maybe a minor cosmetic change somewhere in the product cycle. The X5, due for a major update in 2013, may look similar to its 2007 self, but the performance and cabin tech have all kept up with the times.
Under the hood sits BMW's N55 engine, the latest version of its 3-liter straight six cylinder, using direct injection for fuel delivery and a twin scroll turbocharger to boost power. Its eight-speed automatic transmission also represents more recent BMW technology. And BMW engineers tweaked the all-wheel-drive system, standard on the X5, with road-holding technologies such as corner braking and torque vectoring.
The cabin electronics include the latest BMW apps system, which reads Facebook and Twitter feeds out loud, and can even post canned updates based on the car's GPS location. The navigation system's maps are very refined, second only to those used by Audi.
The heavy steering wheel feel will be too much for those seeking a coddling luxury SUV, but BMW has always emphasized driving character. The biggest problem with the X5 is its weight, at well over 4,000 pounds it takes a lot of gas to move this beast even with the latest fuel-efficiency technologies on the market.
Check out CNET's review of the 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35i.