not lean, but mean

2007, BMW, X5

I was born in South Carolina and can tell you that if it had not been for Michelin and BMW making their headquarters in Northern South Carolina, Spartanburg County would be a desolate community. BMW has grown since 1999 when they first hired 2,000 employees to 4,000 employees, as they roll out the new 2007 BMW X5.

Robert Nitto, Vice President Corporate Affairs, said that the vehicles made in South Carolina are the exclusive manufacturing site for those models. Those models, the X, the Z, the M, are built for the entire world, and are being exported to other countries worldwide. When BMW first started manufacturing the X5 BMW thought the primary market would be the USA and Canada. In the end 45 percent was sold in the USA and Canada, the rest exported. Building the X5 in the US helped with the dollar/euro currency problem faced over the last couple years.

Weilend Bruk, Corporate Communications headquarters based in Munich, outside Germany said, "BMW's success in the US is partly because of the X5. The X5 is the catalyst for doubling the volume over the last 7 years. The X5 brought new customers to BMW that had never considered BMW. 1,400 were sold the first year, 82,000 units the third year. The X5 defied conventional auto sales that usually fall off after 3 years, and instead sold over 100,000 X5s the fourth year." The assembly line has been changed to a one line assembly, which means the X5s and Z4s are built on the same line.

I was talking to a woman that bought a different 7-passenger SUV with tinted windows. She wanted the tinted windows because she didn't want people to be able to see her kids. Maybe, maybe, she was a little paranoid, but the 3rd row seat, a first for the X5, is not visible from the outside because of a short rear overhang and the rising contour horizontal sidelines. I don't know how many other people are worried about their children being seen, but when I noticed this it made me think of her.

The exterior speaks of sportiness and muscularity. The muscular wheel arches and black rear bumper gives a sporty athletic look. The exhaust pipes exit through the bumper and typical BMW DNA is the L-design of the rear lights. The engine hood has powerful arched contours. BMW has kept their kidney grille with three-dimensional rods. The dual circular headlights are integrated into the side panels with daytime running lights.

When I'm driving on the road in a car, not in an SUV, I dislike SUVs because they're so big and hard to see around. But, inside the X5, the raised seat, or command position, gives the driver a sense of control by being able to see over other cars. The instrument panel is ergonically angled towards the driver. The idrive has been broken out, so that one doesn't need to go down five levels to change the vent position. Instead, the vents and other key utilities that are used often have been brought out, individually, back on the center console.

Breaking out the idrive gave BMW more space in the center console and they took advantage of that space to appease the American market with two cupholders that can hold big gulps. Obviously, the Germans have been listening to complaints and fixing them. This could be bad. BMW may have to hire more people.

In most vehicles these days, you will see right in front of you an airbag and below that a small glovebox. BMW placed their airbag closer to the window, which allowed them to place the glovebox right in front of you and include a built-in CD changer in the glovebox. A button opens the glovebox in what BMW calls a butterfly fashion, two doors opening from the middle. Individual air conditioning controls are in the second row, where you'll find more room than the previous version.

Albert Biermann, the X5 Project Manager, used to work on suspensions for race cars. BMW has a world renowned suspension and would be one of the top reasons I would pick for buying a BMW. The torsional stiffness is 15 percent better than the previous version. A coefficient drag of .34 and the new X5 is faster than the old X5 by ten seconds. Biermann is proud.

First on the X5 is a double wishbone front axle with variable steering ratio. The multilink independent rear, with optional electronic damping control and variable rate roll stiffness on the $3,600 Sport Package, equipped vehicles was continued from the original X5. Another first for this X5 is an adaptive drive with data transfer with flex-ray. It all sounds like gobbilty-goop till you realize it means safety to the nth degree. Adaptive drive combines BMW's active anti-roll system (ARS) with a completely newly developed adaptive shock absorber control system. This system controls each wheel independently. Each shock absorber has its own sensor and control unit connected via flex-ray to the car.

Flex-ray is newly developed transfer system and you will see the first application on the new X5. The ARS and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) smooths out the ride for the passengers, who usually feel the bumps more because of the higher seating. GM, DaimlerChrysler, VW and BMW have been working together on quite a few technologies that would have been too expensive for one company. Flex-ray is one of those technologies.

You've heard of idrive, now, for the first time: active steering in the xdrive. Active steering is an enhanced system with yaw-control when you are braking on road surfaces with different grip levels between the right and left side the active counter-steering senses this and takes over for you.

SAVs, or SUVs, are known for rollovers because they are top heavy. When you're looking for an SUV you want to look for a manufacturer that concentrates on traction, agility and safety. xDrive is a package that includes dynamic stability control (DSC) and engine management for a fully variable power distribution to where it is needed. The xDrive manages the torque distribution pro-actively and intervenes if necessary. Trust me, you're going to like xDrive right from the start, something that wasn't said about iDrive right away.

DSC is what BMW calls electronic stability control (ESC), which national Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will make mandatory on all vehicles by 2012. NHTSA has said that ESC on all vehicles will save 10,000 lives. BMW has it on their X5 now.

Another item NHTSA will be happy with is the rear seat camera with trajectory lines. over 400 children have been killed because people, mainly relatives, couldn't see the child in the back of the SUV as they drove backwards. The earlier versions of rear cameras were only cameras, then there were trajectory lines that moved with the steering wheel and turned from green, to yellow, to red. NHTSA says that even then, people get complacent about looking in the camera. BMW has added beeps that increase as the car gets closer to an object it is going to hit. Infiniti and Mercedes are the only other manufacturers that have this technology.

According to Thomas Plucinsky of BMW, the biggest complaint BMW got about the previous generation of the X5 was that there wasn't enough room in the back, that there wasn't enough cargo room difference between the X3 and the X5. Seven passenger SUVs are the rage in the SUV segment. According to James Hope of Volvo, the Volvo XC90 has an optional 3rd row seat and 75-80 percent of the XC90 sales are with the 3rd row seat. According to Subaru's Lisa Flemming, Subaru, the 7-passenger Subaru Tribeca is not only a very good sell for Subaru, but it is being sold to people who normally didn't buy Subarus, known in the auto industry as conquests buys. BMW is hoping the logic will follow for them.

If you don't need that extra room, and you don't want the extra weight, the extra length, the loss of fuel economy that comes with the extra weight, and the wider turning radius then look to the 2007 BMW X3. The 2007 X5 inline 6-cylinder 3.0-liter is 900 pounds heavier than the 2007 BMW X3 and the length for the X5 is 191.1 versus 179.9 for the X3. Your turning radius on the 2007 X3 is 38.4, while the 2007 X5 is 42 feet. You would get about 2.5 miles per gallon if you bought the X3and save about $7,000. If you're not getting the third row seat, make sure you really want that cargo space.

If you need that cargo room or third row seat the only caution I have is to look at the turning radius; 42 feet is the turning radius for the new BMW X5, a lot higher than the 39.7 turning radius on the 2006 BMW X5. The next generation needs to be less weight, and yes, there will be a next generation. Because the Audi Q7, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and the Mercedes GL are all great competitors, but the BMW X5 still drives like a BMW. They just need more collards, less fried chicken. It's a Southern tradition that has transcended the nation.

By Lou Ann Hammond

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Images of the 2007, BMW X5

2007 BMW X5 with 3 rows
2007 BMW X5 with 3 rows
Dash and Nav system
Dash and Nav system
Third row ready for occupants
Third row ready for occupants
Change the steering wheel and the path changes
Change the steering wheel and the path changes