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2001 BMW X5
2001 BMW X5
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Review of 2001 BMW X5
Acura MDX vs. BMW X5
by LSMillers | Nov 20 '00 (Updated Jul 29 '01)

Pros: both well built, car-like SUVs
Cons: X5: not as much utility; MDX: not as safe
The Bottom Line: If you want a great all-around SUV, get the MDX. If you want the ultimate all-road driving machine, go with the X5.
Recommended: Yes

We're currently vacillating between an Acura MDX and a BMW X5 3.0i as our next vehicle, and for us it's been a tough choice. We highly value safety, utility and versatility, and each model has much to offer in these categories. Although we've plunked down a refundable deposit for the MDX and have gotten in line for a three month wait, we may well switch in the interim.

This review is for the six cylinder X5 3.0i without the Sport Package. The eight cylinder X5 4.4 has more horsepower than we trust ourselves with (it's very easy to inadvertently hit 80 mph in the 3.0i).

12/28/00 UPDATE: Today we cancelled our MDX deposit and put one down on the X5 instead. We explain why in "The Bottom Line" below.*

3/31/01 Update: See end of this review for a "3 months later" review of the X5's performance from an owner's perspective.


We believe that Safety should be the foremost consideration when buying a vehicle. For some people, "safe SUV" may be an oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp," given all the recent press about Explorer rollovers. However, it's a statistical fact that SUVs -- and especially those of greater size and wider track -- have fared much better in accidents than other vehicles. IIHS and NHTSA are good references on this subject (see below). These sources warn that over- and under-size SUVs can be dangerous in certain conditions, which is why we're only looking in the mid-size category.

We're not race car drivers, and accordingly don't give our highest marks to tests like the 600-ft. slalom and skidpad performance -- although these are considerations. On the other hand, we believe that acceleration and braking are important safety features.

The next factor is Utility, which for us is a large part of what having an SUV is all about. We want to be able to, on occasion, travel safely on ice and snow, haul our pop-up travel trailer, navigate rutted muddy roads (but not go extremely off-road), and carry sizeable loads of stuff ranging from bicycles to 4 X 8 sheets of wood--the latter two items without racks.

However, as frequent travelers we enjoy the aesthetics of a vehicle's ride, and want our SUV to be a good "people hauler" as well. This includes warranty performance as well as comfort. So this Versatility is important to us too.


Here are some references that have been helpful to us:

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS, www.highwaysafety.org)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, www.nhtsa.org)
Consumer Reports, April 2000 new car issue (www.consumerreports.org)
Consumer Reports, Special Edition on SUVs (May 2000)
Edmunds (www.edmunds.com), for vehicle stats and reviews
Intellichoice (www.intellichoice.com), to compare features
Motortrend (www.motortrend.com), for its December 2000 issue comparing SUVs
Car and Driver (www.caranddriver.com), for its December 2000 issue comparing upscale SUVs
USAToday (www.usatoday.com), for its excellent all-weather car reviews

1. SAFETY: Advantage, X5, 3-0-4(win-loss-tie)

1.1. Rollover Protection: likely tie
Rollovers caused 79% of all SUV fatalities in 1997. A narrower track (width between wheels on the same axle), greater height and greater cargo volume are the three main vehicle factors causing rollover. NHTSA estimates rollover tendency through a measure called "static stability factor" (SSF), which is half the track width divided by the center-of-gravity height, as a measurement of rollover tendency. A higher SSF indicates a more stable vehicle. Unfortunately NHTSA hasn't made this calculation for either the X5 or the MDX. They're considering publishing SSF ratings for all new vehicles in December 2000, so stay tuned.

You can estimate SSF by taking the vehicle's track and dividing it by its height. The lower the number, the higher the rollover tendency. The MDX comes out slightly ahead due to its wider track, as follows: MDX: 66.4/71.3 = .9313; X5: 62/67.5 = .9185

However, the ground clearance on the X5 is almost an inch lower than the MDX, giving the X5 a lower center of gravity and thus greater stability. Also, from what I've read, the X5 suspension appears to be less "off road" than the MDX's, although not by much. And off-road suspensions can contribute to rollovers. Lastly, the MDX has a significantly larger cargo volume, which means that its center-of-gravity height can be elevated more than the X5's by adding people and stuff into & on top of the vehicle. So my suspicion is that the two vehicles are likely to be evenly matched in this department. I'm looking forward to the NHTSA report for more information about this important consideration.

12/28/00 Update: for additional information on predicted SUV rollover probabilities, go to http://www.usatoday.com/money/consumer/autos/mauto696.htm
The X5 has a 18-22% rollover probability in a serious accident, rating it better than the Infiniti QX4, Lexus RX300, Ford Explorer and most other SUVs. It was equal to Mercedes, Tahoe, and several others. The only SUVs that fared better were the Excursion and Suburban. The MDX hadn't been released at the time of this test, but the similar Odyssey did the best of all minivans, with a 7-10% probability. The MDX won't do quite as well because of its higher ground clearance and more off-road suspension.

A last consideration re rollovers is BMW's Dynamic Stability Control system, which controls braking electronically to prevent sideways skids that often lead to rollovers. Acura has no equivalent system in the MDX. Although we could find no independent evaluation of this feature, we consider it a plus for the X5 and another reason that it's at least tied with the MDX in relation to rollovers. This may even make the X5 the more stable vehicle. The Lexus and Mercedes SUVs also have this feature (VSC and ESP, respectively), which leads us to believe that it is likely worth having.

1.2. Collision performance: likely X5
The X5 was recently tested by IIHS and achieved not only highest "Best Pick" status in the mid-size SUV category (above Mercedes and Lexus), it amazed the reviewers as well. There was no penetration into the driver and passenger compartments in tests that simulated a 40 mph head-on collision. Not just Best Pick, but the best vehicle that they'd ever tested (!) Read the IIHS information before you buy any SUV, as the results for some models -- e.g., the Honda Passport and Chevy Blazer -- are no less than shocking. The report on the X5 gave us pause over our prior preference for the MDX. The latter hasn't been tested, but reviewers have stated that Honda's testing labs have given it NHTSA-equivalent five star (highest) ratings for front and side collisions. And the Honda Odyssey, with the same chassis, has earned the second highest rating -- but not Best Pick designation -- in the minivan category. What's particularly disturbing to us, however, is the fact that Honda/Acura has put its badges on two of the least-safe SUVs on the road today per IIHS, the Rodeo/Passport and Trooper/SLX. Read the narrative about how IIHS discovered fuel leaks when it crash-tested the Trooper, something they hadn't seen in any other vehicle test.

1.3. Effective Braking: X5
Both vehicles have independent channel, four wheel disc ABS braking systems, the safest combination to have. However, the X5 far outperforms the MDX as follows in 60-0 mph braking tests: X5: 123 feet; MDX: 139 feet. The X5's braking capability outperforms that of many cars, while the MDX's approximately equals that of the much larger GMC Yukon Denali XL. Yuck. The X5 also has an electronic system referred to as "Dynamic Brake Control", which compensates for human error during some braking situations, another feature not found in the MDX.

1.4. Supplemental Restraint Systems: X5
Both vehicles have front and side chest airbags, but only the X5 has bags that protect the head in a side collision. This could be a life saver one day, or at least prevent serious injuries in a side impact crash. The MDX gets high marks, however, for having bags with passenger position sensors and partial-inflation capability (which X5 also has).

1.5. Bumper Damage Protection: likely tie
The X5 has a remarkably low bumper damage repair cost -- $547 -- which is the lowest among all midsize SUVs tested by IIHS. Compare this with the $2,790 that you'd pay with an Isuzu Trooper (!) The MDX hasn't been tested yet, but the Honda Odyssey, which has the same chassis as the MDX, rates a similarly low $299.

1.6. Head Restraint Protection: likely tie
An important measurement for rear-end collisions, and very few vehicles excel in this IIHS test (except Volvo and Saab). The X5 gets a marginal rating, and the MDX hasn't been tested yet. But it's cousin, the Odyssey, also gets a marginal rating.

1.7. Weight Load Capacity: tie
A recent presentation on NBC's Dateline dramatized the importance of this factor. Some SUVs have load capacities of under 1,000 lb (an Explorer's is 980 lb., vs. 1,200 lb. for a Taurus wagon)., and thus are easily overloaded and much more prone to instability and rollovers. These two vehicles are safe in this regard, as follows: X5: 1290 lb.; MDX: 1362 lb.

2. UTILITY: Advantage, MDX, 3-1-1

2.1. Traction control/Four-wheel drive: MDX
Both vehicles have sophisticated four wheel drive/traction mechanisms, and I won't pretend to be an expert in this department. However, I believe that I've found a reliable source, the USAToday car reviews. They take the trouble to test their vehicles in snow and ice as well as on dry on- and off-road conditions. They've panned the Mercedes ML430, BMW X5 and Lexus RX300 for traction control systems that under-perform on ice and snow, with wheels spinning and power diminishing in some circumstances. Conversely, they rave about the MDX's new Variable Torque Management System, which directs power to the rear wheels on an as-needed basis and has none of the aforementioned problems. On dry surfaces, on or off road, the two vehicles appear to perform about the same, with the X5 likely a little better in off-road circumstances.

2.2. Off-road clearance and suspension: MDX
The clearance is little better for the MDX, by almost an inch. A comparison of suspensions by reviewers indicates that the MDX's is a little better for off-road conditions.

2.3. Trailer hauling: X5
Better for the X5 by 1,500 lb (5,000 vs 3,500, or 4,500 if a boat), and you don't need to buy a towing conversion package for it as you have to do with the MDX.

2.4. Passenger Volume: MDX
The MDX blows the X5 out of the water in this department, providing 162 cu. ft versus 98 in the X5. You can fold down the third row seat and actually lay down a plywood 4 X 8 in the rear space if you had to. More practical for us is the ability to store bikes in this space, and Acura even sells an interior bike rack for this purpose (!) It's really amazing to find this much space inside what appears to be a midsize SUV. It's also surprising to find so little space in the X5, to the point where one is left wondering what its utilitarian advantage is when you have only two more cubic feet of cargo space than you would in a BMW 528i wagon. (Note, however, that this comparison doesn't count the extra cargo volume that the X5 has above the rear seats. If this is counted, it has at least 8 more cubic feet than the wagon.)

2.5. Power/Acceleration: tie
Both vehicles are evenly matched in this category. Each does 0 to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, with the MDX having more torque (245 vs 214 ft.lb.).

3. VERSATILITY: Advantage, X5, 3-2-0

3.1. Driving performance: X5
We concluded that the X5 has the advantage in this department. The steering responsiveness felt on a par with that of a large car's and was superior to that of truck-based SUVs such as the new Toyota Sequoia. This seems to be borne out by performance tests: the X5's skidpad is better (.78 vs..74 g), as is also its slalom (60 vs. 57 mph). For comparison, the Yukon XL's stats are .71 and 53 mph. The X5 was much quieter at freeway speeds, and felt more maneuverable during lane changes.

3.2. Driving Comfort: X5
Again, the two are close but the X5 is somewhat better. We enjoyed the feel of the seats, both front and mid-row, and preferred the latter in the MDX. The X5's interior is better designed, but the MDX's suits our somewhat utilitarian orientation just fine. MDX bonuses are separate front and rear air conditioning systems and standard seat warming.

3.3. Space Conversion: MDX
The MDX deserves special praise for the design of the second and third row seats. The X5 doesn't even have the third row, so no contest there. With both vehicles you can fold down one of the two mid-row seats so that it can accommodate extra long stuff such as skis and ladders. The MDX's third row seat doesn't have to be removed like in most other SUVs. You just fold it down, and there's a (relatively) vast expanse of cargo space. Great idea!

3.4. Mileage & Emissions: MDX
They're equally matched re power, but the MDX amazingly achieves better fuel economy (17/23 vs. 15/20) AND earns a ULEV (ultra low emissions) rating to boot. Wow! (The X5 also has a ULEV rating).

3.5. Warranties: X5
Both are 48 mo./50K, but the X5 offers better rust protection 72 vs 60 mo.). Our current impression is that we'll likely be charged more for repairs at a BMV service shop than we would at one for Acuras/Hondas, so this is a factor too.


The above things thus considered, we opted for the MDX and got in line to wait for ours after paying a refundable deposit. After we'd made our decision we were pleased to learn that Motor Trend magazine had come to a similar conclusion, naming the MDX its SUV of the Year in the December 2000 issue. In this same month Car and Driver magazine ran an article comparing upscale SUVs, and the MDX again came out on top. In the latter comparison the X5 earned second place.

However, as I said earlier, the new crash test data on the X5 has caused us to reflect upon our choice. We're going to continue our research while we're waiting, and would welcome all comments from others who've done research on these vehicles.

An additional factor that's been been weighing in is the history of the two manufacturers. Certainly Honda/Acura has an excellent record with many fine products such as its Legend series and the 2000 Odyssey. But its mistakes -- i.e., putting its names on the arguably unsafe Isuzu Trooper (Acura SLX) and Rodeo (Honda Passport), and re-badging the poorly performing Isuzu minivan for its earlier Odyssey models -- have left us cringing. Some of the MDX's component specifications, such as the four wheel drive's, are suspiciously similar to those of an Isuzu Trooper. The "Joe Isuzu" weasel salesman image is a fitting one for the company, which is bringing him back in their commercials.

BMW, on the other hand, has only associated itself with excellent vehicles as far as we can determine, even after they bought Land Rover and later sold it. LR's Discovery doesn't do well on-road, but is a superb off-road vehicle. Lastly, BMW was doing offset crash testing long before IIHS and most other manufacturers were even thinking about it.

*12/28/00 Update: As announced in the update at the beginning of this review, we've switched to the X5. And won't switch back, as we take delivery on 12/31. Please allow us to ramble on a bit about why we've done this.

Two incidents persuaded us to change our minds. The first was an accident that a colleague had several months ago, wherein he was blindsided in an intersection by a large truck running a red light. He was in a small sedan, and suffered serious (and likely long-term) neck injuries as a result of this collision. He's a good driver and is always cautious, but there was no way he could have been prepared for a vehicle plowing though an almost-blind intersection.

The second incident occurred last week in our town, Los Altos, as we were window shopping near the corner of First and State streets, enjoying cups of Peet's Coffee. Through that three way stop-sign intersection, right in front of us, barreled a (likely) soccer mom in a Ford Expedition. She appeared to be going at least 30 mph, and didn't even slow down as she ran the stop sign.

We were breath-taken not only by the sheer idiocy of this act, but also by its huge potential for catastrophe -- to others. After it occurred it was as if nothing had happened. No one noticed but us, and the day went right on. However, this moment was a "conversion experience" for us.

Anyone who's ever idled at a stop light next to an Expedition or similar behemoth knows that its bumper rides just about level with your chest when you're in a sedan. With a little imagination, that bumper begins to feel like a weapon pointed right at your heart.

IIHS has written extensively about this circumstance, called "crash incompatibility", and has come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with it is to have the best passive safety systems available. A bigger vehicle is one defense (look at their pictures of small cars hit by trucks in fatal side collisions). And another defense, promoted in a special IIHS report this month, is side-chest and side-head airbags.

Only BMW has standard side-head airbags of all SUVs on the market today. Ford has come out with side-head "rollover" (how appropriate for the makers of the Explorer!) curtains as an option, but these are not as effective as the balloon-style bag that BMW uses. Read their comparisons with BMW's versus Volvo's system, the latter which uses curtains. Take the trouble also to view their video (on their web site) showing the effects of a side collision on a dummy, with and without side-chest and side-head (BMW/balloon) airbags. Then imagine that the dummy is you, as it could be in the future. IIHS reports that 20% of all auto accident fatalities are caused by head injuries in side impacts.

IIHS's information now appears to be so pro-BMW that they should be getting sales commissions. Read also the X5's phenomenal front collision performance write-up on IIHS's web site. We believe the X5 to be the safest passenger vehicle on the road today. The behemoths may offer equivalent passive safety protection for their own occupants, but they fall far behind re active safety measures (braking, maneuvering, crash avoidance) -- and are also a road hazard for other drivers (the aforementioned plus crash incompatibility).

A last factor in our decision was Consumer Reports' recent road-test evaluation of four SUVs, the Ford Excursion, Mercedes ML430, Chevrolet Suburban and BMW X5 (4.4). They rated the latter the safest of the four, having the best scores for emergency handling, braking, acceleration (which the 3.0i would also have scored best), ride and fuel economy. They've also rated the X5 the best overall of eleven mid- and large-size SUVs.

So we've decided that this extra protection is worth sacrificing the utility that the MDX offers. We figure the extra bucks are a cheap form of life and accident insurance. And besides, we've found the X5 to be the more pleasurable vehicle to drive. It's more plush, corners on a dime, stops on same, and out-performs all other SUVs in on-road (vs. off-road) driving tests per Car & Driver and Motor Trend magazines.

We still think that the MDX is a great deal, especially for those folks who need more space and aren't as nuts as we are about safety.


3/31/01 Update: 3 months' ownership.

After 90 days and 7145 miles we've found ourselves to be delighted with our new BMW X5, and have dubbed it our "ultimate all-road driving machine." We've taken it to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe in the snow, up and down many narrow winding roads in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains, and at high speeds on the interstate freeways. It's never lost its grip on the road in all these circumstances.

The winter performance was stellar. At Yosemite it glided along smoothly on fully snow-covered roads, where a Honda CRV lost control and crashed into another vehicle, and a Suburban got stuck, with wheels spinning uselessly on a sloped turn on a campsite road (we were snow camping). We were on the same roads as these two four-wheel drive vehicles, and at no time did we lose control or traction, or even come close to doing so. This was after the locals down the road had advised us to put chains on even four wheel drive vehicles with winter tires, given the conditions (we didn't).

The X5's performance on (low traffic) winding mountain roads is exhilarating, feeling akin to slaloming down a ski slope race course. You're left with the impression that you could easily take the turns at much higher than the (already significant) speed, but are restrained from doing so by good citizenship. On one (experimental) occasion I accelerated into a turn, at a speed beyond what I would have attempted in even the Porsche that I once owned -- and could feel the electronic stability and traction control systems gently activating, smoothly correcting my behavior and keeping the X5 completely in control.

The open road performance is no less impressive. It's as effortless to go 100 mph as it is to go 60, which is the only safety hazard of this vehicle -- it's too much fun to go fast!! 100 mph was a one-time experiment, not a predilection. But it does take discipline to resist the temptation. My solution has been to use the cruise control extensively. The cabin noise is amazingly quiet at high speed, given how high the vehicle is riding. A look under the chassis reveals how aerodynamic this vehicle is -- there's nothing protruding, unlike every other SUV on the market.

The Steptronic transmission option in our model has reawakened this driver to the joys of manual shifting after decades of being anesthetized by automatics. This transmission is really three in one: standard automatic; sport automatic (with higher revs on shifts); and manual. The last setting gives one the advantages of hand shifting -- greater control and more power on demand -- without the disadvantages of hassling with a clutch pedal and downshift stalling. For the latter, it automatically downshifts at around 600 rpm in case you've forgotten to. It also automatically upshifts before you're too deeply into the redline, with the most sensitive setting for such in first gear. Best of all, you can simply put it back into either the standard or sport-automatic mode if you decide you want to direct your attention elsewhere. This feature has become a "his-her" setting on our X5.

The extra "nooks and crannies" in this vehicle are great for storage of all sorts of things. We're able to put a significant amount of stuff, from first aid and emergency kits, jumper battery, flashlight, maps and bungee straps, into the two rear cargo area storage compartments with room to spare. This stuff used kick around as a nuisance in the back of our minivan. And the pockets in the four doors are capacious as well, much larger than in other models. Another nice feature is the presence of a rear electrical outlet in the rear of the middle console, which we can use to recharge our cell phone without messing up the driver/front passenger space. There are another two outlets in the rear cargo area and one in the front passenger footwell area for a total of five, and we've found occasion to use all of them.

The build quality is a pure joy to experience. Everything is air tight and within micrometer-measured tolerances, and the small details that we keep discovering continue to amaze us even after three months of ownership. One example is the absence of a radio antenna, to improve aerodynamics -- it's in the glass of one of the windows. Other examples are the motor-driven seat belt tensioners, and electronic braking control (beyond ABS). The X5 is clearly "over-built" in comparison to other vehicles in its class.

We've found that we've become more aware of road conditions in this vehicle than we had been in either our Toyota Previa or Mercedes 300 SD. Although the ride is smooth, the suspension lets you know when you're covering rough ground. This is not at all objectionable in the standard model that we have. The X5 that Car & Driver tested in their April 2000 issue, citing a rough ride, had the sport suspension, which is considerably more stiff than ours. What's astonishing about our X5's suspension is that you can go over large ruts and potholes at speed with minimal shock to the vehicle, yet it still keeps you aware of -- but not uncomfortably jiggled by -- the small bumps so that you know what you're riding on. We've come to the conclusion that a somewhat (but not overly) stiff suspension is better for good driving dynamics. Apparently this is BMW's philosophy, as their high-performance M3 and M5 models both have significantly stiffer suspensions than the standard 3 and 5 series cars.

Critics are correct in marking the X5 down as an inadequate "SUV" due to cargo and off-road limitations, but BMW has really created an entirely new beast with this vehicle. Put it next to a Lexus RX300 and they look about the same size, but the X5 is actually about 700 lb heavier, close to what a 2WD Chevy Tahoe weighs. They put all this weight to very good use in creating a highly stable and supremely collision-resistant all-road -- not off-road -- vehicle, which is exactly what we want. The doors are one example. We noticed after a while that, compared to our other vehicles, they feel like they're armor plated. They move easily enough, but gradually we've become aware of the significant extra weight, especially when parking on slopes.

For reviews of the X5 written this month (3/01), check out Edmunds' recent road test of the 2002 X5 4.6is (http://www.edmunds.com/roadtests/firstdrive/2002/bmw/x5/45099/index.html); and their road test of the X5 LeMans at Nurburgring (http://www.edmunds.com/roadtests/firstdrive/2002/bmw/x5/45099/page001.html)

The last review is noteworthy in that a stock X5 body was able to handle a huge power boost and highly abusive driving dynamics with extraordinary stability and no strain.

Lastly, a re-reading of Car and Driver's December 2000 SUV comparison article revealed that, in the summary table at the end, the X5 got the highest rating in more categories than any of the other vehicles tested. The MDX, which got the "Number One" designation, received four top ratings versus six for the X5. Lexus was third with three.

To provide some balance to the above gushing, here is some counterpoint:

1. The premium fuel requirement plus lower fuel efficiency -- plus increasing California fuel prices, and item 10 below -- add up to a monthly fuel bill that's about twice what we were used to with our minivan. Ouch, but well worth it for us.

2. The rear and side visibility are somewhat limited, and this requires added attention when backing up or changing lanes. We've attached small convex mirrors to both side view mirrors to help with this situation.

3. The front windshield can fog up easily, requiring one to run the blower at maximum for a few minutes at start-up in winter conditions. And the standard air conditioning system that we have can challenge us at times to find a temperature that's ideal for us. However, we aren't recommending the high-end system, as a friend of ours who owns a 530i with such tells us that it's not worth the extra money.

4. There has been a recall for a potential steering column problem. We took our vehicle in and they checked it within a half hour, telling us that there was no defect and that they hadn't seen one yet.

5. The cargo area cover, although giving the back space an elegant appearance, can get in the way if you're trying to haul anything of size such as a bicycle. It's easily removed, though, and we appreciate having it. Also, we've found that the split hatch is a great idea, unlike the assessments of several other reviewers. It's easy to flip open the top half to put in groceries, and very convenient to sit on the lower door while putting on ski boots.

6. The wheels can get covered with brake pad residue fairly quickly after an active drive, as compared to our other vehicles.

7. The vehicle can accumulate dirt inside quickly if you're active, so be sure to buy the extra floor mats. We got the winter set as well as the standard one. We also got the floor cover for the rear cargo space, which is another essential item for us.

8. Skis will fit inside without the need of an exterior rack, but just barely. If you've got a pair longer than 200 cm you'll need the rack, and 190s will have to go in diagonally, requiring that the larger rear seat be folded down. There's an optional "ski bag" that has a covered hole in the middle of the rear seat for skis, which is a good idea. We didn't get it, but now wish that we had.

9. Our BMW dealership's waiting room has the look and feel of a stock brokerage office more than a repair shop, with personal assistants at desks, free coffee and comfortable chairs and tables. The repair, detailing and parts areas are spacious, modern and impeccably clean, and are all well staffed. This is cited as a negative because we suspect that it all comes with a steep price attached to one's invoices. Our instincts are telling us to seriously investigate the independent shops after the warranty period is over. However, we'll wait until we get our first bill to make this decision. One early warning, however, has been the installation of a towing receiver hitch for $1,000, which is about double what it would have cost elsewhere with a different vehicle. The dealership claimed that they have to spend significant extra mechanic time because of the configuration of the X5's exhaust pipes, and cited this as an example where the option should be factory installed.

10. Warning: you may find yourself driving way more than you used to after you get this vehicle, often finding any excuse to go out and explore on the weekends. 7K miles in 3 months is about 50% more than we would typically put on a vehicle.

7/4/01 update: The dealer had the car for seven days to fix an engine computer problem. The only symptom was a "service engine soon" dash light that wouldn't shut off. In the interim we were given a 330i as a loaner car, and we were so delighted about the driving experience that we wrote a review about it. We still prefer the X5 as our primary vehicle, but are now seriously considering the 330i as our second car.

7/9/01 Update:Per Autoweek (7/2/01), there will be a recall of 2001 X5s built between 12/18/00 and 4/30/01 for a faulty engine fan switch that can cause fires. For an excellent source of X5 user reports, go to the X5 forum at www.bimmer.org.

7/18/01 Update This week J.D. Power released the results of their 2001 Initial Quality survey. Although BMW ranked fourth overall, the X5 ranked 167 out of 194 vehicles. The MDX's ranking was 114, and the RX300 was the best luxury SUV with a ranking of 5. Does this correlate well with long-term reliability? It has in the case of the RX 300. But Ford's Expedition, which Consumer Reports members have given below-average reliability ratings, was JD Power's top-rated Full-size SUV this year. (http://www.thecarconnection.com/index.asp?article=3671)

Owns this vehicle: Yes
Amount Paid (US$): about $40K
Condition: New
Model Year: 2001
Model and Options: MDX; X5 3.0i

Author's Product Rating
Rating: 5.0 
Reliability: 5.0
Seat Comfort: 4.0
Quality and Craftsmanship: 4.0
Handling And Control: 5.0

About The Author
Epinions.com ID: LSMillers
Location: California
Reviews written: 32
Trusted by: 24 members

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