Driven: BMW X5

Now in its fourth generation, the BMW X5 represents the pinnacle of modern SUV performance, comfort, practicality and technology. Add to the mix that it’s a good  driving vehicle, and you’ve got a recipe that’s hard to beat.

Probably the most notable leap in this latest version is the technology. A degree from MIT wouldn’t hurt when figuring out all of the ways to interact with the X5. Start by swiping your foot under the rear bumper to open the clamshell tailgate. Then, just approach the driver’s door with the key fob in your pocket or purse, open it, climb in and press the start button to fire up the engine. Want to adjust the ventilation fan speed? Circle your finger to the left or right in front of the video display on the dashboard, and the fan speed increases or decreases. You even can give the X5 voice commands. I’m sure a thorough review of the owner’s manual would reveal numerous other technological tricks.

Luxury and safety amenities also are abundant and include a back-up camera, heated seats and steering wheel, automatic rain-sensing wipers, automatic emergency braking, cross traffic alert, blind spot indicator, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist that can move the steering wheel (and also can be disengaged).

The technology continues with the driver interfaces in the cabin, such as the configurable digital gauge package that offers analog speedometer and tachometer gauges on a video screen. A variety of information can be displayed between the gauges, including a GPS map and directions. An available heads-up display shows speed, directions and other valuable information on the bottom of the windshield (but don’t try to use it with polarized sunglasses). A large touchscreen can be operated by the iDrive controller between the seats to display audio, ventilation, GPS, phone connection, and front and rear camera views, among other things. You even can change the color of the interior trim lighting.

Probably the most interesting bit of new technology offered on the X5 is the automatic parking system that uses sensors to spot an available parking space to either back into or parallel park. Just push a button, drive past a row of cars, and the vehicle will look for a suitable parking place, which it signifies with an audible alert. Then, the vehicle parks itself. I admit to keeping my foot over the brake just in case. Apparently the system is not foolproof and can be thrown off by certain factors, so careful oversight is suggested.

Other interior features include nicely bolstered leather seats, wood trim, dual automatic climate control, lots of rear seat leg and head room, a large sunroof that extends over second-row passengers, available rear-seat video screens, and heated rear seats that can be folded down to increase the large cargo area. Puddle lights on the doors illuminate the ground so you can avoid stepping on ice or in a puddle.

Of course, being a BMW, the X5 is an enjoyable vehicle to drive as well. The standard six-cylinder engine provides plenty of power, but if you need more, a V8 is available. Power is transmitted to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters. No manual is offered, but you do get the choice of three driving modes: sport, comfort and eco. Sport is the most fun. Plentiful power, strong brakes and good handling for an SUV make the X5 an enjoyable ride. Though not tested, the car’s off-road prowess is said to be greatly improved with this new generation.

According to Gerd Petermann, salesman at Autohaus BMW, “The X5 drives like a sedan. It also has good visibility, especially with the lookaround cameras, and a third-row option is coming later in the year.”

▶ Base: $61,500, including delivery
▶ As driven with options: $64,500

gas mileage
▶ 20 city
▶ 26 highway

▶ Front engine; all-wheel drive
▶ 3.0-litre, turbo inline, 6-cylinder engine
▶ 335 horsepower
▶ 8-speed automatic transmission; 4,850 pounds

Robert Paster ( is also an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.