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Old 02-21-2011, 06:46 PM
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BMW X5d, X5 35i, and Jeep GC Overland Test Drive Reviews

All,

As I noted in my other thread, my wife and I went to BMW of Minnetonka and then Walser Jeep in Edina to test drive the BMW X5 (diesel and inline 6) and then the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland with the V8. Several of you indicated an interest in hearing about our experience so I’ve recapped it below. This was an excellent learning experience for my wife and I but left us with just a couple still unanswered questions which I’ve also outlined below. Now we all have to recognize this isn’t going to be and will never be a fair fight. I’m considering two vehicles that are separated by roughly $18k (initial purchase) when comparably equipped, and one manuf where I’m buying near the bottom of their offering costs, and another where I am at the absolute top of their offering.


Dealership Experience Review:
I could sum this up in three words. Night and Day. Boom, there you go, no need to read further, but it’s a fun read non-the-less. First we went to the BMW dealer. Three stories tall, one of every vehicle on the three story show room floor and then everything else in an attached and heated garage. Service is also attached to the garage so there is never a reason to be outside when at the BMW dealer. This is a nice plus given the fact its 26 degrees outside and I’ve had 24 inches of snow in 24 hours. There is a play area for kids, a coffee bar with cocoa, coffee and cookies, business office area for your waits, several lounge areas by gas fireplaces, and then a theatre. This is all very ironic, because if I’m dropping near $60k on an X5 I should never have to come back for anything but service and the next vehicle. Then when it is service I should be able to drop it off in the morning, get a service loaner to drive to work and then pick it up on my way home. I didn’t confirm on the service loaner standard but will before finalizing any potential purchase. I’m assuming they do because this was standard fair when I owned a couple Infinitis.

Next we had the experience at the Jeep dealer. The building is a very nice two story building that is relatively new. Pulling into the parking lot showed a bit of promise. We walk into the dealer lobby where we are abruptly met by loud pop music and by loud I mean I had to nearly shout to the admin that I wanted to speak with a salesman. Keep in mind I’m 28 and definitely enjoy my music volume to be elevated at times, but I don’t appreciate it when I’m trying to hold a conversation or much less spend $45k. The service area held not a comfortable lounge chair or leather sofa paired with a gas fireplace. But alas, I spotted a coffee bar! Ecstatic…and cold from my walk in the 20 degree weather, I walked over for a warm cup of hot chocolate. To my dismay and disgust there were no cups and a machine that looked like it was last cleaned when they installed it two years ago. I’m tempered my disappointment and remembered myself this was a chance to save $18k.


Senior Client Advisor vs. Sales Associate:
I bet you can guess which one works where. I find titles humorous but then again I work for Target Corporation where I’m not an employee but a team member. The Senior Client Advisor was recommended by a bigX5er and was very kind, knowledgeable, and implored nearly no pressure in making the case for an X5. This was a good thing as I have ZERO tolerance for sales pressure. I just don’t like it, plain and simple. I’m either going to buy or not buy and that decision really has nothing to do with what anyone at that dealership has to say. I’m actually more likely to walk away and go somewhere else if I do feel any pressure as I’m actually a VERY IMPATIENT person by nature. There was one question that I was able to stump him on and to date and not fully satisfied with the voicemail follow-up I received today. I challenged back and will let you guys know the response. But anyone that cares to opine with firsthand experience/knowledge would be appreciated.

1. QUESTION: Does the BMW X5 have load leveling suspension in the back? If so, what models and packages are required? The response I received via voicemail was the suspension is standard across the X5 models. As you can tell, this was a lawyer worthy response; a simple yes/no with the accompanying package is what I’m looking for. J EDIT: While typing this I received an email response that it is an option on the inline 6 and diesel. But no word on what option it is a part of. I’m guessing Sport or Adaptive drive but waiting to hear which. I’ll let you know what I find.

The Sales Associate was a bit humorous if you like someone who knows nothing about what he’s selling other than “it’s a Jeep and the model name is Grand Cherokee. Oh, I can also tell you it’s an Overland and it’s very nice!” I don’t need to type much more here on this guy. I didn’t like the fact he rode with us on the test drive though. I couldn’t get comfortable and it felt like I was bringing my mother a long for a ride. Everyone knows what it’s like to drive in the car with their Mom at any age. It just changes the driving experience. You feel the need to baby every corner and not let the RPMs get up over 2k or listen to the radio. I wasn’t wanting to drag race or floor it, but I didn’t want to not feel tense and talk to my wife without the interjection of some fact-less person sitting in the back seat opining with information that invariably made my cerebrum hurt.


Test Drive:
BMW….
First on the slate was a 2010 X5d that belonged to the Service Manager and was for sale. I’m not interested in the ’10 or the packages on this one, but it serviced as a driveline reference. There was a stark contrast between this ’10 and the used ’09 I drove. SIGNIFICANT contrast. Like as in I’m pretty sure one wasn’t built by BMW. The ’09 I drove had a very noticeable shake at idle that permeated through the doors, an weird electrical buzz coming from the shifter area and while quiet for a diesel…made more noise than my 2005 5.4 V8 F150. The ’10 X5d was much quieter and also had considerably less lag or delay when starting from a stop. Now granted there still was a delay but that delay was livable vs. the ’09 left me wondering when and where I was going. The ride was smooth and when we were at speed, you couldn’t tell the difference between the diesel and the inline 6. At idle and first bit of acceleration though you could hear a difference but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it louder, just different. Now if I was starting up that diesel when it was sitting outside in 10 degree weather it might have been a different story until it warmed up. The inline 6 was extremely noisy on startup. It must have been sitting for awhile. Afterwards it quieted down. It was quieter than the diesel at idle but at speed and acceleration it was the same. The lag or delay was less but still there when compared to say my wife’s 3.5l Altima that lunges at the first sign of someone touching the throttle. Shifts were smooth and the ride supple just like the diesel. One final note on something that applied to both models which I almost felt inexcusable in a vehicle of this caliber. The weight of steering in the parking lot speeds is obnoxious. There is no way it should be this heavy. I’m not asking for over boost Gma Buick steering, but don’t make me feel like my front two tires are flat. The X5 interior is sexy and flows very nicely. Everything felt integrated, line of sight was fantastic and you feel like you are part of the vehicle.

Now diesel vs inline 6. The diesel getting onto the highway put a smile on my face. That torque really surprised me and it pulled like a strong V8 would in a heavy car/SUV. This would be a big plus when towing our 5,000 lb boat and trailer combo about once a week this summer. We tow about 25 minutes on the highway to lake Minnetonka and the majority of it is up a slight grade on highway 169 and 494 which includes merging into traffic twice (getting onto 169 and then switching over to 494). The inline 6 was nice and felt good but in no way had the “throwback” into my seat like the diesel did. It was very sufficient though if I never really needed to tow or was going to tow a very light load. I think the inline 6 would still tow the boat fine, but it made me wonder if I’d constantly be at high RPM with downshifting for the ride while trying to keep speed on the highway going up that slight grade on 169 and 494. Not only would the high RPM and downshifting be annoying, I’d be afraid of what it’d do to driveline longevity. Otherwise the inline 6 would hands down be my pick. Good acceleration, felt lighter at speed when going through the twisty roads, and the quieter idle noise was nice. The diesel though was only marginally louder at idle and identical in my ears in acceleration noise.

If I go with a BMW, I’m really leaning towards the diesel. 5-6 months out of the year I will be towing that 5,000 lb boat and trailer 25 minutes each way, once a week to lake Minnetonka. They way there will include a slight grade along the highway and I dred having to listen to constant down shifting, high RPMs and then very slowly (school bus slow) have the inline 6 merge me into traffic. Though the other 6 months out of the year, I’m probably rather have the inline 6. Talk about a tough call. It should be more clear cut for me then this and that is what scares me.

Jeep…
Now for the Jeep. I already said the ride was annoyingly stressful with the sales associate sitting in the back seat. The ride was every bit as smooth over bumps, shifting and quiet (cruise and acceleration) as the BMWs. Though it didn’t feel as sporty, and felt much more large SUV. The pull onto the highway was slightly less impressive than the X5d (less torque and more weight) but definitely more impressive than the inline 6 X5. It has every feature and more when compared to the X5 though the sum of the parts in NO WAY equals the hole. Having remote start and the auto cruise control with blind spot detection was nice. Only the later is an option on the X5 inline 6 but not really an option when you factor in that it’s $2,400 for that alone. The navigation in no way integrates with the rest of the Jeep and just has the feeling like someone took a Pioneer aftermarket unit and slapped it in there. That is probably because that is what happened. Buttons on the Jeep feel gimmicky and cheap, mostly because they are. The seats are not any more comfortable then my wife’s $35k Altima and I expected more. Especially after sitting in the base X5 seats, I got used to that level of comfort. Having a nice little storage bin area in front of the shifter was nice and would be useful for me. I like the standard features that were options in my X5 build.
1. Radio with 10 speakers, 700 watts, and an amplifier. It was nicer than the BMX X5 standard radio and made me realize I’d have to order the premium sound package on the X5 if I was to go that route.
2. Remote start. Not an option on the X5 and would pay dividends for my wife who could remote start the vehicle from her office before walking out into the parking lot. It’s a wash for me as the walk through the skyway into the garage wouldn’t facilitate a clear shot for the remote start.
3. Auto cruise control. At $2,400 in the X5 it’s not something I could afford to add but something I’d want.
4. Cooled seats. The BMW could get this but then I’d need all tan or all black. I really like a dark interior with light seats which isn’t possible in the X5 so I’d have to forgo this option.
5. The air lift suspension is really neat, but besides snow and sport mode, I’d never really need it.
6. Leather on the dash. I know it’s an option on the X5 but it’s really too costly to add.
Gas mileage with the V8 is painful at 14 city and 19 highway. I have that mileage now in my 5.4 V8 F150 and I was hoping to improve it. I can, significantly, in either BMW. But that doesn’t mean I should just head that route. I can buy a lot of gas for $18k.


Competitive Advantage Summary:
BMW…
Pro
1. Fit, finish and style…Features feel “cohesive” inside
2. Much better navigation and screen
3. Torque and gas mileage of the diesel
4. Sporty driving experience
5. Seat comfort
6. 4 years paid maintenance (going to value that at $500 per year for a total of $2k)
7. Proximity lights on door handles and mirrors
8. Side mirrors auto dim for lights at night
9. Top view
10. Dealership experience
Con
1. Price
2. Very heavy steering in parking lots
3. Diesel is a little louder than the Jeep V8, and the inline 6 may not be powerful enough to be a comfortable tow vehicle for the 5,000lb boat once a week for 5-6 months
4. No remote start
5. Mine as well not have auto cruise control or cooled seats available
6. Repairs/maintenance out of warranty will be more expensive
7. Hand proximity sensor is a pain to use when locking the vehicle

Jeep…
Pro
1. Price for the feature set (pano roof, auto cruise, remote start, heat/cool seats, heat steering wheel, reverse camera, auto up/down windows, rain sensing wipers, auto high beams)
2. Has remote start
3. 20” rims with all season tires
4. 7,200lb towing capacity vs. the BMW 6,000lb
5. Has 4 pin wiring harness connection that won’t require an adapter like the BMW
6. V8 torque near the diesel (395 vs. 425) but less diesel noise and more responsive from a dead stop
7. Tailgate is all one piece
8. Hands free access into vehicle is easy to use with buttons and hand proximity sensor
Con
1. Don’t like the navigation or the screen
2. V8 gas mileage
3. Seats are not all that comfortable
4. More hard plastic than BMW
5. Side mirrors don’t dim at night
6. Dealership experience

Coming soon….option/initial purchase price/4 year TCO analysis

Last edited by F150 Duke; 02-21-2011 at 06:53 PM.
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Old 02-21-2011, 07:43 PM
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Nice summation. The last JGC I drove was an '06. It was Ok but I chose an X3 over it at the time.

The down side to BMWs is the costly options. The packages help some but...

The cure for the heavy steering is "Active Steering", another pricey option but it might be worth it, especially when maneuvering while towing.

A guess on the load leveling suspension for the X5 is as part of the Sport Activity or M Sport but that is a pure guess....
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Old 02-21-2011, 07:54 PM
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Pretty detailed writeup!

Two quick comments on the BMWs:

They are both inline six engines. One is diesel, one is gasoline.

Both models will gain power and loosen up over time. If either had 5000 miles or so on it, then that is about what it will be like when broken in. Sometimes a brand new engine can feel pretty tight with these vehicles.
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Old 02-21-2011, 08:31 PM
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Impressive write-up! I am biased since I own the X 35d, but I did test drive the 35i and the 50i. Both were great, but with the incentives, the 35d was hard to pass up and I love the torque! Whatever you choose, I am sure you will be happy! Good luck!
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Old 02-21-2011, 09:22 PM
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Duke,

I'm not surprised by your detailed write up ~ excellent as usual! And I share many of your viewpoints about the X5d.

Just a couple of additional thoughts
Interior Color Contrast - If I understood you correctly, you can have your cake and eat it too. The Oyster color offers white seating surfaces while the doors, carpeting and back of the seats are black. I'm not 100% sure, but it may also be true with the Cinnamon color too (I'm certain on the Oyster).
Diesel Noise - With the radio off and no one talking in the car, I can detect engine noise at idle, but only just barely. If I'm running the radio (and not as loud as the Jeep dealership), you just can't tell. And it's undetectible while moving
20' Wheels - Definately an option with all season run flat tires (yes, you can swap them for regular tires immediately and I got around $300 back)

It's so funny hearing you talk about Minnetonka...as a kid we always stayed at some place called "Ha Ha Tonka" (I have no idea of how it's spelled) there. Loads of great memories.
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Old 02-21-2011, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JCL View Post
They are both inline six engines. One is diesel, one is gasoline.
You beat me to it.
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Old 02-21-2011, 10:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SJCFlyer View Post
Duke,

I'm not surprised by your detailed write up ~ excellent as usual! And I share many of your viewpoints about the X5d.

Just a couple of additional thoughts
Interior Color Contrast - If I understood you correctly, you can have your cake and eat it too. The Oyster color offers white seating surfaces while the doors, carpeting and back of the seats are black. I'm not 100% sure, but it may also be true with the Cinnamon color too (I'm certain on the Oyster).
Diesel Noise - With the radio off and no one talking in the car, I can detect engine noise at idle, but only just barely. If I'm running the radio (and not as loud as the Jeep dealership), you just can't tell. And it's undetectible while moving
20' Wheels - Definately an option with all season run flat tires (yes, you can swap them for regular tires immediately and I got around $300 back)

It's so funny hearing you talk about Minnetonka...as a kid we always stayed at some place called "Ha Ha Tonka" (I have no idea of how it's spelled) there. Loads of great memories.

That is a great idea about the 20" rims. I may not get the credit but maybe it can at least be a wash. If we go with the BMW we'll do the pickup in SC and drive to FL for three days before driving back up to MN. That'll be a crazy long drive but it's been a long time since we've done a road trip together and we've talked about wanting to do one. Not only that we end up with a couple days on the beach which is what we planned for this spring anyhow. Then we also are able to keep our spring vacation spending down in the $3k range.
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Old 02-21-2011, 10:04 PM
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Excellent write-up! Having chosen an x5d I am just as biased as SJC Flyer, but I do think it's the better choice. I think many of the items that cost more money don't necessarily add to the thrill of ownership, and are somewhat overrated toys.

In any case, wanted to add that my Adaptive Drive includes self-levelling suspension. I am not sure if it's the only way to get it, but AD includes it.

Also wanted to confirm that both Oyster and Cinnamon (which I got) interiors are two-tone, where the dash, most of the door panels and the carpeting are all black. Oyster is stunning, but seems like it will be painful to keep looking like new. I love the cinnamon - very modern imho.

Good luck - I'm sure you'll be thrilled regardless of the choice you make!
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Old 02-21-2011, 11:00 PM
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We have the x5d and absolutely love it..so i'm biased also....but i think all 3 vehicles are nice and i'd personally own any of them (the jeep for 4x4 / camping use)....

I think the split tail gate is a pro, but that's just me...and the x5 has the big ass sun roof as well (think that's what you meant by pano roof)

To me, the fun of driving the damn thing is whats most impressive...brings a smile to my face every time i get in it....

Very good analysis, made for a great read....good luck in your decision.
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Old 02-21-2011, 11:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F150 Duke View Post
All,

QUESTION: Does the BMW X5 have load leveling suspension in the back? If so, what models and packages are required?

Coming soon….option/initial purchase price/4 year TCO analysis
When I picked up my 35i, there was a check list the dealer had to fill out to make sure the vehicle was ready for delivery. One of the items on the list is a brief instruction on how to adjust the ride height for X5 and X6. I'm not sure if it is actually load leveling, though.
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