2015 BMW X5 35d – extended drive write-up

It’s been two weeks since I got my new BMW X5 35d. The back story first:

I had a 2012 X5 Diesel on a lease, I had it then for about a year and a half, and me and my wife started to think about the replacement. First of all – another X5 was out of the question. We got the 2012 mainly because we have two kids, we were thinking about another one, and my wife said that we have to get a car with a 3rd row, so X5 was it. However I didn’t really like it – heavy, big, stiff steering, mileage not great. So the debate was between the 5 series and X3.

Then my dealership got our first 2014 X5, and a week later I went to BMW Ride and Drive Event. When I got back – the only question what do I want on my next X5, because I was sold.

Then there was the dilemma between gas and Diesel. On one side – gas was smoother, and my wife had one traumatic experience of almost running out of Diesel without a Diesel station nearby. On the other side – I love the torque Diesel offers, but mainly the waiting list for 35i xDrive was too long, and I wanted to get a new car before I had to pay registration for the old one. So Diesel it was. Here is what I got:

The Build

  • Alpine white with Mocha Nappa leather
  • Luxury Line
  • Premium package
  • Driver Assistance package
  • Driver Assistance Plus with ACC
  • Luxury seating package
  • Mocha Interior Design package
  • 3rd row seats
  • Running boards

A couple of notes about the build:

  • M Sport Line looked like a bit too much, but I would definitely recommend any line at least because you get a sport steering wheel, which feels much better than standard.
  • We actually decided against the 3rd row seats because we don’t really used them, but I added them in the end for resale value. It helped me to unload my old X5.
  • Mocha was kind of expensive, but my wife really liked it, and it looks amazing. Leather dashboard is great too.
  • I am not sure if I made the right decision by not getting Harman Kardon, but the stock system is not bad at all, definitely better than the one on the old X5.
  • Multi-contoured seats are worth the money, very comfortable. I hoped for massage, like the 5 and 7, but it is not offered.

The driving experience

You have to concentrate or rev it up to feel that it is a Diesel, but normally the car is smooth and quiet. Steering feel is very different, but I got used to it very fast, and I like it a lot. Driving Dynamics Controls make a big difference in the feel of the car. I mainly drive in Eco Pro mode, Comfort mode is very peppy, and I used Sport mode only for the video demonstration.

The big part of the driving experience is all the active safety features that I got on the car:

Active Cruise control is the best, and this is something I really wanted. You set the cruise control, adjust the distance to the car in front of you, and you steer. The system will see the car in front ahead of time, adjust acceleration, apply brakes if needed, and when it clears – accelerates back. It works just as well in Eco Pro mode, and I see a big difference in mileage (by the way I average 26 MPG vs. 21 in my old car).

Active Driving Assistant: blind spot detection is great, I could live without lane departure, Accident Alert is pretty impressive – the car alerts you if there is a sudden change in speed of the vehicle in front of you, so it doesn’t just warn you when you get close – it warns you if you are closing too fast.

Efficient Dynamics: Eco Pro makes a big difference. Mileage display shows you how much you save by using Eco Pro since reset, and it is measured in miles. On my first tank I got about 44 miles saved out of 400 miles (I didn’t let it get close to empty). The notorious Automatic Start&Stop works rarely, and it is very smooth. It didn’t stop at all in traffic, it starts working only after driving for a few blocks in city driving. When you cruise and let go of the acceleration – RPM drop down to idle.

Overall, you get the feel of the luxury car that the X5 is – much closer to the 7 series feel than the old one. Rush hour commute feels much less stressful, I feel safer, the car discourages you from speeding and taking things personally on the road. You are just more relaxed, and you feel rested after a drive.

Here is the extended test-drive video:

2014 BMW 2 series

We got our first 2 series!

First, the 2 series is basically the new 1 series. BMW is going through rebranding program, where coupes are nominated as even numbers, and sedans as uneven, at least this is the general idea.

I got to drive both 228i and M235i, and I enjoyed both of them. While the M235i is definitely more powerful and offers a higher level of performance – the 228i was the nicer surprise. The one we had was a base automatic model, but I think that a manual with a sport package will be just a perfect sports car.

I did make a mistake while talking about the M325i – the engine is tuned up to 320 HP and 330 lbs -ft of torque, and not 300/300 like I said in the video, sorry. Highway Patrol cruiser in front of me threw me off.

Enjoy the video!

2014 BMW i3

This weekend was our turn to host the travelling BMW i3 – there is one car that is going between BMW Centers, it stays 3 days at every dealer for our clients to see. BMW explicitly forbade driving the car – it goes from dealer to dealer on a flatbed truck, and they take a photo of the odometer between dealers to make sure we don’t drive it. But we did get to play with the car, push buttons and get a general feel.

I was able to record a short video, but it is kind of rushed, so I am adding a few photos and descriptions.

Overall the car makes a very positive impression. It is spacious, futuristic and comfortable. The official story is that i Brand is very sustainable – carbon fiber used in the car is made in a factory powered by water energy, and the assembly plant is fully powerd by wind. On the car itself you can see pieces of recycled plastic, leather looks different because it is dyed with olive oil instead of chemicals, wood trim is made of bamboo, which grows faster and with less water:


Also on this photo you see the new key design – thinner than current fob, but slightly wider.

Navigation screen is huge, and it floats in the air with space below it – like a shelf.


Display and graphics look better than the latest iDrive, the functionality is similar with additions specific to electric powertrain.

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I wasn’t able to see navigation graphics because the nav code hasn’t been inserted.

Driver display is basically a smaller iDrive display:


Shifting column is attached to the steering wheel together with the start/stop button:


The car we had had the range extender, which is a 2 cylinder gas generator. It is not connected to the drivetrain, so it is not rated for horse power. The electric outlet is where normally the gas cap would be, and gas cap opening is in the front left panel:


The window line is a bit weird, but I think it will help a lot with blind spot visibility:


Overall, the i3 looks like a great entry into the electric car market for BMW. It is not Tesla – i3 has a much lower price point, it is shorter, and it is more utility. It is not Leaf either – it is built as an electric car from the ground up, and it has a much more upscale feel. It is more practical than Volt, and it should beat it in performance. Based on the estimated production numbers – the demand will be higher than supply at least for the first year.

Here is a full Imgur album

Stay tuned for video test-drive!

F15 2014 BMW X5

Last Monday I got back from the Ride-And-Drive event in Orange County, CA. It was a busy day – we flew from Oakland at 6 AM and back the same day. BMW kept us busy, so it wasn’t boring, and all the fun cars helped staying awake – there was definitely adrenaline induced by fast driving in different luxury cars.

The video I combined has clips of driving three variants of the new X5 – 35i sDrive, 35i xDrive and 50i xDrive. The Diesel is schedule to be released this December. Also there is a video of an off-road test in X5 35i xDrive, and demonstrations of different competitors going through a couple of off-road tests.

We got to compare the new X5 to the following competitors: Audi Q7, Infiniti QX60, Mercedes ML, and Porsche Cayenne S. We got to drive all of these cars side by side with BMW on a slalom, and here is how we felt they compared:

  • Infiniti QX60: it was pretty bad. I worked with Infiniti for a while, and I had more respect for them based on the G models – they were powerful, fast and sporty. This car is nothing of the sort – it is a minivan. The only appeal of this car (and the biggest selling point) is the third row – roomy and easy to get into, even with a child seat in the second row. CVT transmission is suited for a Prius, not for a luxury SUV, handling was sloppy, steering all over the place.
  • Mercedes ML: very nice feel, good steering. One thins that Mercedes is known for is soft suspension, and when I sat in the back seat while we were going through a fast wide turn – body roll was scary, I literally felt like we were about to tip over. So overall – it was what I expected it will be: a nice luxury SUV, more comfort than sport.
  • Porsche Cayenne S: in this trim – it is a great car. Plenty of power, great handling, feels like a Porsche should feel. If I had to nitpick I would only complain about the insane controls – there are 40 buttons between the driver and the passanger. Compared to BMW – it felt a bit more detached from the road and the driving experience.
  • Audi Q7: everybody complained about it, but I felt that it wasn’t a fair comparison – Q7 hasn’t been redesigned since 2007, and it shows. Outdated design, heavy car, loose steering. It felt like driving a luxury boat.

Now, my personal impressions about the X5: I drive 2012 X5 35d, and I have been planning a replacement. We pretty much decided on a new X3, because we really don’t need a car that big, it is hard to drive and park in San Francisco, and we could use a break on the payments. But after driving the new X5 – I am seriously reconsidering. The new X5 is a pleasure to drive, it feels like a much smaller car. Some will complain that the steering doesn’t feel like BMW should feel, but I can use a car that I can park with one hand, versus the old one, where you get a good workout just doing a U-turn. Another thing is the array of technology features available with the new X5:

  • Latest iDrive 4.2 with 10.2″ display
  • Driving Dynamics control with Eco Pro mode
  • Parking Assistant
  • Long list of safety features: blind spot detection, early collision warning and prevention, pedestrian collision warning, lane departure warning
  • Adaptive cruise control

So, if you are in the market for a new midsize SUV – go and test-drive the new X5. And for now – enjoy the video:



2014 BMW 423i photos

I was able to get a hold of a few photos of the all-new BMW 235i. This is the model that is replacing the 1 series. From what I was told there will be 228i available in different lines (such as Luxury and Sport), and 235i will be available in M Sport Line only. It will have the same powertrain as the new 435i.