2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d First Drive and Review: The Road to Charleston, South Carolina

By Christian Stampfer on 30 October 2012
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Picking up a new car at the factory has always been an adventure some car enthusiasts elect to take. Many U.S. buyers travel to Europe to pick up their BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, Volvos, Audis and Porsches at the factory, but the long wait before their car is re-delivered to them in the U.S. can be a disadvantage.  Programs to collect your new car at a factory in the U.S. are less common but do exist.

Frequent Business Traveler’s sister publication, The Diesel Driver traveled to the BMW Performance Center in Greer, South Carolina to take delivery of its newest long-term test vehicle, the 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d, at the factory.  The X5 is produced across the street from the German carmaker’s U.S. delivery center and driving school in Spartanburg, South Carolina, along with X3 and X6 models, and ours was ready for delivery in the third week of June.

We broke the X5 in by taking it down I-26 to the city of Charleston, South Carolina.  The second largest city in South Carolina behind the capital Columbia, Charles Towne was founded by the British in the late seventeenth century, when it was the fifth largest city in North America.

Our BMW X5 xDrive35d was delivered to us in a glass-enclosed delivery bay by Jonathan Stribble, a delivery and product specialist at the BMW Performance Center.  There we were briefed on our car’s features, including as the Lane Departure Warning and the head-up display, and after a few hours on the track and off-road course, we were on our way to Charleston.

A few minutes later, and we turned right onto highway 221 which lead us to the Interstate 26 East.

Traffic on I-26 was light, and we enjoyed a relaxed and easy drive towards Charleston. I set the cruise control to the speed limit of 70 mph and let the car do most of the driving for me. Overtaking slower cars was no problem for the six-cylinder diesel, thanks to its 425 pound-feet of torque. The car’s optional head-up display kept all important driving information, like the current speed and the navigation details, in front of me, so there was no need to take my eyes off the road. The driver-oriented cockpit, which is a signature design feature of all BMWs, was well organized and every button was where it had to be. Also the engine noise of the diesel power plant was barely noticeable inside the cockpit.

The X5’s handling and performance excelled on I-26.  The handling was sporty yet comfortable at the same time, and highly uncharacteristic of a nearly six-thousand pound S.U.V. (although BMW has been quite stubborn with its Sport Activity Vehicle designation over the last decade).

As we passed Nikki Haley’s home in Columbia, SC, and continuing southeast towards I-95 and Charleston, we experienced more traffic. Thanks to the Lane Departure Warning, which is part of our vehicle’s Technology Package, the steering wheel would vibrate should I stay from the lane, making the car even easier to drive over a long distance.

We arrived in Charleston in the early evening, with the western hemisphere’s second-longest suspension bridge off in the distance and Lowcountry islands continuting beyond it.  On our first drive, the BMW X5 xDrive35d returned very promising fuel economy, 26 mpg (9.1 l/100 km), which is exactly the figure the EPA estimates for the vehicle in highway driving.. The three and a half hour drive covered a distance of 348 km (216 miles), and we averaged 55 mph (89 km/h). Since a diesel’s fuel usage typically improves after the break-in period, we expect even better results in the future.

Click here to continue to Page 2Virtual Drives – The Road to Charleston

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