mid-size luxury SUVs as a stable of thoroughbreds.
its Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz its ML and GL, and Audi its Q7. The
Japanese brands have their X models: Acura’s MDX, Lexus’ GX and
For 2014, two
redesigned purebreds join the mix: BMW’s third-generation X5, and
Land Rover’s second-generation Range Rover Sport.
Each of the
newcomers approaches this competitive segment — where prices range
from $50,000 to $90,000 — with a different philosophy.
BMW’s X5 is
the more practical of the two, setting aside style (inside and out)
in favor of Bavarian functionality. Meanwhile, the Range Rover Sport
makes a huge leap over its predecessor in refinement and
The base Range
Rover Sport V-6 HSE we tested started at $63,495 but came to $72,425
at the checkout counter. Blame the $5,000 HSE package, a pricey but
recommended set of options including Oxford leather seats, a
panoramic moon roof and 20-inch wheels. An upgrade in stereo system
and climate controlled seats made up the rest of the difference.
six-cylinder BMW X5 xDrive35i starts at $56,025. But the model we
tested rapidly made up the gap, finishing at $70,975. That included
overpriced items such as keyless entry and soft-closing doors for
$2,700 and a $1,900 lighting package.
of buyers are willing to part with that kind of money. The X5 and
the Sport are the most popular sport utility vehicles for their
respective brands in the U.S.
lofty SUV realm, all competitors start with certain fundamentals,
the X5 and the Sport included. Both offer a base six-cylinder engine
and the option of a V-8, efficient transmissions and all-wheel
drive. The second-generation Sport has a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6
engine good for 340 horsepower, 332 pound-feet of torque and a
6.9-second zero-to-60 mph time. The X5’s engine is a turbocharged,
inline 3.0-liter unit capable of 302 horsepower, 295 pound-feet of
torque and a 6.2-second zero-to-60 mph time.
us that the BMW smokes the Range Rover Sport by more than half a
second. The two vehicles weigh within 60 pounds of each other, and
the Sport felt faster in the never-reliable seat-of-the-pants test.
Both SUVs we
tested use an eight-speed automatic transmission and full-time
all-wheel drive to keep things moving.
For buyers in
warmer climes, far from the reach of any polar vortex, BMW now
offers the rear-wheel-drive X5 sDrive 35i.
BMW wins the
efficiency battle. The six-cylinder model we tested is rated at 18
mpg in city driving and 27 mpg on the highway. The V-6 Range Rover
Sport comes in at 17 mpg in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway.
Credit that in
part to the 170 pounds BMW shaved off the weight of the previous X5.
But the Range Rover went on a much more drastic diet — losing 813
pounds through aluminum construction — so it’s surprising the
Sport didn’t post better fuel economy numbers.
extra pounds, the BMW and the Range Rover felt surprisingly agile
for their size. But the Sport proved more fun to drive. On straights
or through curves, it just felt more lively and eager — and
quicker, even if acceleration times don’t show it.
Part of this
handling prowess is related to another Range Rover advantage — its
looks, much improved with a longer wheelbase. Although the Sport’s
overall length grew just 2.5 inches, the wheelbase grew 7 inches,
pushing the wheels more toward the corners of the vehicle.
The result is
a more athletic profile and better grip on the road.
design, by comparison, is more bland. It’s certainly handsome, and
has a more crisp, modern look than its predecessor. But it lacks the
visual panache of the Sport.
carries this gravitas inside too. With a design that slightly favors
form over function, the Sport’s cabin is beautifully laid out.
see and touch has a rich, opulent feel. You almost expect the person
who slides into the perforated Oxford leather seat next to you to
find your hair thicker, your teeth whiter, your waistline slimmer.
also trumped the Bimmer in terms of interior space, with more
legroom throughout, more rear headroom and more cargo space with the
seats up. Both models offer optional third-row seating, but neither
of our test vehicles came so equipped.
innards are more practical. The standard navigation system has a
larger screen, and it’s easier to use than the Range Rover’s.
The iDrive rotary knob for the infotainment system has been updated
to include a touch pad for easier entry of information.
quality remains top-notch and feels as solid as any other BMW. But
unlike the Range Rover, this interior didn’t feel as indulgent as
you’d hope it would on a $70,000 vehicle.
small advantage for the Range Rover Sport, helping it win our
comparison by a nose.
The BMW is a
strong contender. But the Range Rover offers more to like, inside
and out. And buyers look better driving it.
dropping $70,000 on an SUV, isn’t that the point?
2014 BMW X5
Times take: Thoughtfully conceived with an emphasis on practicality
Efficient powertrain, straight-forward interior
the panache of peers
type: 4-door mid-size luxury SUV
3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder, all-wheel drive
eight-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode
seconds, according to BMW
economy rating: 18 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
ROVER RANGE ROVER SPORT V-6 SC HSE:
Times take: A compelling blend of function and style
Sleek design inside and out; eager powertrain
Interior controls put form over function; unproven reliability
type: 4-door mid-size luxury SUV
3.0-liter supercharged V-6, all-wheel drive
eight-speed automatic transmission
seconds, according to Land Rover
economy rating: 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway