BMW joined the luxury SUV ranks last year with the X5, a car-based sport utility introduced as a challenger for the Lexus RX 300, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Infiniti QX4 and other upper-crust models. Though it comes with a permanently engaged four-wheel-drive system, BMW positions the X5 as suited for any road, any time, any reason instead of as an offroad vehicle.
The X5 is built at BMWs Spartanburg, S.C., plant where the Z3 sports car also is produced. Initially it came as a V-8 model, but a six-cylinder version was added in spring 2000.
The X5 has classic BMW front styling highlighted by twin kidney-shaped grilles. At 184 inches long, it is a few inches longer than the Lexus RX 300 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class. It comes as a four-door wagon with a two-way tailgate the top part swings up and the lower part swings down. An optional-load floor extension slides out on tracks built into the floor.