almost two-week and 800 mile review.
A little back-story, I bought a 2004 Cayenne S new and put 86,000 trouble free miles on it. I had always planned on buying another Cayenne (Turbo this time), but Porsche was a little slow with the redesign (particularly the interior) and the wife wanted something bigger. We chose the Diesel because I found it interesting, wanted better fuel economy, and I wanted to show the hybrid lovers an alternative.
THE DRIVE: The X5 is very nice to drive, the ride is more compliant then the Cayenne (both on 19” wheels, Cayenne S had PASM) even set to ‘Comfort’ the Cayenne was firmer. The X5 soaks up the bumps better and it is very relaxing to drive. The other side to this coin is that the Cayenne is a sportier vehicle. The X5 suspension is not as able to manage mid corner bumps and not as sure footed when hustled through a corner. The steering feels very nice in the X5 but the Cayenne is the sportier vehicle. I do feel more like an adult in the X5 and I find myself feeling relaxed, comfortable, and unhurried in the X5.
OVERALL FEEL: The X5 feels much larger from the driver seat, in a good way. I was always bothered by the ‘b’ pillar in the Cayenne. I am relatively tall (6’ 2”) and with the seat in a comfortable position there was not a good place for my left elbow to be. The ‘b’ pillar on the X5 is farther back and it is more comfortable. BMW does a very good job of making the things that you touch feel nice, the steering wheel has a nice thickness and material feel. In comparison the Cayenne’s was smaller and harder. The shape of the BMW sport seats is very good and the bolsters are comfortable on the highway. The seat back feels a bit ‘springy’ which makes it feel like it is of a lesser quality then the Cayenne’s.
The positions of the controls are very good in the X5 (especially compared to the E90 pre-LCI at least…window switches and cup holders). The switches and controls in the Cayenne feel a bit crowed in comparison.
BUILD QUALITY: It is my opinion that the Cayenne is built better then the X5. In 86,000 miles I never had a squeak or a rattle in the Cayenne, and when I traded it in it sounded like you were opening a vacuum-sealed container when you opened a door.
When you start looking around the two vehicles you get the idea that the Porsche engineers were told to make the best ‘xyz’ that they could (for example, the door hinges look on the Cayenne look like you could lift the vehicle from them, and the way that they slide from position to position is very ‘German’ take a look, and the suspension components under the car, the Cayenne looks tremendously over-build, another thing to look at under the hood of the Cayenne S is the anchor from the chassis to the cylinder head to keep the engine from moving), in contrast some of the BMW parts look like the engineers were to told to make the best ‘xyz’ that they could for a pre-determined cost. You see the cost consciousness in the secondary things that most owners wouldn’t notice. Examples include; cargo area floor cover latches and hinge (or lack of hinge), suspension parts, if you look straight down between the center hump and the driver seat you can see motor and wires in the BMW, you can also see bits that you were not intended to see between the glove box lid and the ‘dash pad’ in the X5.
The Cayenne just feels and looks a bit more solid, maybe its overbuilt but it shows if you are looking.
FEATURES: The X5 wins hands down on interior features. The new iDrive is fantastic. The cup holders are many times better then those found in the Cayenne. The space given to the driver is better, and organized better in the X5. Bluetooth integration is also excellent in the BMW. I like the panoramic moon roof in the X5 and some of the switches have a nicer feel in the X5 (sun roof controls, interior light buttons).
While not completely necessary I do like to have buttons or paddles to shift on the steering wheel, but I have not finished the break in period so I have not been able to try ‘Sport’ mode on the trans yet. It is very annoying to me that you can’t have a trailer hitch installed on the X5 from the factory, I have to make an appointment and all that nonsense. While not entirely necessary, the lack of a low range in the transfer case bothers me a little bit, I used it in the Cayenne doing low speed maneuver when I was moving heavy trailers.
The biggest annoyance is the complete lack of gauges in the X5, no water temp, no oil temp, no boost gauge, no trans temp. All of these things are very important if you are going to be towing trailers with your vehicle (which I will). I would even be satisfied if I could access this type of info through the iDrive screen so I can take action before an idiot light comes on telling me the engine it to hot.
CONCLUSION: So far I really like the Diesel, the power delivery is very good, and the fuel economy is already better then I ever got in my Cayenne S. Most of my complaints are petty, and nit picking, but that is because both vehicles are very very good. The Cayenne is Sportier; the X5 is more comfortable and more luxurious. The Cayenne feel a little bit more ‘special’ while the X5 is a bit of a soccer mom mobile.
Both are great vehicles, at the moment I can pick a favorite….but time will tell.