BMW X5 review - how does it compare to the Porsche Cayenne?

BMW’s original SUV is still its best, still handling like a big 5-series. It’s just a shame it means so much less today…

The BMW X5 may not have kicked off the premium SUV fad, but it was one of its early adopters that refined it. If you wanted a high-riding family car back in 1999 choices were limited to the Range Rover or Mercedes ML, both of which drove with as much on-road sophistication as a circus cart. Then came the E53 X5.

It was big, yes, but it was also the first time that a large SUV drove with any resemblance of a ‘normal’ car, in the process creating a new yardstick that others had to match. Now, four generations later, the all-new X5 exists in an ecosystem that has not only adopted the SUV, but relishes it. Problem is, the X5’s rivals now number in double figures, so life won’t be easy for the all-new model.

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To compete, the new X5 has been thoroughly redesigned, comprising an all-new interior, updated engines and this bold new skin. A flagship M Performance M50d model is also back (until the next X5 M inevitably arrives), featuring a fascinating new quad-turbocharged straight-six engine. But is the original still best?

BMW X5: in detail

Performance and 0-62mph time> The entry 30d is brisk enough, taking 6.5sec to get to 62mph. M50d feels far more potent, taking only 5.2sec.

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Engine and gearbox> BMW’s typically strong drivetrains are in full force here, refined, powerful and efficient. ZF gearboxes are impressively calibrated.

Ride and handling> The X5 is still one of the better full-sized SUVs to drive, but it’s far from an immersive experience.

MPG and running costs> MPG figures for the X5 are impressive considering its considerable size and weight.

Interior and tech> The X5’s initial impressions inside are good, but prepare to see many of its elements on cheaper models. Tech is strong, but less glamorous than some rivals.

Design> Brash, unsubtle, imposing. Perfect for the class, if not your own…

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Prices, specs and rivals

The new X5 starts at £57,495 for the entry-level 30d in xLine trim, with a petrol 40i model also available with an identical spec for £58,885. The standard equipment list is vast at this level of SUV (there are four different SUV models below and still two above, just within BMW’s range, remember), so includes leather-trimmed sports seats, a synthetic leather dashboard, two 12.3-inch hi-res displays (one forming the iDrive infotainment system and the other the instrument dials), a powered tailgate, LED headlights and more. The exterior styling is arguably the most dignified of the range, with black lower bodywork and wheelarch extensions, mixed with a use of chrome and satin silver finishes. It also rides on a fairly restrained 19-inch wheel and tyre package.

Now standard for the first time on an X5 is air-suspension, applied here on both axles rather than just the rear like some rival manufacturers. An optional xOffroad package is also available, adding to the air-spring’s functionality by being height adjustable, along with the addition of various off-road modes.

M Sport models add a further £3500 to the price, bringing 20-inch wheels and tyres, more aggressive styling elements, further application of body-coloured parts around the wheels and lower bodywork, as well as different finishes to the interior and an M Sport steering wheel.

Like many manufacturers, most of the most popular options are now bundled within option packages. Trundle through these and you’ll find everything from laser-assisted headlights, a head-up display, comfort access and more, but as usual on a German car, the options list is not limited to just packages. Highlights on the individual options list include a Bowers and Wilkins stereo, rear seat entertainment and a panoramic sunroof. It’s the dynamic options that are of most interest to us, though, with an M sport rear differential available on top of a active anti-body roll system and rear-wheel steering.

Topping the local range till the M Division models arrive next year is the M50d, featuring the aforementioned quad-turbo diesel engine and a raft of other dynamic additives. Standard in the UK are large 22-inch wheels, adaptive LED and laser-assisted headlights, adaptive dampers in conjunction with the air-suspension, a sports exhaust system and an M Sport differential.


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