The first generation X5 was a benchmark model which set the precedent for big SUVs. It proved a huge sales success despite being a fairly agricultural looking thing. BMW now has a line-up of four extra SUV models - the X1, X3, X4 and X6. The current X5 is now in its third generation and while impressive, continues to grow in size, making the smaller X3 the vehicle of choice for those wanting something more driver-focussed.
There are plenty of power options to choose from, with even a hybrid now being offered. The six-cylinder diesels offer excellent levels of power and economy and the M50d is fantastically quick with its three turbos. The X5M offers up an impressive 575bhp. Dynamically the X5 has fallen behind its rivals, the ride isn’t silky smooth and the steering feel is too numb.
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> Performance and 0-60 time - The fastest X5 (outside of the X5 M) is the xDrive50i. It offers sports car worrying performance: 0-62mph comes in just 4.9sec. Read more about the BMW X5's performance here.
> Engine and gearbox - The engine options span four- to eight-cylinders. Drive can be sent to all-four wheels or exclusively the rear-axle - the latter makes the X5 unique in its class. Read more about the BMW X5's drivetrain here.
> MPG and running costs - In its most efficient sDrive25d guise, the X5 returns a claimed 50.4mpg. Opt for the potent xDrive50i and you can almost half that. Read more about the BMW X5's running costs here.
> Interior and tech - The X5's build quality is second to none. Standard kit is good, but most owners will want to add a few options, pushing the X5 towards Range Rover Vogue prices. Read more about the BMW X5's interior and tech here.
> Design - The new X5 is the largest yet, though it is lighter than its predecessor. It's handsome too, especially when equipped with M-spec body trim and wheels. Read more about the BMW X5's design here.
Prices, specs and rivals
There’s a wider choice of engines than trims, as you can only have your BMW X5 in either SE or M Sport specifications. The rear-drive sDrive25d SE with the regular automatic box represents entry point to X5 ownership, starting from £44,575 – almost £13,000 more than the base X3, clearly differentiating the models. Top dog is the £65,525 xDrive50i M Sport, with the M50d close behind at £65,240.
As it is a large, luxury SUV, items such as leather trim, satnav (on a 10.2-inch screen controlled by the absolutely superb iDrive system) and split-zone climate control are all standard fit on SEs, while M Sport models add the interior and exterior styling themes as well as the Sport auto gearbox.
The range may kick off with rear-wheel drive, but does not mean the entry level X5 is an ultimate driving machine. The four-cylinder engine struggles to haul the X5’s mass and needs to be constantly thrashed at speeds over 50mph which definitely harms the economy.
The single turbo 3.0-litre diesel is the best all-rounder, with a 0-60mph time of 6.8 seconds, whilst almost matching the smaller engines economy.
What can we say about the leviathan M50d? In principle, we should hate it. It wears the M-for-Motorsport badge that was reserved for the most hallowed of BMWs in days gone by; now it is slapped onto the rump of a 2190kg diesel SUV. Yet strangely, it’s the X5 M that irks us more, because the M50d is not pretending to be a ‘proper’ M Power BMW but is instead one of the halfway-house models, like the M140i.
And for that reason, it’s the performance version of the current X5 that we like the best. With 0-62mph in just 5.3 seconds, a massive 546lb ft of torque to call on in the mid-range and a 155mph limited top speed, this thing is bonkers. It can also purportedly do 42.8mpg, although the chances of anyone actually achieving that are slim to extremely marginal. Such lunacy doesn’t come cheap, mind, as at £65,240 it is the second most expensive X5 of all (third, if you count the X5M).
Some of these cars do luxury better than the BMW - the Volvo is particularly cossetting in higher trim levels and the Q7 has the impenetrable feel of any Audi - while others can beat it for ride/handling. That means the X5 is no longer the de facto choice in this segment for people who like driving quickly, but it's still up there.