BMW X5 (2013-2018) review - bulky but very capable

Good to drive and practical, but the X5's ever-increasing size counts against it in a few areas

Evo rating
from £44,575
  • Excellent build quality and capable chassis
  • It’s porky these days, other rivals have sharper drive

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.  

Subscribe to evo magazine

evo is 21 and to celebrate, we're returning to 1998 prices! Subscribe now to SAVE 39% on the shop price and get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £25!

> read about evo's favourite SUV's here

> 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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

> 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.

> Ride and handling - Electronic limited-slip differential and lighter four-wheel drive aid handling. But Porsche's SUV offerings are more involving. Read more about the BMW X5's handling 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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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).

Rivals are the usual big SUVs, like the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz GLE and either of the two larger Range Rovers, as well as the hugely improved, second-gen Volvo XC90.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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.


Most Popular

SEAT Leon Cupra

SEAT Leon Cupra R ST Abt review

50 horsepower boost puts extra pep in the Leon Cupra’s already athletic step
23 Jan 2020

Dodge Charger given 1500bhp, widebody kit and AWD 

US-based Speedkore Performance works its magic for one-off creation
22 Jan 2020
Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback

New Volkswagen Golf GTI to be revealed at Geneva motor show – plus new insight on the next Golf R

2020 VW Golf GTI returns in eighth-generation form at this year’s Geneva motor show
20 Jan 2020
Hyundai i30 N hatchback

Hyundai i30 N versus Hyundai i30 TCR

Can Dickie Meaden beat Steve Sutcliffe in a straight(ish) race? We sent them to the Circuit Nuvolari with a pair of Hyundai i30 Ns to find out.
20 Sep 2019