The BMW X5 manages to do a rare thing for a large SUV: be both comfortable and fun to drive. It’s a shame about the fake engine noise and lack of Android Auto, though
The BMW X5, launched in 1999, was the first luxurious large SUV to offer handling capable of putting a grin on your face. Four generations later, the BMW X5 has a far tougher job, with an established list of alternative large, luxurious SUVs to tempt buyers away. These include the Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover Sport, Audi Q7 and Mercedes GLE.
Well, the BMW X5 is still very much a leader on the luxury front. Everywhere you prod there’s leather or soft-touch plastic, from the top of the dashboard, to the door tops, centre console and even lower down on the dash and doors too. Naturally, the X5’s switches are also nicely damped and there’s not a squeak or rattle to be heard when driving. Sure, the overall design is slightly more conservative than in a Mercedes GLE, but for some, that’ll be a good thing.
And in the centre of the dashboard sits one of the best infotainment systems available in any car: BMW’s newly named Operating System 7.0 – catchy eh? It’s actually the most technologically advanced iteration of the system ever, but continues to be a doddle to navigate and is still comprises a rotary controller with menu shortcut buttons between the front seats and a 12.3-inch screen, which can be controlled using the controller, via touch or by voice.
But BMW X5 isn’t done there – also standard is another 12.3-inch screen behind the steering wheel acting at the driver’s instruments. It’s clear, crisp and configurable, so you can have the information displayed that you want, including things like speed, fuel consumption, navigation info and your radio or media selection.
Any drawbacks? Well, as with all its models, BMW continues to charge extra for Apple CarPlay beyond the first year of ownership and Android Auto isn’t even an option. Madness.
Another important factor in a large luxurious SUV is space and the BMW X5 offers plenty of it. Those in the front will have no complaints about leg or head room and the driver gets a supportive seat with full electric adjustment and a memory function. It’s disappointing, mind you, that you have to pay extra for adjustable lumbar support.
BMW’s generosity with space continues in the back seats. Two tall adults will comfortably sit behind those in the front, while a third won’t be sounding off on a long journey either – shoulder room is good enough and there isn’t a significantly raised floor for the middle passenger to straddle.
Don’t get me wrong, BMW’s iDrive is a superb infotainment system. Why, though, does it continue to charge for Apple CarPlay and dismiss Android Auto altogether? Beats me.
There are three engine choices when buying a BMW X5, starting with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol with 340hp called the 40i. It’s smooth, quick and makes the best sound when you rev it hard, and you’ll need to rev it more than the diesels to access its best performance. The diesels begin with the 365hp 30d which’ll likely be the best selling X5 and is our favourite of the bunch. It has more torque than the 40i, so pulls harder from low revs, yet will manage more miles to the gallon for a longer range between fill-ups.
At the top of the range sits the M50d – a diesel of the same size as the 30d, but with, wait for it, four turbochargers. That means 400hp and even more torque, resulting in a 0-62mph time of just 5.2 seconds. Not bad for a cumbersome large SUV. If there’s one complaint, it’s that BMW has chosen to pump in fake engine sound into the cabin with all three engines. It just isn’t that convincing.
In town, the BMW X5, despite its size, isn’t daunting to manoeuvre thanks to good visibility for the driver through its tall wide windows and standard front and rear parking sensors. In fact, BMW includes its Parking Assistant, which will steer the car into a space for you and you can add rear-wheel steering as an option for better low-speed manoeuvrability.
It’s a comfortable experience, too; the X5’s standard adaptive air suspension does a good job of soaking up ruts, potholes and broken Tarmac in its most comfortable setting. That said, the M50d’s non-air suspension and firmer settings (in the name of going around corners more quickly) isn’t as comfy when the going get’s rough.
On twisty country roads, the BMW X5 continues to excel. It steers with precision and on its standard suspension handles well – particularly in its firmer setting. The M50d gets that firmer suspension, clever active anti-roll bars which prop the X5 up even more effectively through bends and a special sport differential for better deployment of power to the road, so feels even more agile to drive.
But, calm things down to a cruise on the motorway, and all three engines are quiet, while wind and road noise are kept to a minimum, although the latter is heard most in the M50s with its bigger standard alloy wheels.
Two different trim levels are available, although the M50d effectively sits as its own trim level too. Entry-level xLine models come with things like 19-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights and auto wipers, climate control, leather seats and BMW’s new infotainment system. Most people will be seduced by the M Sport, though, with its more aggressive looking body kit, larger 20-inch alloy wheels and various sporty trim touches inside.
The M50d, meanwhile, gets even larger 22-inch alloy wheels, an M Sports exhaust system, an M Sport differential and unique interior styling.
You might have guessed, then, that there’s very little wrong with the BMW X5. Aside from the M50d’s firmer suspension, its frustrating fake engine noise and BMW charging extra for Apple CarPlay after the first year (and dismissing Android Auto entirely), the X5 is a supremely quick, comfortable, spacious and luxurious large SUV.
So, if you’re convinced the BMW X5 is the large SUV for you, make sure you check out our BMW X5 deals pages for the best prices.