BMW X5 Review

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

9/10
Wowscore

This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Powerful engines
  • High quality inside
  • Fun to drive for an SUV

What's not so good

  • Lumbar adjustment optional
  • M50d's fake engine noise
  • No Android Auto

BMW X5: what would you like to read next?

Overall verdict

Watch our BMW X5 video review

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.

Mat Watson
carwow expert

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.

What's it like inside?

Watch our BMW X5 interior video review

The BMW X5 isn’t cheap, but then it feels anything-but inside. You’re also getting one of the best infotainment systems money can buy, so you certainly won’t feel hard-done.

Read full interior review

How practical is it?

Watch our BMW X5 practicality video review

There are slightly more spacious seven-seaters with slightly bigger boots, but truth-be-told the BMW X5 will provide all the space a family is likely to need and more

I do love a split tailgate. They look great and are genuinely practical, plus you can lower the X5’s suspension to help you sling heavy stuff inside. Or, tie up the laces on your brogues

Mat Watson
carwow expert
Boot (seats up)
550 - 650 litres
Boot (seats down)
1,770 - 1,870 litres

A couple of lanky adults sat in the front of a BMW X5 will have all the space they could need. There’s a huge amount of head room and leg room, while electric front seats come as standard on all X5s.

The driver’s seat goes a long way down for a sportier position or nice and high if you need help peering over the steering wheel, while the steering wheel itself adjusts over a wide range too. However, it’s surprising to see that lumbar adjustment requires adding an option, which seem stingy at this price.

Access to the back seats is very good: the X5’s high roofline means you don’t have to duck in and its wheel arch doesn’t get in the way. It’s a nice height from the ground so no stepping up or down, and as such, getting a baby seat in is simple. The Isofix points are also easy to find when your child is kicking off.

Once you’re sat in the rear seats there’s a massive amount of room. Knee room, head room, foot room are all superb, even for tall adults and even with another tall adult sat in front. In fact, three adults across the back won’t complain too much, either. The middle seat is quite wide, isn’t too pronounced and the space in the middle floor is relatively flat. You can’t recline the outer seat backs, but they’re already reclined a bit so it’s no biggie and the rear seats are extremely comfortable.

The X5’s rear windows are also nice and deep for good visibility, and on the backs of the front seats its possible to add USB sockets, as well as slots for a variety of attachments
Such as tablet holders or coat hangers.

There’s also the option to add seven seats, which is fairly pricey, but also adds electrically sliding and reclining middle seats in order to provide access to the rearmost set. It’s a tight squeeze in there, though, so they’re best reserved for kids, or adults on very short journeys.

You won’t be short of places to put your odds and sods inside the BMW X5. The front door bins will take a big bottle of water, there’s storage space in a cubby to right of the steering wheel and the armrest cubby is generous with good USB ports and slot so cable doesn’t get snagged.

The front cupholders will take a large cup of coffee no problem, and they’re heated and cooled (as an option) for the first time on an X5, so you can bring along your Cappuccino and frappuccino at the same time. Only the glovebox is a little disappointing in size.

In the back you get cupholders in the central armrest which are a good size and are revealed by pressing a button. Behind them is a large flat cubby but your smartphone or small tablet.

The rear door bins are as generous as the front set and the seat pockets are so sturdy the feel like they’d hold a slab of granite.

Like its interior space, the BMW X5’s boot is very generous. OK, so an Audi Q7’s boot is about 15% bigger with the rear seats in place, but in reality, a family will have all the room they need. You’ll have no problem getting three large suitcases inside, a pushchair or a couple of sets of golf clubs.

Every X5 comes with an electric split tailgate which opens in two sections. That’s great if the boot is full and you need to grab something out, and also great for sitting on at posh country horse events. You can also lower the X5’s air suspension to help make it easy to sit down or lift heavy objects inside.

Inside the boot is large and square in shape and the tonneau cover is easy to reach and nice and light, clicking out using a button and clicking back in extremely easily. There’s a nice amount of storage beneath the boot floor, too, and lots of nice features including hooks to hang bags off, solid tie down tethers at the back and a 12v socket.

The rear seat fold in a useful 40:20:40 split using buttons located just inside the boot on either side. Once down they lie almost flat, too, which together with the lack of boot lip means sliding long items such as bike inside and to the front seatbacks is easy work.

What's it like to drive?

If you enjoy your driving, the BMW X5 will satisfy you more than most alternatives. However, it can feel a little firm with the wrong wheels and tyres and the petrol is a thirsty option

The M50d might be tempting, but in reality all you really need is the 30d diesel. It’s really quite punchy, but will get close to 40mpg if driven sensibly.

Mat Watson
carwow expert

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. It’s also rather thirsty, managing an official fuel consumption of just 33.2mpg. However, in reality, it’ll likely be in the high twenties.

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. Officially it’ll return an impressive 47.1mpg, although expect that figure to be in the high thirties in reality.

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.

All X5s come with all-wheel drive and a brilliant eight-speed automatic gearbox that is both smooth in Auto mode, yet responsive when you take control using the wheel-mounted paddles.

If there’s one complaint, it’s that, on all engines, BMW has chosen to pump in fake engine sound into the cabin in a bid to make it sound sportier. In truth, 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. Cars with large alloy wheels and run-flat tyres are also less cosseting.

But in 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.

Most won’t need to, but the BMW X5 will also handle fairly arduous off-road driving. It can be raised 40mm higher using its air suspension for better ground clearance as standard, or if you want to get really serious, adding BMW’s optional xOffroad pack brings four off-road driving modes, a lockable rear differential and underbody protection. However adding this does mean you can’t then add sixth and seventh seats.

Read about prices & specifications
RRP £57,640 Find new, used & lease car deals