£44,575 - £66,515 Price range
5 - 7 Seats
29 - 85 MPG
The BMW X5 is a large SUV that has powerful engines and is nice to drive. Its closest rivals are the Mercedes M-Class, the Range Rover Sport, and the Porsche Cayenne. A cheaper alternative is the Volkswagen Touareg.
Inside, the X5 has a spacious cabin and high quality interior. Even though some rivals have a more luxurious dashboard, the one in the BMW is built to a great standard out of soft plastics, with wood and aluminium trim that adds class. Seats are large and accommodating and for those who find them too sporty, the optional Comfort seats are highly praised by reviewers.
The original X5 was arguably the best to drive in its class, but nowadays the bar has been set very high by the impressive Cayenne. The current X5 is by no means bad to drive, but the overly firm suspension and less than precise steering were criticised by testers. What the X5 lost in driver enjoyment it has gained in improved refinement – it’s the quietest X5 yet.
The usual large choice of engines is available for the X5 and most of them are the same 3.0-litre diesel in different power levels. It is also the recommended engine for it’s smooth and quiet nature in the least powerful 30d version and the explosive acceleration in the triple-turbo M50d version. There is a four cylinder diesel and a hybrid version if economy is a priority, while the 4.4-litre V8 petrol is too expensive to run to be recommendable.
Equipment levels are very good and the basic SE has – BMW’s 10-inch iDrive touchscreen infotainment with a touchpad and 20GB of music storage space as standard. Options are quite expensive and rarely add much more to the already well equipped X5, so choose carefully.
Have a look at our dimensions guide to see if the X5 will fit in your life and our colours guide to see the different shades on offer. The brand is plotting an even larger car thought to be called the BMW X7 with more space inside and more imposing dimensions outside. Equally, mules have been spotted testing believed to be the replacement for the BMW X5 – due around 2018.
Cheapest to buy: sDrive25d SE diesel
Cheapest to run: xDrive40e SE hybrid
Fastest model: X5M petrol
Most popular: xDrive30d M-Sport diesel
The X5′s cabin is typical of most modern BMW cabins: split into layers, well laid-out, simple to follow, built well and more like a saloon than an off-roader. Testers note the use of premium materials such as leather, wood and aluminium (often all in the same vehicle), yet even where a mix of materials is found the effect works – it’s always classy and always very well built.
BMW X5 passenger space
The front seats are wide, and those in the back get decent room too – even if legroom could be a little greater for some, while a third row of seats is optional. Several testers have driven X5s equipped with the optional Comfort seat option. It does what it says on the spec sheet and sounds like a good buy if you want your journeys to pass with relaxing ease.
BMW X5 boot space
The X5 boot space stands at 650 litres – 1,870 litres if you flip the rear seats down and use your expensive SUV as a van! That is less than the Mercedes M-Class’s 690 and 2,010 litres respectively. The boon of the X5 is its splitting tailgate that means your smaller items can be dropped in with ease.
Driving enjoyment was the BMW X5′s calling card in the early days, but today that doesn’t apply quite so much. Thanks to the Porsche Cayenne showing what a big SUV is capable of, it has led many testers to view the handling as a bit of a letdown by BMW’s standards.
The electric steering can feel quite vague, and if you select Comfort on the damping modes – the only sensible setting for the UK’s lunar-quality tarmac – there’s no way to opt for Sport with the steering, so you have to suffer a lighter, less feel-some steering feel.
It isn’t all bad though, as some testers admit – it “feels smaller than its bulk implies” and is “nimble enough to entertain”. Another reviewer calls it “safe and supremely secure” and yet another “responsive…at real world speeds”. It’s only once you push past this point (unlikely for most buyers) that it loses composure. Still, it’s refined, with an interior that is apparently 2.5 decibels quieter than in the old model.
BMW offers a typically wide choice of power units in the X5, from 2.0- and 3.0-litre diesels in various states of tune to a V8 petrol engine. The X5 can only be equipped with an automatic, but the eight-speed gearbox is impressively smooth and all reviewers seem to love it.
BMW X5 petrol engine
It’s the xDrive50i petrol unit least likely to draw praise, not because it’s a bad engine but because the UK’s tax system doesn’t make owning it cheap. It’ll be expensive to fuel and eye-watering to tax, so you’re really better off with one of the diesels, especially when you consider that at the moment BMW have a knack for producing such smooth, powerful and highly efficient units.
BMW X5 diesel engines
The diesel you pick depends on your budget. Cheapest in the lineup is the rear-drive sDrive25d, which is smooth and reasonably powerful. However, it won’t necessarily be able to return the claimed fuel economy figures in the real world because it is worked so hard in a car as heavy as this. One tester noted how he averaged 35mpg during his time with the 25d, nowhere near the 49.8mpg which BMW claims.
Most buyers will opt for the xDrive30d, which is smooth, brisk and returns economy in the high 40s. Briskest of all is the M50d, a triple-turbo version of the 30d’s power unit that’ll crack 60 in under 6 seconds, yet still break into 40 mpg-plus fuel economy. The main problem with this engine is its vast expense, so the 30d will remain the best choice for most.
BMW X5 Hybrid – X5 xDrive40e
If neither petrol or diesel appeals to you, BMW offers a plug-in hybrid version of the X5, called the xDrive40e. It uses a powerful turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor to create 313hp and 332 lb ft of torque. It’s claimed to get 85.6mpg and emits just 77g/km of CO2, so it’s free to tax.
We tested the BMW X5 hybrid in 2016 and were impressed with the big car’s pace – the four-cylinder petrol engine alone packs 245hp and the way it revs quickly gives the X5 a bit of a racy feel. You also get an impressive amount of acceleration from a standstill thanks to the torque of the electric motor. BMW says that 80 per cent of X5 owners travel an average of 18 miles on each journey they make, so the xDrive40e’s electric-only range of 19 miles should allow for most journeys to be made in relative silence and without using any petrol.
The only downside we noticed on our test drive was a slightly jiggly ride, presumably caused by the extra weight of the batteries upsetting the X5’s balance. Imagine the feeling of water sloshing from side to side under the car’s floor and you have a good idea of how the X5 hybrid feels on a straight and bumpy road – we’d advise test-driving one to see if you can put up with this slightly unnerving sensation. It’s worth noting that we managed a real-world 43mpg on our 25-mile test drive which was mostly carried out in 50mph and 60mph speed limits – some way apart from the claim of 85.6mpg.
BMW X5 towing capacity
How good your X5 will be as a tow car depends on which model you choose. Go for the entry level 25d and you’ll be limited to a weight of 2,700kg, while the top-of-the-range M50d’s powerful diesel engine allows it to pull a maximum of 3,500kg.
This also grants you a reasonable yearly tax bill, from £140. Performance isn't bad either - 8.2 seconds to 60 and 137 mph. You can find out more details by clicking on the Stats tab above.
Unfortunately, the 2-litre diesel model hasn't yet been reviewed by the experts. At 48.7 mpg it's only a little less frugal than the sDrive though and performance is identical. Click on the Stats tab for more information on this engine.
One review calls it "smooth, suave and sporting on request". Performance is strong and the 8-speed automatic gearbox described "sublime" by one tester, helping the car surge to 60 in under 7 seconds with a "growl" - though it's a refined unit. Combined economy tops an impressive 45 mpg.
It covers the middle ground in performance and economy, as you'd expect. The benchmark 0-60 sprint takes just under six seconds and top speed is 147 mph, while economy is strong at 45.6 mpg in SE trim. That'll net you a VED bill of £175 a year - below that of some rivals. Click on the Stats tab above for more info on this engine.
On the plus side, the engine "makes mincemeat of overtaking slower drivers", while another reviewer notes "silent refinement with Porsche 911 Turbo thrust". As a heart over head choice it's the pick of the X5 range, but running costs will put it beyond the will of most buyers and therefore it's hard to recommend as a rational purchase.
Reviewers note a "nicely engineered gurgle" from the triple-turbo 3-litre diesel yet at speed, it's a "refined cruiser". Performance really is strong and the 8-speed auto fast and slick, giving it punch to match any equivalent rival. Just bear in mind - the temptation to use all that grunt may not return the fuel figures you were expecting... and it's rather expensive too.
Beyond all of the predictable safety kit, the X5 has a range of devices that aim to prevent accidents happening at all, rather than simply mitigating damage in the event of one.
Active cruise control will follow the car in front at a precise and safe distance, and is even able to bring the car to a complete halt in the event of traffic, while lane departure warning systems inform the driver when he or she wanders into other lanes without indicating.
Optional extras include adaptive LED headlights, night vision with obstacle detection, and surround view cameras, which allow the driver to judge the extremities of their car far more accurately.
If you want a good-value X5, steer clear of the M50d – its 60-grand-plus prices are ludicrous. Penny-pinchers will find most of what they want in that sDrive model: It does 50 mpg combined (if you resist the urge to opt for M Sport trim) and’ll set you back just £140 a year in tax. It’s the most compelling for company buyers too. The hybrid version has lower running costs, but is more expensive to buy. Virtually all X5s are frugal for their size though and a match for most rivals in this respect.
Equipment levels are impressive with the basic SE trim having everything you’d want in a big SUV – cruise control, climate control, selectable driving modes, as well as DAB digital radio with Bluetooth phone connection. However, the trim we’d go for is the M-Sport.
BMW X5 M-Sport
The M-Sport trim level comes with everything from the SE trim and adds a more aggressive bodykit, 19-inch alloy wheels, sport seats as well as adaptive sport suspension. The only drawback is that it costs £5,000 more than the already generously equipped SE.
The X5 remains a car near the top of its class, and with certain engines, probably the best option available. Familiarity hasn’t bred contempt for the X5 yet (among the press, at least – for some the X5 is still representative of all that’s wrong with premium 4x4s) but it no longer stands proud as once it did.
The latest Range Rover Sport is a huge improvement over the previous design, and Porsche’s Cayenne gets better all the time, each giving buyers realistic alternatives to the BMW badge.