The BMW X5 might not be the big-car handling yardstick it used to be but it’s still very capable, surprisingly good fun and very easy to drive – if a bit noisy
You can get the X5 with a range of petrol, diesel and hybrid engines and with either two or four-wheel drive. Entry-level models come with a 2.0-litre diesel engine driving just the rear wheels while the fastest 50i versions come with a 450hp 4.4-litre petrol engine and four-wheel drive as standard.
Pick a two-wheel-drive, four-cylinder sDrive 25d model if you spend most time around town. Its 231hp diesel engine is easily powerful enough to haul the X5’s large body around and it’ll return approximately 40mpg in real-world conditions (compared to BMW’s claimed 53.3mpg). It’s not quite as smooth as the larger six-cylinder diesel models but it doesn’t grumble too loudly when you accelerate hard.
If you spend lots of time on the motorway, you’ll want to consider one of the 30d or 40d 3.0-litre diesel versions. Both come with four-wheel drive and a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox and can return around 40mpg in normal driving conditions. The latter is noticeably faster, however, and can breeze past slow-moving traffic with ease.
The BMW X5 feels more like a high-riding saloon than a huge SUV – especially if you fork out for the dynamic suspension. It costs nearly £2,000 but it’s definitely worth it
The 40e plug-in hybrid model is only really suitable if you do lots of short journeys around town and have somewhere to charge it. It can travel in near-silent electric-only mode for around 19 miles, but once its 2.0-litre petrol engine’s called upon to drive the wheels it becomes a touch noisier than the diesels. Unlike some hybrid cars, it’s not exempt from the London congestion charge and you’ll struggle to get anywhere near BMW’s claimed 85mpg.
If you want true sports-car pace from your tall SUV, the high-performance 50i petrol and M40d models might be for you. They’ll accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.9 and 5.3 seconds respectively but will set you back more than £64,000 and the 50i in particular will cost lots to run.
The BMW X5 is reasonably easy to drive around town – for a high-riding SUV that is. There aren’t any annoying blind spots to worry about so pulling out of junctions is a breeze and the standard front and rear parking sensors make parking relatively stress-free, too. The steering’s reasonably light and the eight-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and responsive – even at slow speeds.
Its standard suspension deals with bumps reasonably well but the optional £1,995 adaptive dynamic suspension package is well worth paying extra for. It’s standard on all M Sport models and helps smooth out bumps in the road as well as stopping the X5’s body from leaning too much in tight corners. It’s no sports car – and certainly can’t match the Porsche Cayenne for driving fun – but it carries its weight with more composure than either the Mercedes GLE or Lexus RX.
Unfortunately, head out onto a fast back road or motorway and you’ll hear quite a bit more wind and tyre noise in the X5 than you would in a Mercedes GLE or Audi Q7. It’s by no means deafening but it makes the BMW slightly less relaxing to drive on long journeys than some other large SUVs.
It’s also a little off-putting that Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested the X5, although it comes with a wide range of safety systems to help prevent avoidable collisions. All X5s come with BMW’s Driving Assistance pack – a combination of lane departure warning, pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking (a system that’ll brake for you if it detects an obstacle ahead) – as standard.
The optional Driving Assistant Plus pack is well worth paying an extra £1,330 for if you want to boost safety. It comes with the same features as the standard pack but adds active cruise control (that can match you speed to that of other cars) and a system that can essentially drive the car for you in heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic.