This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest BMW X5 4x4 review.

Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Diesel models remain the most popular
  • Powerful M50d and X5 M for speed addicts
  • Plug-in hybrid xDrive40e not short of power

No matter which model you choose, the BMW X5’s performance is impressive and in keeping with the marque’s ethos – all versions will crack the 0-62mph acceleration test in less than 10 seconds.

Regardless of whether you choose petrol, diesel or petrol-electric plug-in hybrid, all come with an excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox, which swaps cogs quickly and smoothly.

Diesel engines most popular

Although there are five different diesel variants, they are powered by just two basic engines, albeit in different power outputs.

Common to both the sDrive25d and xDrive25d is the turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel producing 231hp and 500Nm of torque from 2,000rpm.

Regardless of whether just the rear wheels are driven (sDrive) or all four (xDrive), performance figures are identical: a 137mph top speed and a 0-62mph time of 7.7 seconds – and that’s for the slowest-accelerating model in the line-up.

First of the X5s with the six-cylinder 3.0-litre turbo unit is the xDrive30d. There’s a relatively modest increase in power to 258hp, with 560Nm of torque available even lower down the rev range at 1,500rpm, making it easier to accelerate.

That brings the 0-62mph time down to 6.8 seconds, while top speed is 143mph.

In our opinion, the xDrive30d represents the best combination of performance and running costs. Its power delivery is smooth and there’s a huge amount of torque on offer, which makes the driving feel effortless. It works very well in conjunction with the eight-speed automatic gearbox, providing near-relentless shove. While it doesn’t sound anywhere near as nice as some of the punchier engines in the range, it is noticeably better to drive than the four-cylinder motors mentioned above.

Tweaked to produce a meatier 313hp and 630Nm, again from 1,500rpm, is the 3.0-litre xDrive40d. That extra grunt results in a 147mph top speed and a 5.9-second 0-62mph time.

Topping the diesel line-up – and still using the same 3.0-litre engine, now ramped up to 381hp and 740Nm of torque from 2,000rpm – is the M50d. Fettled by BMW’s M Division – responsible for iconic performance saloons such as the M3 and M5, the X5 M50d’s top speed is limited to 155mph, while it takes just 5.3 seconds to complete the 0-62mph benchmark.

Performance-focused petrols

Just two petrol-only X5s are available in the UK, both fitted with a turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 with an enticing burble to its exhaust note. Unsurprisingly, they’re the priciest models to run.

First up is the xDrive50i, producing 449hp and a dieselesque 650Nm from 2,000rpm. Top speed is, as per BMW conventions, capped at 155mph, but the 4.9-second 0-62mph outstrips all of the diesel X5s.

For some, that’s not enough, hence the tuned and driver-focused X5 M’s existence. Forget the M50d for a moment, this is the bona fide M car in the range.

The petrol V8’s been cranked up to produce 575hp, with a colossal 750Nm of torque on stream from 2,200rpm. Top speed is again restricted to 155mph, but the 0-62mph drops further to a scarcely believable 4.2 seconds – in a car that weighs 2,350kg.

Low-emission plug-in hybrid

If you don’t cover the kind of mileage to warrant a diesel but still want an economical choice, then the plug-in hybrid xDrive40e may suit you.

The conventional engine is a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo petrol, which, combined with an electric motor, produces 245hp and 450Nm of torque, with up to 19 miles of electric-only driving range available.

Top speed is 130mph – or 75mph in EV mode – with a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds, so even though it’s more environmentally friendly, it’s no slouch.

  • Handles well for a large SUV…
  • But not as good as conventional BMWs
  • Adaptive suspension worth ordering

Even when you’re behind the wheel of the M50d or X5 M – with the optional Adaptive Dynamic suspension system – you quickly realise this is no sports car in terms of its handling. Then again, it does weigh around 2.2 tonnes, and gifted though BMW engineers are, they cannot defy physics.

Inevitably if you drive it hard the weight comes into play, and with the heavy engine up front, the nose will eventually wash wide. There’s loads of traction across both axles up to that point though, and you have to be driving very quickly indeed to upset the X5 in anything but the slipperiest of conditions.

For the most impressive handling you’ll want to order the optional Professional Adaptive Suspension, which features active anti-roll technology that allows it to remain flatter through corners instead of tilting like a conventional taller car.

Thanks to a predominantly rear-driven set-up from the all-wheel drive system, the X5 is impressively capable during most situations you’re going to encounter on the road.

In our experience the suspension is best left in Comfort mode, where the ride is slightly suppler, and there’s a negligible amount of extra body roll – the steering weight feels more natural too.

Torque vectoring at the rear, where power is split across the driven wheels to improve traction, makes it more stable in high speed corners too.

Considering most X5s will be carrying children, taking life at a slightly slower pace is probably a better idea anyway.

We found the X5 a relatively easy car to park considering its size. The Audi Q7’s optional rear-wheel steering system does give it a slight edge here, but the BMW’s turning circle is small enough to achieve most manoeuvres without worry.

The excellent bird’s-eye view reversing camera is a worthwhile investment if this is a consideration – it displays an image of everything surrounding the car and makes parking miles easier.

It proves capable enough off-road, even with large alloy wheels and road-orientated tyres.

There’s the usual hill-descent control and the X5 can apportion up to 100% of its power to a single wheel. The most impressive aspect is just how fuss free, and quiet, the four-wheel drive xDrive system is.