- 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.
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.
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.
- Familiar BMW feel to the X5’s cabin
- High quality materials and a good finish
- iDrive remains an intuitive multimedia system
It’s fair to say that if you’ve sat behind the wheel of a contemporary BMW saloon – let alone the previous-generation X5 – then the cabin will feel instantly familiar to you. Don’t take that as a bad thing, though, as it means the layout is intuitive and clear, with all of the controls just where you’d expect them.
Of course, iDrive still features, and can control more than ever before. There’s the touch-sensitive pad on top, allowing you to trace letters and numbers with just your fingertips for destination input, while Connected Drive now comes with Professional sat-nav, real-time traffic information and BMW online services.
Even if you struggle with iDrive at first, after only a few hours behind the wheel it’ll likely click and become the most intuitive system that you’ve ever used.
Each X5 gets BMW’s Professional Navigation arrangement as standard, which features real-time traffic updates, emergency services dialling and online connectivity as standard. It works incredibly quickly and feels of a high quality. It’s one of our favourite systems.
The multimedia screen sits on top of the dash, like a tablet or flatscreen TV, the main dashboard moulding is now stepped into different layers and LED ambient lighting hides below the top level – you can also change the light’s intensity or colour.
Quality is without question; the surfaces in examples we’ve driven are almost completely swathed in leather and high-gloss plastics. The instrument dials follow suit from other models in the BMW range with a multi-configurable electronic display below the speedometer and rev counter, which is also used to show when the car is in Eco Pro mode.
Thanks to part-electric adjustment of the front seats, and plenty of movement in the steering wheel position, finding a comfortable driving position is a matter of moments.
- Very comfortable even in standard trim
- Upgraded Comfort seats worth the extra
- Go for the adaptive suspension upgrade, too
You don’t have to spend long behind the wheel to realise that comfort is one of the BMW X5’s highlights – there’s plenty of space, the driver’s seat has lots of adjustment and the seats are trimmed in leather as standard.
We’re fans of the optional Comfort front seats, which offer electric adjustment for almost everything – including headrest height, under-thigh support and even how tightly the side bolsters grip you. The ability to tilt the upper half of the backrest independently of the lower section means you can’t fail to find your desired seating position, and despite their price we can only recommend them.
Thankfully it’s not just the seats that make the X5 such a comfortable companion; there’s very little wind noise and it’s clear that sound insulation has come under close scrutiny – you’ll struggle to hear more than a muted engine note on the move. There is some tyre roar at high speed, but that’s on account of their width.
The standard 18-inch alloys on SE models will likely yield an even more forgiving ride – despite making do with steel springs and conventional dampers as standard. Adaptive Comfort and Adaptive Dynamic suspension are optional. Firmer Adaptive M Suspension is fitted as standard to the M50d, X5 M and all M Sport models except the sDrive25d.
At the top of the suspension chart is the Professional Adaptive Suspension package, which combines the variable damping control and self-levelling rear suspension of the comfort suspension to the active roll stabilisation and dynamic performance control of the Adaptive Dynamic set up.
For those employing their X5 as a children carrier we’d suggest the huge panoramic glass sunroof is a good move too, helping stop children being car sick.