Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • Good range of powerful engines
  • Can’t beat the xDrive30d as an all-rounder
  • …but the X45e plug-in hybrid comes very close

The X5 comes with a fairly broad range of engine options. Once upon a time your main choices would have been smooth and silky diesels but now, on top of those diesels, you can choose an X5 with one of three petrol options too – one of which is a plug-in hybrid.

Most popular in the range is the xDrive30d – a 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel producing 265hp and a hefty 620Nm of torque. This makes the X5 good for a 0-62mph sprint in 6.5 seconds (that’s around the same as a VW Golf GTI).

If you want a more powerful diesel then there’s the 400hp M50d. It uses the same 3.0-litre engine but ups the torque to 760Nm of torque. The 0-62mph sprint is taken care of in just 5.2 seconds, making this a properly rapid SUV. Plant your right foot and the X5 gives you a swift kick in the back and catapults forwards with very little drama. The slick eight-speed automatic gearbox works its way through the gears swiftly and smoothly, and the engine itself providing a meaty soundtrack without getting too raucous.

But when you don’t want to drive it like you stole it, the M50d will happily potter about town with the same restraint the 30d will. For most situations though, you’ll hardly feel like the xDrive30d is lacking, so we’d stick with that and save yourself some cash.

If you want a petrol X5, the line-up starts with the xDrive40i. It uses a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine (same as you’ll find in the old M140i hot hatch), and is silky smooth and relaxing in the X5. Its 340hp power output and 450Nm of torque help it get from 0-62mph in just 5.5 seconds.

It’s a refreshing alternative to diesel – especially as sounds so good – and could be worth a look if you’re just driving around town. That’s where the economy differences aren’t as hard to stomach. But then that also begs the question why you’d need a 340hp mammoth SUV to use in town.

Topping the petrol range is the M50i, producing a huge 530hp. This is the fastest X5 in the range, taking care of the 0-62mph sprint in just 4.3 seconds.

How about the plug-in hybrid?

Company car drivers and those doing short daily hops around town may like to consider the latest BMW X5 45e plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). With a big 24kWh battery pack, it can go much further than most PHEVs on pure electric mode, BMW claiming 50-60 miles on one charge.

In testiing, we found it delivered on that promise, getting an easy (albeit gently-driven) 50 miles from a fully-charged battery pack. Not bad that this included whisper-quiet progress on the motorway.

The six-cylinder petrol engine kicks in when the battery is depleted, or if you ask for urgent acceleration, and in this situation the 45e performs really well, with a surge of acceleration. Refinement is truly impressive with little in the way of wind, road or mechanical noise, even when driven hard. The X45e is well worth considering if you want to trim your tax and fuel bills, and aren’t too sensitive to the overall price.

How does it handle?

  • Impressive handling for such a large car
  • Disguises its size very well in the corners
  • But is still a luxurious and relaxed machine

It’s not enough for cars like this to simply handle well ‘for an SUV’ any more – not with rivals like the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport knocking on the door. Air suspension is standard on UK cars and does an admirable job of smoothing out cracked tarmac while active anti-roll bars ensure that large body is easily controlled.

The xDrive all-wheel drive system ensures a firm grasp on the tarmac while rear-wheel steering enhances the X5’s low-speed manoeuvrability and high speed stability – this isn’t fitted to all models as standard though. If you spend a lot of time in town, the extra manoeuvrability this car gives could be well worth it.

A saloon or estate is always going to be ultimately more satisfying to drive, but the X5 is surprisingly handy in its own right – it makes a difference as it doesn’t feel as big and lumbering like some large SUVs can, meaning you don’t really have to compromise if you really value the way a car drives, but still want something with an SUV body and driving position.

The heavier BMW X5 45e hybrid feels a little more ponderous with all those extra batteries and hardware on board, but even this PHEV handles with remarkable poise for one so big.