BMW X5 review
The third generation of the BMW X5 SUV is larger and more imposing than ever but rivals have closed the gap
The BMW X5 has always been known for its dynamic abilities, but this latest model has seen BMW push to move its large SUV even further into the realms of the best luxury cars. A bigger boot and more spacious cabin promise an X5 that’s more practical than ever, too
Although BMW offers a single petrol engine in the X5 range, almost all buyers will opt for one of the four diesel engine options. These include the entry-level four-cylinder rear-wheel drive sDrive25d that achieves over 50mpg. The xDrive30d, meanwhile, offers an impressive blend of both performance and economy. These and the other X5 derivatives are offered in the SE or M Sport trim levels.
From the outside, the look of the latest X5 is an unexciting evolution of the previous car, while the interior is a real mash-up of different materials. That said, interior quality has improved considerably along with the rest of the BMW range.
Space for passengers has increased, too - especially around the shoulders. Around 40 per cent of buyers opt for the seven-seat X5 option, ensuring BMW’s big 4x4 will remain a common sight outside the school gates for years to come. The luxury SUV market is looking particularly crowded these days, and the X5 will have to battle the Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes M-Class and Range Rover Sport.
Our choice: BMW X5 xDrive30d SE
The first two generations of the X5 were a huge success for BMW - making the X5 one of the most recognised premium SUVs on the planet. In total, the car clocked up combined global sales of 1.3 million across its first two incarnations.
It comes as no surprise, then, that BMW has played it safe with the styling of the latest version. It's described as "deliberately evolutionary" and, while the looks are unlikely to offend anyone, it's certainly less distinctive than its predecessors.
The squat stance and flared wheelarches have been reduced, having been replaced by slab sides and a front end reminiscent of the latest 3 Series. The rear end looks a little bland, but the squared-off exterior styling has led to an increase in interior space - making room for comfortable seats, big windows and first-rate quality.
The dashboard design is a familiar X5 feature and in line with models from across the BMW range, but the smart switchgear and swish lighting are impressive.
The latest version of BMW's iDrive cabin control system is matched to a superb 10.2-inch screen, while standard equipment includes an attractive three-spoke M Sport steering wheel, memory seats, cruise control and two-zone climate control.
The original X5 introduced sporty on-road dynamics to the 4x4 sector, however, the definition of how an SUV should drive has changed recently. Now, the best of these blend sharp handling, excellent off-road ability and also refinement to rival that of the top luxury saloons.
As a result, the new X5 is lighter than the car it replaces. An aluminium bonnet and thermoplastic side panels are just a couple of examples of the car’s diet, while BMW’s xDrive 4x4 transmission is 1.4kg lighter than before. Even so, the M50d weighs 2,190kg – that’s 75kg more than close rival, the Range Rover Sport.
Not that it gives away any performance or efficiency. CO2 emissions of just 177g/km mean the M50d is cleaner than the Sport and the equivalent Porsche Cayenne, but it’s the 3.0-litre tri-turbo straight-six diesel that really stands out.
All X5s get Drive Performance Control, with up to four driving modes, to adjust throttle response, steering weight and gearshift speed. The M50d also comes with Adaptive M Sport suspension, which includes active damper control and self-levelling air-suspension at the rear.
Our test car also featured the £2,495 Adaptive Dynamic suspension, which adds active anti-roll bars for better body control. Yet even with this over-complicated set-up, the X5 disappoints.
While roll is well controlled, the ride is too firm in the sportier settings, making Comfort the mode of choice. As a result, you wonder whether the car really needs so many different settings.
Even in Comfort, the X5 tends to follow cambers in the road and never feels settled or relaxed like its rivals. This is a problem compounded by the strangely numb and inconsistent steering. Overall, the car has neither the composure and sharp reactions of the Porsche Cayenne nor the refinement and lightness of touch of the Range Rover Sport.
The X5 achieved a five star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, thanks to the availability of more safety kit than ever before. On top of a host of standard safety kit, the X5 can be had with a variety of options to protect its occupants.
The Active Security package includes lane departure warning, rear collision alerts and a blind-spot monitor, all of which can be switched on or off at the touch of a button. BMW Emergency Call is part of ConnectedDrive and uses your phone to contact and send details to the police or ambulance should you have a crash. Meanwhile, Night Vision and LED headlights are also on the options list.
The engines and technology used in the X5 are used in other products, so shouldn't prove too much trouble to run, although wear and tear rates are likely to be high. This BMW is still a big, heavy car.
By altering the way the new X5 looks compared with the previous model, BMW has given the new model much more usable space than the old car. And that was necessary to distance the X5 from the X3, which grew considerably in its latest iteration, too.
All X5s have a split tail-gate, with the top half being electrically operated. The boot is big, and gives a minimum of 650-litres of space, while the rear seats split 40:20:40. Around 40 per cent of buyers opt for the extra two rear seats, giving a 5+2 layout. Rear and front seat space is ample, with plenty of leg, shoulder and head room.
There are also large door pockets and a decent central cubby in the X5. This can be had with a cradle for your iPhone if you opt for BMW’s suite of ConnectedDrive services. Interior quality has also taken a step forward, with plenty of nice leather, metal and plastic used throughout. Some interior trims are light coloured though, so it’s worth bearing in mind how these will look if you plan on carrying kids or pets on a regular basis.
The headline news for the latest X5 as far as efficiency is concerned is the entry-level sDrive25d model. It’s rear-wheel drive and returns a claimed 50.4mpg and emits 149g/km of CO2. A 4x4 version is also available, which trims mpg to 47.9 and increases CO2 to 155g/km. The xDrive30d offers a great balance of power and economy – offering 40 extra bhp and 110Nm of torque over the 25d engine, but only dropping to 45.6mpg and 162g/km.
The xDrive40d is worth considering if you plan to spec lots of options, as the cost of these drops if you opt for the bigger engine. The top-spec M50d and xDrive50i cost similar money, and have similar performance. The diesel has more torque, but the petrol makes a better noise, and both will cost plenty to run.
Depreciation is one of the biggest factors to consider when buying a big luxury car. And our experts suggest that, with predicted residuals of 49.1 per cent, the X5 won’t hold its value as well as its rivals. Over three years, it’s likely to lose just over £32,000 in value. On the plus side, there’s fixed-price servicing, although the X5 is more expensive to maintain than the Range Rover Sport.