BMW X5 review
Third generation BMW X5 is bigger and better than ever, although it no-longer stands out from the crowd
The new BMW X5 heads even further into the realm of luxury cars than before - says BMW. Still, with a platform closely related to the outgoing model’s, the SUV’s trademark focus on performance and handling hasn’t been ignored, so it promises to be just as good to drive. A bigger boot and a more spacious cabin mean the newcomer should be more practical than ever, too.
There’s a single petrol engine in the line-up, but almost all buyers will go for one of the four diesels. These include an entry level four-cylinder rear-wheel drive sDrive25d that does over 50mpg, while the xDrive 30d offers a very impressive blend of performance and economy. The new look is a blander evolution of the previous car on the outside, while the interior is a real mash-up of layer after layer of different materials. That said, interior quality has improved considerably, and space for passengers, particularly around the shoulders, has gone up. Around 40 per cent of buyers go for the seven-seat option, ensuring the X5 will remain a fixture outside the school gates for years to come.
Our choice: BMW X5 xDrive30d SE
With combined global sales of 1.3 million, the first two generations of the X5 have become some of the most recognised premium SUVs on the planet. So it’s no surprise that the brand has played safe with the styling of the latest version. BMW describes the newcomer as “deliberately evolutionary” and, although the familiar looks won’t offend anyone, it’s less distinctive than its predecessor.
The squat stance and flared wheelarches are gone, replaced by slab sides and front end like the latest 3 Series, while the rear end looks a little bland. Still, squaring off the exterior has made the interior bigger than ever. Comfortable seats, big windows and first-rate quality add an upmarket feel to the mix.
The dashboard’s layered design is a familiar X5 feature, while swish lighting and smart switchgear impress. The latest version of the 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 brought sporty dynamics to 4x4s, but the definition of how an SUV should drive has changed recently. Now, the best blend sharp handling with luxury saloon refinement and excellent off-road ability. They’re also more efficient than ever.
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 it’s 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 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 nor the refinement and lightness of touch of the Range Rover Sport.
The previous X5 got a five-star EuroNCAP rating, so there’s a strong chance the new one will follow suit. That’s because it can be had with lots more safety kit than before. 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 using a button on the centre console. 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, while Night Vision and LED headlights are also on the options list. As for reliability, engines and tech are used in other products and shouldn’t prove too much trouble to run, although wear and tear rates are likely to be high as the X5 is still a big, heavy car.
The engines and technology are used in other products, and BMW has worked hard to improve quality control at its US plants, where the X5 is built.
By compromising the way the new X5 looks, 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. 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 too, 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 new X5 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.