New BMW X5 2014 review

29 Aug, 2013 11:00pm Neil Briscoe

The third-generation BMW X5 is faster, cleaner and more comfortable than ever - should the Range Rover Sport be worried?


The all-new X5 is now more handsome than before, better-built and more refined to drive. The 3.0-litre straight-six diesel remains at the top of the class for refinement and punch and the cabin is spacious, classy and superbly comfortable. In search of a more supple ride and improved on-road manners, it’s marginally less sharp than it once was, but it’s unlikely core customers will notice the change. It’s a successful update then that puts the new X5 neck-and-neck with the more expensive Range Rover Sport.

When the original X5 arrived in 1999 it was BMW’s first ever 4x4 – a first step into the unproven world of premium SUVs. Fourteen years later and the X5 has reached its third generation, BMW’s SUV line up has exploded to include the X1, X3, X4 and X6, and competition is getting fiercer by the day.

BMW X5 review

It’s no surprise then that BMW has stuck to its successful styling formula, with familiar set of proportions to its predecessor (although its 32mm longer and 5mm wider). Cues like the headlights flowing into the front grille tie it in with the new 3 and 4 Series, while the air curtain and air breather vents either side of the wheel arches are stylish, and aerodynamically beneficial, additions.

With the 10.2-inch screen taking pride of place the interior is gorgeous to look at, while the levels of craftsmanship and comfort inside the BMW X5 are just astounding. Despite a slightly offset driving position, this is a terrific cabin in which to spend time, and to our eyes noses the X5 ahead of the Range Rover Sport in terms of overall quality.

There is, needless to say, a raft of high-tech, high end options including collision warning and avoidance that can slam on the brakes at speeds of up to 40mph, an infra-red camera that can detect and differentiate between people and animals, active cruise control (which features a system to creep the car in heavy traffic), surround camera parking system and an excellent head-up display.

Despite growing in size the BMW X5 is 5kg lighter overall than before, and the boot capacity has gone up by 30 litres to 650-litres with the seats up, or a massive 1,870-litres with them down. And once again, the X5 can be had with optional third row seats that fold away into the boot.

The 3.0-litre turbodiesel will be the best-seller and develops a little more power - up by 13bhp to 254bhp - and a little more torque - up by 20bhp to 560Nm. It’s accompanied by the 443bhp twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 petrol found in the xDrive 50i model, and the 376bhp triple-turbo M50d. The first ever four-cylinder X5 will also appear soon in the shape of the £42,590 sDrive 25d - the first ever rear-wheel drive X5.

We tried the xDrive 30d, which is as punchy as ever with all the performance you’re likely to need. It sounds familiar too – a distant gruff growl, which gathers into a more distinct snarl as you press hard on the throttle. The extra grunt leads to sharper acceleration - the 0-62mph time drops by 0.7- to 6.9 seconds - but fuel economy and CO2 emissions have improved by 7.4mpg and 31g/km to 45.6mpg and 164g/km.

The X5 has always had impressive handling for a car of its size, and the new model continues the trend. All new X5s will be fitted as standard with BMW’s Driving Experience Control, a toggle switch that lets the driver switch between Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Eco Pro modes.

Comfort really is comfortable, bringing to the X5 a fluidity and level of bump absorption that simply wasn’t present in the old version. Even in Sport mode (Sport+ has the same level of damper stiffness but dials out the assistance from the ESP and traction control) this new X5 has a level of comfort that would have been utterly alien to its predecessor. Unfortunately that means it can’t match the steering feel and chassis responses of its predecessor.

The electrically-boosted steering has a lovely weighty feel to it, but it fails to transmit precisely what the front tyres are up to. As the cornering forces build, things improve, and there’s still a level of agility only the Porsche Cayenne can beat and the Range Rover Sport can equal. But it’s still not quite the drivers’ car it was.

These things are relative though and the X5 will still dance rings around the Audi Q7 and Mercedes ML-Class. The fact that BMW has dialled down the dynamics slightly and upped the comfort levels shows they are fully aware of this car’s target customers – people who want a safe, high-riding SUV with an alluring badge on the bonnet. If a customer want to set lap times, they’ll buy an M3, if they need something to drive around the farm, they’ll buy a Land Rover anyway.

Disqus - noscript

thanks for the very first review. Can you please elaborate your experience with steering? The outgoing X5 steering commonly remarked as stiffer and hard to maneuver at slow speeds. How is the new one?

Why was my previous comment deleted?
All I said was that it looked ugly in the pictures; and that hopefully it would look better when we see it on the road...

The operative sentence is "...they are fully aware of this car’s target customers – people who want a
safe, high-riding SUV with an alluring badge on the bonnet"

I just wish the automotive press would take this to heart and not report on it as if it were up against a sportscar....

Enough with the "sports handling" SUV's.

I have a 2011 5.0 love this car. handling, engine, comfort are all superb !!

Which Range Rover Sport? The outgoing one or the new model?

Handsome!? How can you possibly put the word 'handsome' in the same sentence as 'X5'?

Yes, the X5 may beat the RRS in most measurable ways, but the Rangey makes up for that in the fact that you don't have to be literally blind to buy one.

I have owned previous RRS and currently have a X5 M40d, the BMW is superior and is actually fun to drive.
I drove all the alternatives, Disco, Q7, Porsche, Merc
Pound for pound the X5 was best
Comfort and 0-60 in 6.6secs and 146 mph!
Looks wise they both have there appeal if spec'd correctly
The anti SUV brigade reel out the same old story of why have performance SUV's.
Trust me, the X5 will not embarrass you whether in straight line or the bendy bits.
If we all listened to the anti SUV brigade we would have nice safe Mondeo estates and long faces

Too much Bling, BMW! What on earth are those silly vents behind the wheel arches all about? Also, the chrome trim around the strips of faux wood?? Why???

5Kg lighter ! Whoop-de-doo!
Until you put the shopping in the boot.

The latest BMW X5 is sheer ugly. I used to have an X5 4.8s and the number of faults were unbelievable. The problem with BMW is that they are unnecessarily pricey. The buy back prices are terrible. The after sales service has deteriorated. I owned BMW X5s for 12 years. I have now been looking at other german manufacturers. BMW needs to lift its game, reduce prices ( their profits are tremendous, so why not make the car more popular by slashing prices), improve after sales service and make sure the reliability of the car is improved and impressive. The latest X5 is awful and fugly. Let us see how the sales go. Ofcourse the manufacturers are never going to acknowledge that the car hasn't sold well. The sheer arrogance I guess, of good ol' BMW.
ML63AMG which is more reasonably priced for the quality of the car, 0-60 in 4.5 secs. It has the V8 grunt and a really amazing competitor.

Key specs

  • Price: 47,895
  • Engine: 3.0-litre six-cyl turbodiesel
  • Power: 254bhp
  • Torque: 560Nm
  • Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62: 6.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 143mpg
  • Economy: 45.6mpg
  • CO2: 164g/km
  • Equipment: Leather seats, Bluetooth, Drive Select Control, torque vectoring, park assist, 10.2-inch display
  • On sale: Now