Large Premium SUV of the Year 2020: BMW X5

The BMW X5 is the 2020 Auto Express Premium SUV of the Year, with the Land Rover Discovery and Porsche Cayenne commended

The BMW X5 was there or thereabouts in our 2019 awards, but the addition of a stellar plug-in hybrid model has elevated it to champion status in 2020, pushing it beyond the reaches of Land Rover’s Discovery, which took the title last year.

That’s because the X5 xDrive45e has a sumptuously smooth and powerful 3.0-litre straight-six turbo petrol engine that’s linked to a 24kWh battery and electric motor for a total of 389bhp. It means you can either sprint from 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds, or drive in electric mode for up to 54 miles, allowing owners to have their cake and eat it, with efficiency potential of 235.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 27g/km. It takes less than five hours to recharge from a home wallbox, too.

The integration of the two power sources and the flexibility they bring are great, but it’s the refinement on offer here that makes the BMW a brilliant large premium SUV. The German brand owns Rolls-Royce, and having a Rolls badge on the X5’s bonnet wouldn’t feel out of place given how smooth, quiet and luxurious the BMW SUV feels on the move.

The ride helps that sense, too, because while many premium SUVs focus on a sporty feel, the X5 majors on comfort. The suspension is soft yet still controlled, so even with the extra weight of the plug-in model’s battery, body control is good, but the way it deals with bumps means the X5 rolls along in total luxury. It’s this trait that makes it the best large premium SUV money can buy, while the muscular turbodiesels also exhibit a smooth quality and offer huge cruising range. This is sometimes more important to buyers in this class, but it comes thanks to a mix of strong efficiency and a big fuel tank. No matter which engine you go for, the X5 is quick, too, with masses of turbocharged torque available in the diesel-powered versions.

You can spec the X5 with seven seats if you need the extra flexibility, while BMW’s iterative approach to infotainment means that the brand’s current in-car technology is the best in the business.

Five-seat models boast 650 litres of boot space, there’s flexibility that means families will gel with the car, and a level of interior quality and equipment that mean the BMW justifies its price tag. All in all, the X5 is an excellent upmarket large SUV.

Our choice

BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport (£68,245)

Thanks to its impressive performance but superb efficiency potential – and the financial incentives owning a plug-in hybrid brings – the xDrive45e model is our choice. M Sport trim looks great and nails the brief when it comes to kit, quality and infotainment technology.


Land Rover Discovery

Last year’s winner hasn’t slipped too far from the top spot. If you need room for more passengers then think of the Discovery like a seven-seat Range Rover. The ride is comfortable, there’s masses of space and plenty of quality. Go for the V6 diesel and not the four-cylinder; it’s not much thirstier, but is faster and more refined.

Porsche Cayenne

Like the X5, the Cayenne range offers a compelling plug-in hybrid, but it’s the breadth on offer that makes the Porsche such an exciting proposition. Its quality is high and the brand image great, plus with PHEV, regular petrol, GTS, Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid cars in regular SUV and coupé SUV form, you can take your pick.

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