The BMW X5 was one of the first road-focused SUVs, and this new third-generation model is even further removed from the off-road roots its looks belie – some versions don’t even have four-wheel drive.
However, the latest X5 faces a tougher task than any of its predecessors, because it has to fend off competition from some very strong rivals, including the latest Range Rover Sport, Mercedes ML and Porsche Cayenne.
The new X5 carries over the old car’s basic underpinnings and several of its engines – including its six-cylinder 3.0-litre diesels – but a new 215bhp four-cylinder diesel (badged 25d) joins the line-up, which in rear-wheel-drive form emits just 149g/km of CO2.
Other changes are a new lighter and stiffer bodyshell, a posher interior, more equipment and some new gadgets.
What’s the 2013 BMW X5 like to drive?
We tried the 254bhp 3.0 diesel (badged xDrive30d), which is likely to account for around two-thirds of UK sales. It’s seriously punchy, pulling strongly from around 1800rpm, while the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts slickly and intuitively in most situations. It’s just a shame the engine isn’t as smooth as the V6 diesel in the latest Range Rover Sport; you feel more pedal vibration when accelerating.
There’s also drone from the engine bay that never quite disappears, plus a bit too much wind noise at motorway speeds. The X5 supresses road noise better than a Porsche Cayenne, but this is still an everpresent companion at motorway speeds.
The 30d rides on conventional steel springs in entry-level SE trim, but our test car was an M Sport model with adaptive suspension. In Sport mode, the ride is downright uncomfortable, and even in Comfort, things get rather choppy on pockmarked and patched-up road surfaces. The optional 20-inch alloys fitted to our test car (19s come as standard) probably didn’t help matters.
While the new X5 isn’t quite as fleet-footed as a Porsche Cayenne, it’s still remarkably agile compared with a Range Rover Sport. The steering fails to impress, though; it’s unnecessarily heavy around town, and doesn’t self-centre quickly enough at faster speed.
What’s the 2013 BMW X5 like inside?
The outgoing X5 is still one of the more practical premium SUVs, and the same goes for this replacement. It's not quite as spacious in the back as a Range Rover Sport, but lanky adults will still have enough room to sprawl out.
Likewise, the X5 has a smaller boot than the Sport, but the difference isn't as big as the official figures suggest and you get a handy split tailgate as standard.
The driving position in the X5 is hard to fault. All-round visibility is decent and the standard leather seats are comfortable and supportive. True, taller drivers may wish the steering wheel dropped a little lower, but there's plenty of headroom, so you can jack the driver's seat up enough for this not to be an issue.
Cabin quality has been taken up a notch, too. Some of the switchgear has been carried over from the outgoing X5, but the interior plastics and optional extra leather feel that bit classier.
The new X5 also gets BMW’s latest iDrive system. This features a large, easy-to-read display and an intuitive rotary dial controller. All models get sat-nav as standard and a 20GB hard drive for music.
Entry-level SE models come with all the kit you’re likely to need, including climate and cruise controls, a DAB radio, metallic paint, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, and xenon headlights. However, BMW expects around 80% of buyers to go for range-topping M Sport trim, which adds bigger (19-inch) alloys, adaptive sports suspension, electric front sports seats and sportier styling.
Should I buy one?
The improvements over the outgoing car mean the X5 can continue to hold its own against today’s best large SUVs.
In fact, if you’re a company car driver, it’s easy to see why you’d choose the BMW over a Range Rover Sport or a Mercedes ML; the X5's lower CO2 emissions mean you’ll have to sacrifice less of your salary each month in tax.
The BMW X5 makes sense as a private buy, too, because while it’s not as refined or as practical as a Range Rover Sport TDV6, it's cheaper to buy and comes with more standard equipment.
What Car? says…
Engine size 3.0-litre diesel
Price from £47,895
Torque 413lb ft
0-62mph 6.9 seconds
Top speed 142mph
Fuel economy 45.6mpg
CO2 emissions 162g/km