What Car? says...
When the BMW X5 burst on to the scene more than two decades ago, it kicked off the craze for sportier SUVs that felt more like saloons than off-roaders to drive. By sacrificing some ruggedness and rock-climbing ability, you could have sharper handling, improved ride comfort and a smarter interior.
Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for rival manufacturers to respond. The Volvo XC90 joined the crowd first, bringing with it seven seats as standard. Then the Range Rover Sport came along, offering a triple threat: sportiness, luxury and proper off-roading abilities. Later, the Audi Q7 impressed us with its blend of seven-seat versatility, remarkable comfort and a truly classy interior.
Under pressure from such talented rivals, this fourth-generation version of the BMW X5 has its work cut out if it’s to stay competitive against the best luxury SUVs. There’s little doubt that the latest car leans heavily on the key virtues that made it successful in the first place – namely, an upmarket interior and tidy handling.
The model has moved with the times though, with ever more efficient engines, including a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model that produces seriously low CO2 emissions and has an impressive electric-only range.
Is all that enough to put the BMW X5 at the top of your shortlist? That's the question we'll be answering over the next few pages of this review.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The entry-level engine for the BMW X5 is called the xDrive30d. It's a 294bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel that offers strong acceleration (0-62mph in 6.1sec) and tonnes of low-down punch for towing. Like all X5s, it has a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, which makes it more responsive than the equivalent Audi Q7 45 TDI.
Our pick of the range is the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) xDrive50e. It combines a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine with a big battery and a powerful electric motor for incredibly swift performance. In our testing, the xDrive50e managed 0-60mph in 4.8sec. According to official WLTP figures, it can do up to 67 miles on electric power alone. That's very impressive, when PHEV versions of the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC90 manage around half that.
If you want power and maximum performance, the range-topping 523bhp M60i petrol will have you pinned to the seat with its eye-widening acceleration (0-62mph in 4.3sec).
Suspension and ride comfort
The xDrive50e comes with air suspension as standard, but on its big 21in wheels, it has a slightly firmer edge than other X5s. It's not quite as settled at high speeds as the Range Rover Sport (also with air suspension), but cushions you well most of the time. It's much better than the occasionally lumpy Volvo XC90 PHEV.
On all other X5s, air suspension is an option and we’d suggest ticking that box because it’s very impressive. It maintains a super-smooth ride, even over sharp-edged potholes and ruts, without any unwanted floatiness over crests and dips.
The M60i comes with an M Adaptive Suspension sports setup as standard, with M Adaptive Suspension Pro and air suspension both available as an option. The two adaptive ‘M’ setups give the X5 a sportier and more nimble feel, but are also noticeably harsher and don’t absorb bumps quite as soothingly as the standard car. We haven't tried the M60i on air suspension yet.
The X5 has plenty of grip and tight body control, making it an incredibly stable and reassuring SUV to drive on twisty roads. The precise, well-weighted steering makes it easy – and even enjoyable – to guide this sizeable chunk of metal along your favourite country route. The Porsche Cayenne handles even more sweetly, but the X5 is sharper than the Range Rover Sport and among the best of the rest in the luxury SUV class.
Despite the extra weight of its battery pack and electric motor, the xDrive50e continues that trend. It doesn't have quite the same amount of agility as other version, but steers well and is fun to drive compared with rival PHEVs.
The X5 has good off-road capabilities, with standard four-wheel drive, and driving modes that adapt the ride height and drive settings to the road condition. Ultimately, though, the Land Rover Defender and Land Rover Discovery are better suited to real wilderness.
Noise and vibration
The xDrive30d has a surprisingly appealing throaty engine note for a diesel. It never really fades away, though, even at a cruise. When you select Sport mode, it adds some artificial noise played through the car’s speakers to deepen the soundtrack.
The sportier M60i turns up the throatiness to 11 if you accelerate hard, but is happily subdued when cruising. The xDrive45e is whisper-quiet when running on electric power, and when the petrol engine chimes in, it does so smoothly.
The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox is delightfully smooth, and wind noise is well suppressed. It’s not all great news, though. There's a bit of suspension noise around town, and the big wide tyres generate road roar that gets noticeably more pronounced over rougher asphalt. The XC90 is worse for road noise at speed, while the quietest SUV cruiser in this price range is the Q7.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
Finding a comfortable driving position in the BMW X5 is a doddle. There’s electric seat adjustment for the backrest angle, the seat squab angle (you can also extend the cushion) and lumbar support, which can be moved up and down as well as in and out. You get a memory function as standard, so you can return the seat to your perfect position quickly if someone else drives your car.
The X5 gives you a commanding view of the road from the seat's lofty position, and all the controls are laid out logically around it. Annoyingly, BMW has gone the same way as the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 and ditched old-fashioned buttons and knobs for the heating controls so you have to change the settings using the touchscreen infotainment system. That’s not great because it’s more distracting to use on the move.
A standard 12.3in digital dashboard display takes the place of conventional analogue instruments. Its graphics are sharp, but it lacks the choice of designs offered by the Q7's Virtual Cockpit. A head-up display is available as part of the Technology Pack.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
With chunky pillars at the rear corners, the X5 doesn’t offer quite as broad a view of the world out of the back as it might, but that's not uncommon among luxury SUVs. Its near-vertical tailgate window and large side windows are plus points, though, and it’s relatively easy to judge where the car’s nose ends.
Besides, you get front, rear and side parking sensors as standard, plus a reversing camera. A surround-view camera is available as an option for a top-down view when parking. You're well served at night, with standard adaptive LED headlights.
Sat nav and infotainment
Dominating the top of the dashboard is the X5’s 12.3in infotainment system, which curves seamlessly into the driver’s display. It’s very easy to use, incredibly quick and responsive, and features a customisable display that allows you to choose between widgets that display frequently accessed information on the main screen (a bit like on a smartphone). Alternatively, you can delve into the menus using a sidebar menu system, which, again, is intuitive and easy to get to grips with.
You get a glut of handy connected features, too. All X5s can receive over-the-air map updates and have a navigation system that can connect to an app on your phone to provide tailored guidance. For example, it can monitor current traffic conditions to tell you when to leave for an appointment, as well as providing concierge services. There’s also a remote 3D view that allows you to see what’s around your car.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity are standard, so you can bypass the BMW software and use your phone's instead. The standard stereo sounds decent and there are Harman Kardon (standard on M60i) or Bowers & Wilkins upgrades if you like a bit more fidelity.
It’s truly hard to fault the sensation of quality you get inside the X5, which is right up there with the excellent Q7, and slightly better in terms of fit and finish than the Range Rover Sport and XC90.
The dashboard is built from expensive-feeling materials, the high-quality inlays are instantly appealing and the attention to detail is really impressive. Real metal adorns several surfaces, in place of the metal-effect plastic in lesser cars.
Plush materials are not reserved for prominent locations, either – you’ll find attractive, tactile finishes even in places where you wouldn’t normally look. The upshot is an interior that feels every bit as luxurious as you’d expect an SUV of this calibre to be.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Up front, the BMW X5 feels airy, with plenty of head and leg room, even for people more than six feet tall. Better still, the interior is wide, so you’ll be nowhere near to rubbing shoulders with your passenger.
There's plenty of storage space, with a huge cubby between the seats, another one with room for your smartphone and two cup-holders, which, if you tick the right option box, can heat or cool your drinks.
The glovebox is a decent size and the door pockets can take a small drink bottle.
There’s more than enough space in the back of the X5 for two tall adults to sit comfortably for long periods of time, although the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 offer even more leg room. Three large adults could find it a bit more of a squeeze, but at least the middle passenger will have somewhere to put their legs thanks to a minimal hump in the middle of the floor.
The X5 is a five-seater as standard, but you can pay extra for a third row of seats in all versions except the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model. The Q7, the BMW X7, the Land Rover Discovery and the XC90 are seven-seat SUVs as standard.
The two optional extra seats aren’t as spacious as the third rows in those rivals, and is best reserved for smaller passengers because of the lack of leg room. The X7 has one of the most spacious third rows out there.
Seat folding and flexibility
The electric controls make it easy to adjust the X5's front passenger seat through a wide range of movement, but only the driver’s seat gets a memory function.
As with most rivals, you get rear seats that split 40/20/40 and fold down to allow one or two occupants to remain seated while you’re carrying a long load.
If you pay more to have the optional third row of seats, you can upgrade to a sliding middle row to increase boot capacity when you need to. Sliding rear seats are standard in most rivals.
If you go for a five-seat X5 with a diesel engine, the boot has a 650-litre capacity. Seven-seat models make do with 575 litres (when the third row is folded away), while the PHEV gives you 500 litres.
That’s not huge by the standards of luxury SUVs (the Q7 and XC90 have bigger boots) but is still enough space for nine carry-on suitcases. In fact, even the PHEV, with its reduced underfloor storage, managed to swallow that number, while the Range Rover Sport PHEV managed eight cases.
Better still, no matter which version of X5 you buy, when you fold the back seats down, you end up with a usefully flat extended load area. The split tailgate is handy when loading larger items, too: you can rest them on the lower half, which folds down to form a shelf, before sliding them into the boot. It also makes a good picnic seat, and both tailgate sections are powered.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The entry-level BMW X5 xLine is fractionally more expensive to buy than the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90, and quite a bit more expensive than the entry-level Audi Q7. Spec that third row of seats and the cost gets even higher. That said, the xDrive50e looks great value when compared with the Range Rover Sport PHEV, while XC90 Recharge is slightly cheaper (the X5 will go further on electricity alone than the XC90, though).
The diesel xDrive30d returns an official combined fuel economy of just over 40mpg, a figure that’s very similar to the equivalent Discovery and XC90. The xDrive50e has a gobsmacking 235mpg figure, but that's only achievable if you keep the battery charged for a lot of electric running. We recorded a test average of just 27mpg when the battery was empty.
The xDrive50e's low CO2 emissions and great electric range have a massive benefit when it comes to your company car tax rate though. It's much more affordable than other X5s, which are all in the top tax bracket, and is cheaper to run than many PHEV rivals, which could cost twice as much in tax.
Equipment, options and extras
The X5 xDrive30d is available with a choice of two trim levels: entry-level xLine and more expensive M Sport. M Sport is the only option for the xDrive50e.
The xLine trim gives you leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, 19in wheels, a faux-leather-wrapped dashboard and ambient interior lighting. M Sport adds sportier body styling, larger 20in alloy wheels and gloss-black exterior details instead of polished metal. Those cosmetic enhancements should help resale values so M Sport is our pick, but xLine is fine if you don't want to pay the extra and you’re happy with the diesel engine.
The M60i doesn’t offer any trim choice: its spec list is based on M Sport, but with adaptive dampers and steel springs to increase performance. There’s also a bespoke limited-slip differential to increase traction in corners, a sports exhaust system, an upgraded sound system and even larger wheels.
BMW finished in 16th position out of 32 manufacturers in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. That's one spot above Volvo and a better result than every other premium rival except Lexus, which finished in top position.
The X5 comes with a three-year, unlimited-mileage BMW warranty, which also covers the car’s paintwork for three years and against corrosion for 12 years. That’s about the same as most rivals, although the Lexus RX offers an even longer warranty.
Safety and security
The X5 received the full five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP but that was back in 2018 when the tests weren’t as stringent. Even so, it achieved solid scores in each category, only suffering issues when it came to leg injuries for adults in the front, which lowered its adult occupancy score. It’s hard to compare the X5 to rivals including the Q7 and XC90 because they’ve all been tested in different years with differing testing standards.
Regardless, the X5 comes with front collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB) as standard, but on seven-seat versions, the side airbags don’t reach back into the boot area for third-row passengers, as they do in the Q7. The optional Driving Assistant Professional package adds adaptive cruise control with steering assistant and a host of other driver aids, including a system that can swerve to avoid an obstacle.
Security experts at Thatcham gave the X5 four out of five for its ability to resist break-ins and five out of five for preventing theft. Rivals perform similarly well.
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There’s no fully electric X5, but it is available as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), called the xDrive45e. That combines a 3.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to deliver swift performance, and can also run on electric power alone for up to 54 miles (according to official government tests). The xDrive45e is our favourite version of the X5.
We recommend the xDrive45e engine with M Sport trim, which gives you the bigger wheels, gloss-black exterior detailing and more aggressive bumpers that many buyers want. Those extras should give your X5 a stronger resale value and make it easier to sell.
In entry-level xLine trim, the X5 comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats, 19in alloy wheels, a rear-view camera and ambient interior lighting. M Sport is more expensive, and adds sporty cosmetic changes inside and outside the car.
Excellent. The X5 comes with the BMW iDrive infotainment system, which is packed with features but easier to use than all rival set-ups. The menus are intuitive and you can control it using a rotary dial and shortcut buttons as well as by prodding the screen.
|RRP price range||£69,560 - £112,955|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, diesel, hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||24.4 - 39.8|
|Available doors options||5|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,131 / £8,163|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,262 / £16,325|