BMW X5 review

Category: Luxury SUV

The X5 has a great interior and is good to drive but some rivals are more practical

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  • BMW X5 interior dashboard
  • BMW X5 boot open
  • BMW X5 interior driver display
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  • BMW X5 interior front seats
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  • BMW X5 interior infotainment
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  • Blue BMW X5 front cornering
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  • BMW X5 interior dashboard
  • BMW X5 boot open
  • BMW X5 interior driver display
  • Blue BMW X5 right driving
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  • BMW X5 alloy wheel detail
  • Blue BMW X5 PHEV charging socket detail
  • BMW X5 interior front seats
  • BMW X5 interior back seats
  • BMW X5 interior infotainment
  • BMW X5 interior air-con controls
  • BMW X5 interior detail
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Introduction

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.

Indeed, with the X5, BMW changed the face of the luxury SUV landscape overnight. The model went on to dominate sales charts (as well as the Best SUV category at our annual Car of the Year awards).

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.

So, how does this fourth-generation BMW X5 rank among the best luxury SUVs? Read on to find out...

Overview

The BMW X5 is a smooth, classy and luxurious SUV. It's not quite as practical as the most spacious rivals out there but it's good enough where it counts, and where it really impresses is the quality of its lavish interior and superb infotainment system. The xDrive50e plug-in hybrid with M Sport trim is the one to go for.

  • Fantastic plug-in hybrid version
  • Great to drive
  • Classy, well-designed interior
  • Wide standard tyres generate road noise at speed
  • Third row of seats costs extra
  • There are more spacious and practical rivals
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Our Pick

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Bmw X5 xDrive50e M Sport 5dr Auto review
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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 6.1 seconds) and lots of low-down punch that makes it ideal for towing. Like all X5s, it has a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, which makes it more responsive than the equivalent Audi Q7 (the 45 TDI).

A more powerful version of that engine can be had in the xDrive40d, producing 347bhp to shrink that 0-62mph time down to 5.5 seconds.

Our pick of the range, though, is the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) xDrive50e. It combines a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine with a big 25.7kWh battery and a powerful electric motor for incredibly swift performance.

It’s even quicker than the diesels and in our testing achieved a 0-60mph time of just 4.9 seconds.

According to official WLTP figures, it can do up to 65 miles on electric power alone, but our real-world testing showed you're more likely to achieve around 45 miles. That's far better than what you'll see from a PHEV Audi Q5 or Volvo XC90 but less than the Range Rover Sport.

If you want power and maximum performance, the range-topping 523bhp M60i – with its 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine – will have you pinned to the seat with its eye-widening acceleration (0-62mph in 4.3 seconds).

Suspension and ride comfort

Despite weighing significantly more than its petrol and diesel equivalents, the xDrive50e PHEV positively floats over most imperfections on account of its standard-fit air suspension.

And while it's not quite as settled at high speeds as the Range Rover Sport (also with air suspension) it cushions you well most of the time and is a much more soothing long-distance companion than the occasionally lumpy XC90 PHEV.

BMW X5 image
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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. 

M Sport and M60i versions come 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.

Blue BMW X5 rear cornering

Handling

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 versions, 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 drive settings (and ride height, if air suspension is fitted) to the road condition. Ultimately, though, the Land Rover Defender and the Land Rover Discovery are better off-roaders.

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 sounds more aggressive if you accelerate hard, but is happily subdued when cruising. The xDrive50e 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.

"It would be wrong automatically to expect a BMW to be good to drive, but the X5 really is one of the best in its class. Mostly that's due to the terrific engines, but approach a corner and it handles neatly too. Game on." - Stuart Milne, digital editor

Driving overview

Strengths Punchy performance; smooth engines; strong battery range in PHEV

Weaknesses Slightly more road and suspension noise than rivals; firmer ride than more luxurious alternatives

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

Finding a comfortable driving position in the BMW X5 is a doddle, with electric seat adjustment (with memory) for the seat height, backrest angle and seat backrest width adjustment.

However, if you want adjustable lumbar support, electrical adjustment of the thigh rest, head section of backrest and headrest height, you'll want to specify the Comfort Seats.

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. Unfortunately, BMW has gone the same way as Audi and Volvo and ditched old-fashioned buttons and knobs for the heating controls. You have to change the settings using the touchscreen infotainment system which isn’t 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

Rear visibility is as good as it gets for a large SUV thanks to a near-vertical tailgate window and large side windows, and we found it 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.

BMW X5 interior dashboard

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 incredibly quick and responsive and very easy to use (with the help of a rotary dial to scroll through menus).

A customisable display allows you to choose between widgets that show 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.

Quality

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 the 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.

"We've always loved the BMW rotary controller that makes using the infotainment system such a doddle. It's top of the class for usability. Add in the plush-feeling interior and it's no wonder punters are drawn to this X5. " - Neil Winn, deputy reviews editor

Interior overview

Strengths Brilliant infotainment system; great driving position; high quality interior

Weaknesses Air-con controls are now buried in the touchscreen

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

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 each take a small drink bottle.

Rear space

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.

There's also plenty of space for three adults in the second row and 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 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.

BMW X5 boot open

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.

Boot space

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.

"The X5 may not offer as much interior space as the Audi Q7 or others of that ilk, but it's still very roomy, thanks to its large side windows and broad interior. Space up front is plentiful. The boot is a good size too, and should be great for a family holiday" - Doug Revolta, head of video

Practicality overview

Strengths Spacious for five occupants; seven-seat option boosts practicality; useful boot capacity

Weaknesses Rivals have more versatile rear seats; less space in optional third-row seats than other seven-seat rivals

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 Audi Q7, and quite a bit more expensive than the entry-level Land Rover Discovery and the Volvo XC90. If you spec that optional third row of seats, the cost gets even higher.

That said, the xDrive50e looks great value when compared with the Range Rover Sport PHEV, while the XC90 Recharge is slightly cheaper.

The diesel xDrive30d returns an official combined fuel economy of just under 39mpg, a figure that’s slightly better than the equivalent Discovery. The xDrive50e has a gobsmacking 313mpg figure, but that's only achievable if you keep the battery charged for a lot of electric running.

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 to run than other X5s, which are all in the top BIK tax bracket, and is much cheaper to run than many PHEV rivals.

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 a bespoke limited-slip differential (LSD) to increase traction in corners, a sports exhaust system, an upgraded sound system and even larger wheels.

BMW X5 interior driver display

Reliability

BMW finished in 12th place out of 32 manufacturers in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. That's three down from Volvo but a better result than Porsche, Audi and Land Rover.

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 for safety 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 Audi 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.

"Not only is it right up there for safety and security, the X5 should prove to be a reliable car, too. It's also wonderfully well equipped, with loads of standard kit." - George Hill, staff writer

Costs overview

Strengths Well-equipped; attractive PHEV option for company car drivers

Weaknesses Options can quickly drive up the price; PHEV only available in higher trim level

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FAQs

  • There’s no fully electric X5, but it is available as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), called the xDrive50e. That combines a 3.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to deliver swift performance, and can officially run on electric power alone for up to 65 miles. The xDrive50e is our favourite version of the X5.

  • We recommend the xDrive50e 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.

  • The latest X5 didn’t feature in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey but the previous-generation model finished eighth out of 11 models in the luxury SUV class (for cars aged up to five years old). BMW came in 12th out of 32 brands.

At a glance
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RRP price range £69,615 - £113,095
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)4
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol parallel phev, petrol, diesel
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
Available colours