What Car? says...
It's more cliched to say 'icon' is an overused word than it is to use the word itself, but in the case of the BMW X5 it somehow feels appropriate.
When the X5 burst on to the scene more than two decades ago, it kicked off the craze for sportier SUVs that felt more like cars to drive – sacrificing a bit of ruggedness and rock-climbing ability in favour of better handling, improved ride comfort and a smarter interior.
The model has also moved with the times, with ever more efficient engines, including a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model that produces seriously low CO2 emissions and has a very good electric-only range.
Is all this enough to put the BMW X5 at the top of anyone’s luxury SUV shortlist? That's the question we'll be answering over the next few pages of this review. We'll be comparing it with rivals and assessing crucial details such as performance, practicality and price.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Our pick of the range is the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) xDrive45e. It combines a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine with a big battery and powerful electric motor for incredibly swift performance – in our testing we managed 0-60mph in 5.1sec. It’ll do a 54 miles on electric power alone (WLTP figures), which is a staggering figure when PHEV versions of the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC90 manage only around half that. In a real-world test we managed 32.5 miles on a single charge using an X5 with huge optional 21in wheels that add weight and drag.
Suspension and ride comfort
The M50i 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 have yet to try the M50i on air suspension.
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 class.
The xDrive45e PHEV steers well but doesn’t have quite the agility of other versions because of the extra weight of its battery pack and electric motor.
With standard four-wheel drive, and driving modes that adapt the ride height and drive settings to the road condition, the X5 has good off-road capabilities. Ultimately, though, the Land Rover Defender and Land Rover Discovery are better suited to real wilderness.
By contrast, the petrol 40i is perfectly judged. It’s blissfully smooth and subdued when you’re pottering along, yet satisfyingly rorty when you press on. The M50i turns up the throatiness to 11 if you accelerate hard, but is happily subdued when cruising. The PHEV xDrive45e is whisper-quiet when running on electric power, and when the petrol engine chimes in, it does so smoothly and without fuss.
The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox is delightfully smooth too, and wind noise is well suppressed. It’s not all great news, though. There's a little bit of suspension noise around town and the big, wide tyres generate a fair amount of roar that gets noticeably more pronounced over rougher asphalt. The Volvo XC90 is worse for road noise at speed – the quietest SUV cruiser in this price range is the Audi Q7.
- The latest BMW X5 didn’t feature in our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey but the previous-generation X5 finished third out of eight models in the luxury SUV class (for cars aged up to five years old). BMW came in 13th out of 30 in the brand table – behind Lexus (which was first) but ahead of Tesla (15th), Audi (18th), Volvo (19th) Jaguar (21st) and Mercedes (joint 22nd).Read more here
- There’s no fully electric BMW 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.Read more here
- 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 BMW X5 a stronger resale value and make it easier to sell.Read more here
- In entry-level xLine trim, the BMW 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. Read more here
- Excellent. The X5 comes with BMW’s 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. Read more here
- If you go for a five-seat BMW X5 with a petrol or diesel engine, the boot has a 650-litre capacity. That’s not huge by the standards of luxury SUVs but is still enough space for nine carry-on suitcases. Seven-seat models make do with 575 litres (when the third row is folded away), while the xDrive45e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) gives you 500 litres. Read more here
|RRP price range||£64,040 - £82,660|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||5|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, hybrid, diesel|
|MPG range across all versions||235.4 - 42.2|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£978 / £5,938|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,956 / £11,876|