BMW X5 4x4 performance
The entry-level engine is a 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel (in the xDrive30d model), and even this offers gutsy performance. It’s noticeably more responsive than the equivalent engine in the Audi Q7 45 TDI and provides tonnes of punch low down in the rev range; the only time it’ll feel strained is if you’re towing a particularly heavy load.
If you don’t fancy a diesel, you can plump for a 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol model, badged xDrive40i. It pulls even harder at lower revs than the 30d does, meaning it’s more responsive from a standstill, and acceleration is even stronger as the revs rise.
And if that’s still not enough power for you, the range-topping M50d provides an extra 130bhp over the 30d (a total of 395bhp) for eye-widening performance. It’s immediately responsive and gains speed effortlessly so you’ll be hitting motorway speeds (and beyond) before you know it.
BMW X5 4x4 ride
The X5 comes with air suspension as standard, unless you choose the M50d, which gets adaptive steel suspension. The former is fantastic and maintains a super-smooth ride over even sharper potholes and ruts without ever making the car feel floaty or wallowy, like some other air suspension systems can. Coarser surfaces, such as concrete motorways or ridged asphalt, can generate a touch of vibration through the steering and chassis, but only in extreme cases.
There’s stiffer M Sport suspension on the M50d, with the option to spec M Sport Professional suspension as well, both of which give the X5 a sportier and more nimble feel on the road. However, they’re slightly harsher, picking up bumps more noticeably, especially in Sport mode, resulting in crashier progress over imperfect surfaces.
BMW X5 4x4 handling
The excellent air suspension deserves credit here, too; it does a great job of keeping the X5’s body upright and preventing it from leaning over too much, even when you push hard through a corner.
You also get plenty of grip from the wide tyres, and the combination of this and the tight body control means the X5 is an incredibly stable and reassuring car to drive along twisty roads. The steering is good, too – progressive and well weighted – which makes it easy, even enjoyable, to steer the X5 along your favourite control road. Okay, the Porsche Cayenne handles even more sweetly, but the X5 is one of the best of the rest.
Its off-road capabilities are also impressive, with a selection of driving modes and settings that adapt the ride height and suspension settings to cope with different surfaces. This lets you take on sand, gravel, snow and even rocks with a tap of the touchscreen.
BMW X5 4x4 refinement
The 30d has a surprisingly throaty engine note for a diesel, especially if you go for the M Sport with its sports exhaust. The downside, of course, is that it never really goes away, even at a cruise, and when you select Sport mode, artificial engine notes are played through the car’s speakers to deepen the soundtrack. Some will love it, some will hate it.
The petrol-engined 40i, meanwhile, is perfectly judged: blissfully smooth when you’re simply pottering along, yet delightfully rorty when you decide to press on a bit.
All of the engines come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard, and this is delightfully smooth. It changes up and down almost imperceptibly and reacts quickly when you call for extra power. Manual mode is even better; the gearbox is smooth and changes are almost unnoticeable when you use the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
But while wind noise is well controlled, those big, wide tyres generate a fair amount of roar, and this gets noticeably worse over rougher, more broken asphalt.