BMW X5 review

Category: Luxury SUV

Section: Performance & drive

Available fuel types:hybrid, petrol, diesel
Available colours:
BMW X5 2021 RHD rear tracking
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RRP £61,510What Car? Target Price from£57,213
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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 is called the xDrive30d. It's a 282bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel that offers strong acceleration with 0-62mph in 6.1sec, tonnes of low-down punch for towing and, like all X5s, a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, which, in this case, makes it more responsive at times than the equivalent Audi Q7 45 TDI. The 335bhp xDrive40d is faster but not essential.

For those who don’t fancy a diesel, the 328bhp xDrive40i models use a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. 0-62mph in 5.7sec means it's faster than than the 30d, plus it feels more responsive from a standstill and revs keenly, too. If you want still more power, the range-topping 523bhp M50i petrol will have you pegged to the seat with its eye-widening acceleration – 0-62mph comes in just 4.3sec. 

Our pick of the range is the plug-in hybrid xDrive45e. It combines a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine with a big battery and powerful electric motor to deliver incredibly swift performance – in our testing we managed 0-60mph in a rapid 5.1sec. Even on electric power alone it's punchy enough to keep up easily with rush hour traffic, and it’ll do an official 54 miles on a charge – as measured under the WLTP test cycle. That’s a staggering figure, considering rivals, such as the plug-in hybrid versions of the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC90, manage only around half that. On our real-world test route we managed 32.5 miles on a single charge, which, considering was using a car equipped with huge optional 21in that add weight and drag, wasn't bad at all.  

Suspension and ride comfort

Apart from the M50i, every X5 comes with air suspension as standard. This is very impressive, maintaining a super-smooth ride, even over sharp-edged potholes and ruts, without any unwanted floatiness over crest and dips. The xDrive45e has a slightly firmer edge over broken roads compared with other X5s, but so far we’ve only experienced this plug-in hybrid on massive 21in wheels, which could be the cause. Even so, it still cushions you well most of the time, and much better than the occasionally lumpy Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid.

The M50i, meanwhile, comes with an Adaptive M Suspension sports setup as standard, or offer buyers the choice of M Sport Professional suspension as an upgrade. Both of these setups give the X5 a sportier and more nimble feel on the road, but are noticeably harsher and don’t absorb bumps quite as soothingly. Progress over imperfect surfaces is made more abrupt if you engage Sport mode.

BMW X5 2021 RHD rear tracking

Handling

You get plenty of grip with all models and the X5's tight body control makes it an incredibly stable and reassuring SUV to drive along twisty roads. Factor in precise, well-weighted steering and it’s easy, even enjoyable, to steer what's a really sizeable chunk of metal along your favourite country road. Okay, 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 plug-in hybrid steers nicely but doesn’t have quite the agility of other versions because of the extra weight of its battery pack and electric motor. 

The X5’s off-road capabilities are also good, thanks to standard four-wheel drive and a selection of driving modes that adapt the ride height and drive settings to cope with different surfaces. You can take on sandy, gravel-strewn, snowy and even rocky terrain with a simple tap of the touchscreen, although ultimately, a Land Rover Defender or Discovery will take you farther into the wilderness.

Noise and vibration

The 30d 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 in some artificial noise played through the car’s speakers to deepen the soundtrack; some folks will love this but others may be less enamoured with it.

By contrast, the petrol 40i is perfectly judged. It’s blissfully smooth and subdued when you’re simply pottering along, yet delightfully rorty when you decide to press on. The M50i takes this approach, too, but turns up the throatiness to 11 when you're accelerating hard; it's happily subdued when cruising, though. The plug-in hybrid xDrive45e is whisper-quiet at low speeds when running on just electric power, and, when the petrol engine does come in, it does so smoothly and without fuss.

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 little bit of suspension noise around town and the big, wide tyres, fitted to all models, generate a fair amount of roar that gets noticeably more pronounced over rougher, more broken asphalt. The Volvo XC90 is worse for road noise at speed, mind, while the quietest SUV cruiser in this price range is the Audi Q7.

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