Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Entry-level models are badged xDrive30d and are powered by a 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel. Even this offers gutsy performance and is noticeably more responsive than the equivalent Audi Q7 45 TDI. It provides tonnes of punch low down in the rev range and is only likely to feel strained 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 that wears xDrive40i badges. It pulls even harder at lower revs than the 30d does and feels more responsive from a standstill, with acceleration that grows even stronger as the revs rise.
If even that isn’t powerful enough for you, the range-topping M50d provides an extra 130bhp over the 30d (a total of 395bhp) for eye-widening performance; it responds instantaneously and gains speed so effortlessly that you’ll be hitting motorway speeds before you know it.
Suspension and ride comfort
All X5s apart from the M50d come with air suspension as standard. The system is very impressive, maintaining a super-smooth ride over even sharper potholes and ruts without any of the floaty, wallowy sensation that such systems can induce.
In place of air suspension, the M50d has an adaptive steel spring set-up and offers buyers the choice of M Sport Professional suspension as an upgrade. Both of these 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 still crashier if you engage Sport mode.
As well as for its comfort, the air suspension deserves credit here, too, for doing such a great job of keeping the X5’s body upright. It keeps body movements in check and prevents it from leaning over too markedly, even when you push hard through a corner.
You get plenty of grip from the wide tyres, too, and with such tight body control, the X5 is an incredibly stable and reassuring SUV to drive along twisty roads. Factor in progressive, well-weighted steering and it’s easy, even enjoyable, to steer the X5 along your favourite country road. Okay, the Porsche Cayenne handles even more sweetly, but the X5 is among the best of the rest.
Its off-road capabilities are also impressive, thanks to a selection of driving modes and settings that adapt the ride height and suspension 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.
Noise and vibration
The 30d has a surprisingly throaty engine note for a diesel, especially with the M Sport’s sports exhaust. Those who dislike the noise, though, will be dismayed that it never really fades away, even at a cruise. What’s more, when you select Sport mode, artificial engine notes are played through the car’s speakers to deepen the soundtrack. The M50d follows a similar formula with even fruiter sounds. Some will love it, some will hate it.
By contrast, the petrol-engined 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 a bit.
Every engine comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard, and it’s delightfully smooth. It changes up and down through the gears almost imperceptibly and reacts quickly when you call for extra power. There are also steering wheel-mounted paddles through which you can make manual gearchanges, which are no less smooth than when left to its own devices in automatic mode.
But while wind noise is well controlled, those big, wide tyres generate a fair amount of roar, and this gets noticeably more pronounced over rougher, more broken asphalt. While the ride is generally smooth, coarser surfaces, such as concrete motorways and rippled tarmac, can generate a touch of vibration through the steering and chassis, but only in extreme cases.