None of the engines struggles to pull the X5’s weight
Even the smallest, least powerful four-cylinder engine doesn’t feel underpowered in the X5. It pulls strongly from low revs and keeps pulling until you get close to the redline. Of course, the six-cylinder diesels are even stronger, but when the former is so good there’s little need to upgrade.
Company car buyers might also want to consider the xDrive 40e, a plug-in hybrid model that teams a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor, the latter of which provides 20 miles of pure electric travel. This powertrain is seamless when in electric mode, and generally predictable and easy to get on with the rest of the time. However, a Volvo XC90 T8 is much faster, and will stay in electric mode more of the time.
The standard V8 petrol is hugely powerful and massively quick when you plant the accelerator, but it doesn’t make much sense. If you’re after one of the fastest large SUVs on sale, then the X5M’s V8 engine is boosted to even loftier performance figures, and is extremely rapid. Again, though, the M50d diesel is only just behind it in a sprint and makes more financial sense.
BMW X5 ride comfort
Impressive in and out of town
You can either leave the options list alone and stick with the X5’s standard suspension, spend extra on adaptive comfort suspension, or spend even more on adaptive dynamic suspension. Alternatively, if you go for M Sport trim, you'll get an adaptive M Sport set-up as standard.
As expenisive as it is, we'd recommend the adaptive comfort suspension; it's noticeable more forgiving than the standard and Dynamic alternatives, yet still keeps the car tightly controlled in corners.
If comfort is your top priority, though, it's worth noting that a Range Rover Sport is even better at blending a controlled high-speed ride with competence over the sort of horrid surfaces you’re likely to find in town.
BMW X5 handling
One of the sharpest large SUVs to drive
Whichever suspension you choose, the BMW X5 is one of the best-handling large SUVs on sale, providing a huge amount of grip in tight bends, and remaining flat and composed. It's only over undulating roads that the dynamic set-ups offers advantages over standard and comfort, allowing slightly less body float.
There’s only one X5 without four-wheel drive – the entry-level sDrive25d – but its lesser traction is only really noticeable in particularly wet conditions. Instead, it's the steering that's a little disappointing because its slow to self centre and short on feedback.
As a result, the Porsche Cayenne is better to drive. However, the X5 feels more agile than a Range Rover Sport or Volvo XC90.
BMW X5 refinement
Diesel engines let it down
By far the most refined engine the X5 has to offer is the V8 petrol. It’s extremely smooth, and sends no vibration back through the controls, even when pushed to its limit.
The hybrid X5 is also very quiet – nearly silent in electric mode – although you do hear a bit of wind noise on the motorway, and quite a lot of tyre noise at any speed.
Unfortunately, the diesels aren’t as good. The four-cylinder isn’t noisy at idle, but even moderate acceleration causes a gruff engine note to enter the car, while really stretching it sends lots of buzz through the controls. The six-cylinder diesels aren’t quite as bad under light acceleration, but still feel and sound strained once you start to push them. This is especially bad in M50d.
Twin-turbo V8 petrol is super-refined and hugely quick. Not the pick of the range, though, because its poor fuel economy and CO2 emission make it an extravagant purchase.
Massively costly to run, but massively fast, too. The one to go for if performance is a priority, but you’ll need very deep pockets to buy it and keep it on the road.
Our pick 25d
The best choice, whether you’re buying privately or through work. Its performance is good, yet its fuel economy and CO2 emissions are the best of the range, so running costs are kept as low as possible.
Better performance and refinement than the four-cylinder 25d, but more expensive to buy and run with it. Unless you want the extra punch, stick with the 25d.
Better performance again than the 30d and better refinement than the four-cylinder 25d, but more expensive again to buy and run. Unless you want the extra punch, stick with the 25d.
This triple-turbo performance X5 is savagely fast for a diesel, but suffers poor refinement. Cheaper to run than the petrol X5M as a performance option, but there’s more sense further down the diesel range.
This petrol-electric plug-in hybrid will do 20 miles on electricity alone (following a three-hour charge), before the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine kicks in to take you the rest of the way. It’s refined and relaxing to drive, and fairly low on company car tax compared to the diesel X5s - although the Volvo XC90 T8 is usefully cheaper still on this score, and is much faster and more practical.