BMW X5 SUV review
"The BMW X5 has had a growth spurt that makes it a better all-rounder, but it still offers a satisfying drive"
- More luxurious than ever
- Impressive performance
- Spacious interior
- Fairly high CO2 emissions
- Limited choice of engines
- Not the biggest boot
The fourth-generation BMW X5 continues to be an SUV that's not only practical but manages to fulfill that BMW promise of being a driver’s car too. The latest iteration of BMW’s long-running SUV focuses more on comfort, luxury and technology, and for owners who want a more rugged X5, BMW offers an optional off-road pack.
Alongside the regular petrol and diesel X5 range, the plug-in hybrid xDrive45e is capable of over 50 miles using only electric power, with its low CO2 emissions figure making it a more affordable choice for company-car drivers. At the other end of the spectrum, performance drivers are well catered for by the 617bhp BMW X5 M Competition which can sprint from 0-62mph in under four seconds.
For the latest model, every exterior design detail has been updated, yet the X5 is still instantly recognisable as just that, albeit with taller kidney grilles, sharper creases and new LED lights. It's longer, taller and wider than before too, helping to disguise the fact that in M Performance guise it can be fitted with gargantuan 22-inch alloy wheels.
The interior represents a step-up in quality and technology, with clever digital instruments replacing traditional gauges. The latest version of BMW's iDrive infotainment system is as good to use as ever, and the central screen is exceptionally crisp. Meanwhile, leather upholstery comes as standard and there are novel features like a glass roof that can illuminate at night to shine like starlight.
Like the Mercedes GLE, the X5 gets the option of a third row of seats for a 7-seat capacity, and the split-tailgate also makes it easy to load heavy luggage - or sit and admire the view at beauty spots. In the standard X5 you'll be able to take four adults with you, with plentiful headroom and lots of space in the back. For drivers who don't want a third row of seats, the BMW X5's sibling model, the BMW X6, features a more swooping coupe SUV style design with a similar range of engine and trim level options.
From late 2020, BMW introduced mild-hybrid assistance for the 30d and 40d diesel engines. This system uses a 48-volt starter-generator and a battery pack that stores energy recovered from braking, which is then used to assist the engine as you accelerate. The starter-generator also provides a brief 11bhp power boost, helping acceleration and overtaking.
Our pick of the engine range is the entry-level xDrive 30d. With its turbocharged straight-six engine producing 282bhp, it's hardly sluggish, and is capable of returning relatively decent fuel economy of up to 41mpg. Despite the addition of the mild-hybrid assistance, its emissions starts at around 179g/km, a relatively high figure that places it in the top Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) bracket for company car drivers.
The entry-level xDrive40i petrol costs more to buy than the diesel equivalent and is also powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine. With 335bhp, it can hit 62mph from rest in 5.7 seconds but it has high emissions of over 200g/km of CO2 on all trim levels and can only manage around 30mpg.
As an alternative to the regular petrol and diesel engines, the xDrive45e plug-in hybrid costs more to buy but could be a tempting option for drivers who want improved economy and pure-electric running. It uses the same straight-six engine as the outgoing xDrive40i coupled to an electric motor to produce 389bhp, hitting 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds. BMW claims the car can cover 54 miles using electric power only and, with an official CO2 emissions figure of around 30g/km, it’s the cleanest X5 model, sitting in the lowest Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) banding.
Above the regular X5 range, the M50i and M50d are standalone models. Both cost considerably more to buy, starting at close to £80,000, and offer significant additional performance. The X5 M50d has no less than four turbos to achieve its 395bhp power figure and 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds. Opt for the X5 M50i petrol and you get the same 523bhp 4.4-litre V8 engine shared with the BMW M850i and M550i models, and a 0-62mph time of 4.3 seconds.
As the flagship of the range, the BMW X5 M Competition is even more expensive, costing over £113,000. It's also much faster, with a 617bhp 4.4-litre V8 getting it from 0-62mph in a faintly ridiculous 3.8 seconds.
Four-wheel drive and BMW's excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox are fitted as standard, with the former carefully calibrated to make the big X5 handle like a much lighter car. It's certainly precise, and when fitted with air suspension the ride is pleasant too. Adaptive M Suspension is noticeably less settled.
Just three trims are offered, with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED lights, heated seats, air suspension and wireless phone charging fitted to the xLine version. M Sport costs around £3,500 more and gives the X5 a makeover inside and out for a racier feel, including fitting 20-inch alloy wheels. Meanwhile, the X5 M features so many changes it can almost be considered a separate model.
Prospective customers may be concerned about the brand's 27th-place finish out of 30 in our 2020 Driver Power owner survey, but safety is less likely to cause trepidation as the X5 is loaded with kit to protect occupants and pedestrians. This practical SUV scored highly in the Euro NCAP testing, receiving five stars. Not only is the X5 safe, but by including features such as autonomous emergency braking, evasion aid and the Driving Assistant Professional pack, BMW makes the chance of an accident less likely in the first place.