In-depth Reviews

BMW X5 SUV - Engines, drive & performance

All three engines offer plenty of performance, even the entry-level diesel

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Engines, drive & performance Rating

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No matter which engine you choose, the BMW X5 is a very potent SUV that lives up to the model's reputation for performance. Every engine sends power to all four wheels for extra traction, via one of the smoothest eight-speed automatic gearboxes on the market.

The four-wheel drive system is programmed to send more power to the rear wheels in most driving situations, for a sporty feel through corners. This helps the X5 to be impressively agile for a large SUV, with accurate steering and little body lean. It's not quite as freakishly talented as the Porsche Cayenne along a tricky road, but it's more involving than a Volvo XC90 or Mercedes GLE.

For the first time in a BMW, you'll also be able to add an optional Off-Road package, protecting the underside of the car from knocks and adding new drive modes. These adjust the electronics to help the X5 find grip, and while it will be plenty for the vast majority of drivers, a Range Rover Sport is still more adept in the rough stuff.

In contrast, the BMW X5 M reignites the X5's reputation as one of the world's best SUVs for driving enthusiasts. It's searingly fast and accomplished, giving even the Porsche Cayenne Turbo a run for its money.

BMW X5 diesel engines

There might be a downward trend in diesel sales, but BMW's excellent straight-six diesels are likely to carry on convincing owners to opt for the fuel for some years yet. Despite being the entry-level version, the xDrive30d is our pick of the bunch. The 3.0-litre diesel engine is fitted with mild-hybrid assistance, with a 48-volt starter-generator that gives an 11bhp power boost to help acceleration. It produces 282bhp, and gets from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds, before hitting a top speed of 143mph. It's plenty quick enough to overtake slower traffic with ease and feels flexible and relaxed on the motorway.

In the middle of the diesel engine line-up is the 335bhp xDrive 40d, which uses a tweaked version of the same 3.0-litre engine. It’s also the only other X5 to get mild-hybrid assistance, and is capable of 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 152mph.

The fastest and most powerful diesel is the M50d, with no less than four turbochargers to squeeze 395bhp out of the same 3.0-litre diesel. It's a complex feat of engineering, resulting in 5.2-second 0-62mph time and 155mph top speed.

Petrol engines

For those that want a petrol engine, the 3.0-litre straight-six fitted in the xDrive40i is an impressive option. It has 335bhp and, like the diesels, it's turbocharged to improve performance and efficiency. 0-62mph takes 5.5 seconds, and it can hit 151mph, putting it between the two diesels.

In the M50i model, a more powerful twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine takes things up several notches. Producing 523bhp, the engine makes the car capable of staggering performance, with a 0-62mph time of only 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 155mph.

While the M50i is quick for a large SUV, the flagship X5 M is on a different level entirely. It boasts a tweaked version of the same twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine producing 617bhp, resulting in 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds. It has an official top speed of 180mph. It sounds fantastic - even the speaker augmented engine note adds convincingly to the drama - and the acceleration is addictive.

On the move, it does a good job of disguising its 2.3-tonne weight, gripping hard and resisting body lean in corners. The steering is quick to react and BMW's xDrive four-wheel drive sends power to the wheels with the most grip. Drivers can also choose between Road, Sport or Track settings to adjust the SUV's responses and suspension stiffness.

Plug-in hybrid

The xDrive45e plug-in hybrid uses the same 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine as the xDrive40i model, but adds an electric motor and battery pack to produce 389bhp. Due to the added weight, 0-62mph increases to 5.6 seconds.

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