$92,100 – $172,900
Good: Muscular styling; classy and spacious interior; superb drivertrains; class leading handling; great value against similar sized BMW sedans and wagons.
Not so Good: Uncomfortable second row middle seat; firm ride; expensive option pricing.
Design and Engineering
Good : Arriving Down Under in March 2007, the second generation X5 is significantly bigger than the original model and as a result this is the sole BMW model to offer buyers the option of third row seating. As with the original 2000 to 2007 year predecessor, which was a truly ground breaking vehicle in the premium SUV segment, the current X5 remains a luxury, road-focused sports SUV. Our entire test team gave the nod of approval to the styling; it’s one of our favourite looking big, premium 4×4’s.
The mid life facelift appeared in June 2010, bringing along new bumpers, larger air intakes, relocated fog lamps and new L-shaped tail lights.
Not so good : The styling is an evolution of the original, yet the X5 has grown significantly in size (especially length), resulting in the entry level grades on standard 18 inch wheels not looking very sporty. However, ticking the optional 20 inch alloys with massive 315mm rear tyres will certainly go a long way in upping the sport factor!
Interior and Styling
Good : A premium-feel, superbly high quality and welcoming interior with lots of cabin space thanks to the extra wide and tallish body. The dash is understated, classy and most importantly, thanks to the standard i-Drive (improved over previous versions), the ultra-wide central navigation screen, the highly legible instrumentation and the useful favourites buttons, all the technology is logically arranged.
The driver’s position is excellent, the three-spoke sports steering wheel is lovely to hold and the optional sports seats are supportive yet extremely comfortable. We’re also fans of the optional head up display, which projects a digital speedo readout onto the windscreen, reducing the need to take your eyes off the road.
The second row offers lots of head room, sufficient legroom as well as air-conditioning vents and retractable sun blinds. There’s lots of space in the rear cargo area, and the 2nd row seats fold almost flat to create massive amounts of carrying space. When not in use the optional third row seats won’t be noticed as they disappear into the floor.
Not so good : The middle seat in the second row bench isn’t very comfortable and the optional third row seating is for kiddies only. The amount of 3rd row legroom is minimal compared to a large People Mover. Most of the latest high tech features are unfortunately on the options list (well at least in the entry level grades). I.e. lane departure warning, active cruise control, lane departure warning and the very cool birds-eye view reversing camera.
Good : The X5 is offered with some of the best engines currently for sale, with not one of the five being less than very good. The mid-life facelift (mid 2010) brought significant drivetrain upgrades across the range with more power and less fuel use across almost all grades.
The entry level xDrive 30d’s 3.0L single turbo diesel engine produces 180kW of power and 540Nm of torque; the xDrive 40d is significantly more impressive, its twin turbo 3.0L diesel engine producing a big 225kW and an even bigger 600Nm. Whilst neither diesel is lacking in urge it’s the latter of the two engine’s that we most recommend. It is amazingly smooth and powerful, offers brisk acceleration (especially for such a big vehicle) yet the official combined fuel economy is only 7.5L per 100kms – that’s about par with a Toyota Corolla small car!
At idle the x40d is remarkably quiet for a Diesel powered SUV, sounds surprisingly sporty at higher revs and as with all current X5’s, is teamed with a beautifully smooth eight speed automatic transmission.
The three petrol offerings are the xDrive 35i (3.0L twin turbo inline six with 225kW and 400Nm), the xDrive 50i Sport (4.4L twin turbo V8 with 300kW and 600Nm) and the X5M (also with the 4.4L twin turbo V8 but producing a whopping 408kW and 680Nm).
Not so good : After spending a week with the xDrive 40d (the twin-turbo diesel grade), we can’t see many buyers choosing the similar priced xDrive 35i (the entry level petrol grade). Yes, in isolation the twin-turbo petrol engine is also very impressive, yet we feel it is much more so in less hefty BMW models. It makes a difficult case to opt for the xDrive 35i grade when it can’t compete with the two diesels for fuel economy and lacks the outright ‘oomph’ and barrel-chested noise of the xDrive 50i Sports’ twin turbo V8.
Ride and Handling
Good : The X5 offers impressively agile handling and considering its mass, it feels far wieldier than one would imagine before jumping behind the wheel for the first time. It really does handle to BMW’s typically high standard and even at high speeds the X5 can embarrass many a smaller vehicle along winding country roads. The body control is excellent, actually the dynamics are class leading with the Adaptive Drive system playing a significant part in ensuring the big BMW stays flat through corners.
Ride comfort has improved over the previous generation and not surprisingly the ride is most comfortable on the standard 18 inch wheels of the lower grades.
The speed tuned BMW Servotronic steering ensures lighter work for parking, yet is also nicely weighted and controlled at highway speeds and on twisty backroads.
Not so good : Whilst the X5’s sporty handling is far superior to the class average, it comes at the expense of a truly cosseting and uber comfortable ride. Over rough road surfaces or even worse, corrugated dirt roads it is most noticeable. Whilst this is a tradeoff we can live with (as the handling is so good), we’re not sure that everyone will think this way, with the competing but less sporty Lexus RX SUV offering a softer ride. So as the saying goes, horses for courses.
Buying and Owning
Good : Ticks the safety box thanks to a five star ANCAP safety crash rating – all grades comes standard with a host of safety features and the optional birds-eye view camera gets a wow from all passengers.
Our pick of the range is out of the two diesels. Value for money goes to the xDrive 30d, however if you can afford the xDrive 40d we say go for it, as it’s just as frugal yet significantly more powerful.
The X5 would make a great tow vehicle and with the optional third row seats, seven people can travel inside.
Not so good : As with all European luxury brands, the options list is long and extremely tempting, so the vehicles Recommend Retail Price is a mere entry point of what you’ll likely end up paying.