New & Used BMW X5 : In Depth
Side Exterior View - 2015 BMW X5 AWD 4-door xDrive35dEnlarge Photo
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BMW's X5 is one of the most successful vehicles in the luxury SUV market, taking on such rivals as the Range Rover Sport, Porsche Cayenne, and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class. Built in BMW's U.S. factory in Greer, South Carolina, the X5 is considered by the automaker to be a mid-size "sports activity vehicle."
The redesigned the X5 for the 2014 model year, bringing more refinement and comfort to the already capable package. Previous models' handling and power strengths carried over, as did the level of luxury, though, like other BMW's of late, some driver feedback has been dulled. There is only one notable change for 2016: the addition of a plug-in hybrid.
Engine options include six- and eight-cylinder gas engines, an excellent turbodiesel, and a new plug-in hybrid with a turbocharged four-cylinder. Most X5 models come standard with all-wheel drive, though BMW has recognized the need for less-expensive rear-wheel drive models in recent years.
MORE: Read our 2016 BMW X5 review
The current BMW X5
BMW didn't change the X5's smart silhouette much for this generation. Sculpting down the sides balances out the big front air intakes. The cabin features a horizontal design trimmed in black leatherette or neutral leathers.
The least-expensive X5 is powered by BMW's tried-and-true turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, making 300 horsepower in both the rear-drive sDrive35i and all-wheel-drive xDrive35i. A diesel is again available in the xDrive35d. There's still a V-8 option in the xDrive50i, which is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter engine making 445 hp. The new plug-in hybrid's engine and electric motor team to produce 308 hp, and the motor can power the vehicle alone for up to 13 miles. All models have electric power steering, which is very light and offers only hints of the feedback the older models supplied. A smooth eight-speed automatic improves efficiency, but also includes a more aggressive "Sport" mode for those who want it. There's also an available adaptive suspension setup, as well as air springs for the rear that are best for towing applications.
The X5 can seat up to seven. The front seats aren't BMW's best efforts, but the second-row seat can now be split 40/20/40 for more flexibility, and each section is adjustable individually for rake. The optional third-row seats have an "easy entry" function but little space. The cargo hold can be opened from the keyfob or the driver's seat; the lower piece drops like a truck tailgate, while the upper glass powers open like a minivan hatch.
The X5 is long on advanced safety technology, including a lane-departure warning system and a pedestrian collision-avoidance system with automatic braking. A Traffic Jam Assistant maintains following distance and keeps the vehicle at the center of its lane by providing steering input. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the X5 a five-star rating overall for safety and it received top "Good" ratings in the categories it has been rated in by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The agency also gave a "Superior" score to the X5 for front crash prevention, when optionally equipped.
Prices for the 2016 BMW X5 range from about $55,000 to more than $70,000 when trimmed out with Dakota leather, Bang & Olufsen audio, a rear-seat entertainment system, and more.
BMW also offers the high-performance X5 M. Powered by an upgraded version of the twin-turbo 4.4-liter massaged by M, the X5 M once again brings a torque-vectoring rear differential (which is otherwise unavailable elsewhere in the X5 lineup), making it a real track monster and plenty of fun in snowy weather. It receives a more aggressive exterior, of course. Also available is the X6 M for those who just don't like all of that utility in the back of the X5.
BMW X5 History
The BMW X5 has been around for a decade and a half now. When it was developed, BMW also owned Land Rover, and because of this, the first-generation X5 shared much of its design with that legendary brand’s off-roaders, as well as the BMW 5-Series sedan. The original X5 also sported a range of engines, including a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder and a number of 4.4-liter to 4.8-liter V-8 engines paired with five- or six-speed automatic transmissions.
For the second generation, BMW designed a new platform, with a new range of engines—including a diesel and a hybrid—and a new high-performance X5 M, while a new six-speed automatic transmission that was used in all models.
Model names for the BMW X5 lineup were changed to reflect more iterations of the 'ute. With the second generation, the new names adopted a different format: the X5 xDrive30i, for example, denoted the standard all-wheel drive (xDrive) and a 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine. In addition to that model, BMW offered a 3.0-liter turbodiesel as the X5 xDrive35d, a 4.8-liter V-8 engine in the X5 xDrive48i, and a 555-hp, twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 engine in the new X5 M. In 2011, the standard models received engine upgrades and name changes: the six-cylinder was fitted with a turbo and the xDrive35i name, while the V-8 model received a pair of turbos and the xDrive50i badge.
All X5s of this generation featured the same basic five-seat interior layout, with leather upholstery, BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, advanced stability and traction electronics, plus a wide range of optional upgrades. The X5 M offered extreme performance with a big price tag to match—base prices hit $85,500—delivering near-sports car performance with near-supercar power. The X5 xDrive35d was one of the few diesel luxury SUVs on the market, and it scored with 265 hp and a 26-mpg EPA highway rating.
For 2012, BMW didn’t make any major changes to the X5 range, aside from minor appearance tweaks. Changes in the 2013 BMW X5 included a temporary end to the diesel model, some cosmetic updates, and a new M Performance Package, available on X5 xDrive35i and xDrive50i (with M Sport Package) models. The new M Performance upgrade added to the X5's sporty edge through engine tuning, with 15 horsepower and 30 pound-feet of torque gained in the six-cylinder model, and another 40 hp and 30 lb-ft of torque for the V-8 X5.