New & Used BMW X5 : In Depth
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The BMW X5 is one of the most successful recent additions to the luxury SUV market. Its various models make it a rival for the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport, as well as a focused competitor of the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class. The X5 is built at BMW's U.S. factory in Greer, South Carolina.
The X5 is a mid-size sport-utility vehicle, although BMW prefers to use its own "sports activity vehicle" description. Six- and eight-cylinder gas engines are available, as is an excellent turbodiesel, while a plug-in hybrid model is on the way. All-wheel drive is standard on many models, but in recent years, BMW has made rear-drive X5 utes a part of the model lineup at the entry level for those who don't need the all-weather capability. The X5 is mechanically similar to the slightly sportier X6, which BMW terms a "sports activity coupe" because of its fastback roofline. No abbreviations there, please.
MORE: Read our 2015 BMW X5 review
On the market for a decade and a half now, the BMW X5 was initially created to meet America’s growing desire for luxury SUVs. At the time, BMW also owned Land Rover, and because of this the first-generation X5 shares 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-horsepower, twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 engine in the new X5 M. In 2011, the standard models got engine upgrades and name changes: the six-cylinder got a turbo and the xDrive35i name, while the V-8 model got 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 scored with 265 horsepower 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.
The new BMW X5
BMW redesigned the X5 for the 2014 model year, bringing more refinement and comfort to the already capable package. Previous models' handling and power strengths carry over, as does the level of luxury, although some driver feedback has been dulled, which has been the case of BMWs of late. The redesigned model carries over into 2015 mostly unchanged.
BMW didn't change the X5's smart silhouette much for this generation. Sculpting down the sides balances out the big air intakes that sprouted up front. The cabin has been edited down to a gently swelling surface trimmed in black leatherette or neutral leathers.
The least-expensive X5 is powered by BMW's tried and true 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six, making 300 hp in both the rear-drive sDrive35i and all-wheel-drive xDrive35i. A diesel is again available in the xDrive35d. And there's still a V-8 option in the xDrive50i, which is powered by a 4.4-liter engine making 445 hp. All models now 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. 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 new X5 is long on advanced safety technology, including a lane-departure warning system and a pedestrian collision-avoidance system with automatic braking. A new Traffic Jam Assistant maintains following distance and keeps the vehicle at the center of its lane by providing steering input. While it hasn't been tested by the NHTSA, the X5 received top 'Good' ratings in the categories it has been rated in by the IIHS, and it also has a 'Superior' score for front crash prevention.
Prices for the 2015 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 has announced that the X5 M will rejoin the lineup for 2015. Powered by an upgraded version of the twin-turbo 4.4-liter massaged by M, it should be even quicker than its predecessor. 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 likely plenty of fun in snowy weather. It receives a more aggressive exterior, of course, and will be joined again by an X6 M for those who just don't like all of that utility in the back of the X5.
Looking to the future, BMW has shown a plug-in hybrid version of the X5, called the xDrive40e. It pairs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor and battery fort estimated fuel economy of 55 MPGe. The 40e will arrive in the fall of 2015 as a 2016 model.