2011 BMW X5 Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
February 15, 2011

The 2011 BMW X5 offers impressive handling and features, but lacks the styling and interior that makes competitors pop, while the X5 M offers nearly sports car levels of performance with all the utility of a standard X5.

As one of the leading luxury SUVs, the 2011 BMW X5 has proven itself since its introduction, and BMW is content to continue with minor revisions and updates for the new model year. Competing against the Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Porsche Cayenne, and Land Rover Range Rover, the X5 comes in six trim packages with four available engines, priced from about $46,000 to over $85,000.

Aesthetics of BMW cars and SUVs have become something of a point of controversy over recent years, though the X5 hasn't been at the center of any of it: it is, ultimately, a bit plain. It's not ugly in any way, though, and its interior is handsome, if conservative like the exterior.

You won't care as much that the X5 looks a bit unremarkable once you drive it like it's meant to be driven--like a sports sedan. Quick to accelerate even with the base engine, and downright racy in X5 M trim, all variants offer more handling and capability than most drivers would believe, let alone use on public roads.

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Comfort is never an issue in the X5, nor is quality, though neither exist in radiant abundance. There's room for five with comfort, seven if rear seat passengers are small, and fit, finish, and materials are all what you'd expect from BMW and the luxury SUV class.

IIHS ratings of "good" in every category and a strong complement of standard safety equipment make the 2011 X5 a secure, safe SUV. Active safety features like the advanced stability and traction control systems, plus the innate ability of the chassis and setup, make it easier to avoid accidents before they happen.

There is no shortage of standard features in any trim of the X5, and if you find a shortage, you can remedy it with the long options list. The iDrive controller, a notoriously complex system, has been refined over the past few years to better approximate an intuitive interface, and now offers fewer objections, and more functionality, than before.

From a high of 19/26 mpg to a low of 14/20 mpg (and 12/17 mpg for the X5M) the BMW X5 range is relatively economical--even green, for a large SUV, in xDrive35i trim.

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