- Intuitive steering feel
- Ample power
- Responsive handling
- Plenty of useful space
- Conservative, even stale styling
- Tricky iDrive system
It doesn't pop with the styling or interior plushness of its competitors, but the 2012 BMW X5 has the powerful X5 M and frugal diesel up its sleeve.
A frontrunner in the luxury SUV segment, the 2012 BMW X5 continues to prove its value, moving forward for the new model year with minimal updates. Given its handsome styling, ample space for five passengers, and luxurious interior, that's a good thing.
Styled with BMW's brand aesthetics up front, but with a more masculine appeal than most of the range, the X5's chunky proportions meet with flowing lines to deliver a conservatively handsome look. Inside, the story is much the same, with a restrained style that will appeal to a wide range of buyers. A number of color and materials options allow customization for specific tastes.
While the X5 might largely fly under the styling radar, it shines in performance. Under the hood of the base model lies a twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder rated at 300 horsepower and 23 mpg highway. This base engine, dubbed xDrive35i in BMW terms, is available in three trim packages: base, Premium, and Sport Activity. More on those later.
A turbocharged diesel is available in the X5 xDrive35d model, good for 265 horsepower and 26 mpg highway, though it commands a slight premium in price over the standard gasoline model. The most potent standard X5 is the xDrive50i, powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 engine rated at 400 horsepower and 20 mpg highway but delivering thrilling acceleration, particularly for an SUV. A very highly tuned version of the same engine is available in the X5 M, rated at 555 horsepower and upgraded with a shockingly good suspension setup.
Speaking of thrills, the X5's handling is surprisingly sports sedan-like, despite its size and bulk. Even in base form, acceleration is brisk, but in all models, turns don't mean fear--they mean fun. In the X5 M, the most high-performance version of the X5, you have a track-ready SUV. It might not make sense, but it will once you drive one. Unfortunately, it costs roughly double the base X5.
Inside the X5, there's comfort to spare despite the sporty handling. Ride quality is very good on road and acceptable off-road. Likewise, materials quality is very good, with room for up to seven passengers, though the rearmost seats require small occupants. Storage and cargo space, while not excessive, are more than adequate.
The IIHS scores the 2012 BMW X5 its top mark of "good" in front and side impact crash tests. The NHTSA hasn't fully rated the 2012 X5 yet, but does give it a 4 out of 5 stars score in rollover resistance. Standard safety equipment including stability and traction control, a full complement of advanced airbags, all-wheel drive, and the X5's inherent stability in dynamic maneuvers all enhance safety as well.
As for entertainment and convenience features, the X5 has a long list of available equipment, including the iDrive-based navigation and infotainment system, 10-way power adjustable front seats, push-button start, automatic climate control, parking distance sensors, HD Radio, plus iPod and USB connectivity and more.