- Warm cabin trims
- Handy Traffic Jam Assistant
- Emphasis on handling, driving dynamics
- Comfortable and spacious
- Winning turbodiesel drivetrain
- Overwrought front-end look
- A very small third row
- Can get very pricey with options
The benchmark of mid-size luxury SUVs, the 2016 BMW X5 offers handsome looks, a choice of powertrains, an abundance of tech features, sporty on-road dynamics, and even some off-road capability.
The 2016 BMW X5 continues to be a benchmark for any automaker contemplating a new luxury mid-size SUV. The X5's off-road-ability is outweighed by its superb on-road manners, but that's on purpose—it's a luxury family wagon tailored for comfort, meant for gated-community garages everywhere. The X5 is engineered in Germany and built in South Carolina.
The X5 is more gracefully sculpted than its ancestors. There's plenty of X3 down the sides, where the tapered roofline and lower beltline nudge it gently toward a more sport-wagon-like form. In the cockpit, the monolithic bulge of BMW's latest dash designs shows up in swell form, made distinctive this time with a choice of neutral and brown leathers over the standard black leatherette. It's not so broad a palette until you reach into the more extreme colors on the option list. There's even a reddish-brown.
The X5 can seat up to seven, and for most of those passengers, it provides a warm ambiance. Seat comfort isn't perfect, though, with some flatness in the front buckets. The second-row seats in the X5 can be split 40/20/40, for more flexibility, and they're adjustable for rake. If you get the optional third-row seats, there's an Easy Entry function, but the seats are very small, making them occasional seats at best, cargo space more often, a line-item veto most of the time. 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 tailgate.
The BMW X5 occupies that performance space typical of German SUVs such as the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class and Volkswagen Touareg—or even the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Diesel power is available, as are V-8 thrust and a new plug-in hybrid. The available all-wheel-drive system provides moderate amounts of off-road capability, and BMW offers extravagant suspension systems meant to muddle the crossover roots enough to make it more than palatable on-road. The familiar 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter, twin-turbo, in-line six-cylinder is the base engine, good for 0-60 mph times of about 6.1 seconds. If 0-60 mph times rule, the V-8-powered xDrive50i's 4.7 seconds bests the diesel's 6.7 seconds, but in our estimation, the diesel's fuel economy and in-town torque feel more than make up for two seconds of slack. Even the plug-in hybrid is quick—and feels reasonably quick in its all-electric mode. BMW says it can reach 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, with both power sources together; and if you drive gingerly enough it'll reach the EPA-rated pure-electric range of 14 miles.
All X5s have electric power steering with adjustable effort and an Eco Pro mode that also affects throttle progression, the eight-speed automatic's shifts, and even the adaptive damper settings when they're onboard. The X5 feels most BMW-like only when Sport and Sport+ modes are engaged: there's a heft to the steering, a resolute resistance to body roll that only gets more defiant if it's outfitted with M Adaptive controls and a set of rear air springs. It's all but ready to transform into an X5 M, once all the electronics are plugged in. The electronics rob from the experience behind the wheel. There is a lack of steering feedback and the counterdamping applied by the available active-roll stabilization system is artificial.
The BMW X5 carries a base price of nearly $55,000, in line with other European-badged luxury SUVs. At that price, it's still without a few features we think should be standard, such as a rearview camera, any color other than white or gray, and leather upholstery. Navigation is standard equipment on most versions; it comes with the iDrive controller with its touch-write surface and BMW Apps, a connectivity suite that runs via an app. If you want all-wheel drive, you'll need to step up into the X5 xDrive35i, which is priced from just over $57,000. In the $70,000 and up range, the X5 V-8 can be trimmed out with Dakota leather, Bang & Olufsen audio, a rear-seat entertainment system, and more. Our pick? Probably the winning turbodiesel five-seat model, lightly equipped with surround-view cameras and navigation, for the best long-term value of the lineup.
The 2016 BMW X5 carries over its stellar crash ratings from previous years. The 2016 model earned five stars from the federal government in overall safety. Active-safety features are heavily represented on the long options list. Notable features include the Active Driving Assistant (Lane Departure Warning, and a pedestrian collision system with braking), plus ACC Stop & Go (full-range camera-radar cruise control), and a Traffic Jam Assistant that maintains following distance and keeps the vehicle at the center of its lane by providing steering input. BMW Night Vision and a head-up display remain on offer, as well as a Parking Assistant, Surround View system, and Active Blind Spot Detection.
Given the wide range of powertrains—inline-6 to V-8, to plug-in hybrid—the X5's fuel economy is predictably all over the map. The most efficient car is also the most expensive: the X5 xDrive40e manages 24 mpg combined and is rated at 56 MPGe (the average distance traveled on the equivalent of one gallon of gasoline). At the other end of the spectrum, the X5 xDrive50i is rated by the EPA at 15 mpg city, 21 highway, 17 combined.