- Communicative steering
- Abundant power
- Car-like handling
- Lots of cargo space
- Styling is losing its freshness
- Price can quickly climb past $70,000 on V-8 models
- iDrive is better, but can still be tricky
While it's not as fresh-faced as some of the competition, the 2013 BMW X5 continues to shine in utility, comfort, driving, and, in the X5 M, shockingly high performance.
The 2013 BMW X5 has been a front-runner among luxury SUVs since its introduction. It's sporty, refined, and capable, and though it hasn't changed much in the 2013 model year, the few changes keep the X5 competitive until a new model bows in 2014.
Stylistically, the X5 is, unlike its X6 coupe-utility brother, largely unobjectionable. It's chunky, but well-proportioned, casting a masculine shadow without going into brawny territory. Inside, the look is typically conservative, but modern, and well-executed in color, materials, and customization options.
Under the hood, you'll find one of two engines: the 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine of the xDrive35i or the 400-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 of the xDrive50i. The same V-8 engine, in highly tweaked M Division form, powers the 555-horsepower X5 M.
The most significant update for the 2013 X5 is the M Performance Package, available on X5 xDrive35i and xDrive50i (with M Sport Package) models. Adding 15 horsepower and 30 pound-feet of torque to the six-cylinder model, and 40 hp and 30 lb-ft of torque to the V-8 X5, the new M Performance upgrade adds to the X5's sporty edge.
As for gas mileage, the X5 xDrive35i is good for 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined. The xDrive50i rates 14/20 mpg for 16 mpg combined, and the X5 M scores the worst of the group at 12/17 mpg and 14 mpg combined. The X5 M's thrills-per-gallon rating, however, is quite high.
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 scored the 2012 BMW X5 its top mark of "good" in front and side impact crash tests. The NHTSA hasn't fully rated the current 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.
2013 BMW X5
Compelling isn't a word used to describe the 2013 BMW X5's exterior styling, but its conservative style will suit many.
The tall, chunky proportions mean business, but they're softened by smooth lines, delicate details around the front end, and BMW's sedan-bred front end identity. While it's somewhat middle-of-the-road, it's also not something everyone will like. The X5 M breaks the X5 mold--a bit--by adding some seriously bonkers bodywork that only the truly track-mad or tuner-friendly will really enjoy.
Inside, the X5 is classical yet modern, with tasteful color schemes, quality materials, and careful design focused on clean looks and functional interfaces.
Though there are four main trim lines to the 2013 X5, they differ very little in appearance, with a wide range of exterior and interior customization available. The X5 M is the only real deviation from the lineup, with aggressive body work, larger, lower-profile wheels and wider tires, unique interior elements, and a decidedly racy look.
2013 BMW X5
The 2013 BMW X5 offers impressive performance for an SUV, but it's the X5 M that really shines, especially on track.
The xDrive35i's 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine is rated at 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. It feels like it offers every bit of that to the driver, with good low-end torque and strong acceleration at almost any speed. The eight-speed automatic transmission, common to all X5s, feels sporty enough to keep up with the X5 when the driver wants to hustle, and is very laid-back and smooth-shifting when the pace is more relaxed.
With the xDrive50i, the X5 steps into the realm of the real performance SUV, bringing 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque from its 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine. The result is something like a very tall performance wagon, with shockingly good cargo room.
The optional AdaptiveDrive dynamic damping system improves the sporty side of the X5. Electronic stability and traction controls provide a safety net that allows a fair amount of fun before slowing things down and straightening them out.
The X5 M also gets a turbocharged V-8 engine, but scores a huge 555 horsepower and 486 pound-feet of torque, delivering sports car-like acceleration. The suspension, wheels, and tires are also upgraded, enabling incredible feats, though to truly tap the X5 M's capability, you have to get to a track. Even the brakes on the 5,250-pound beast are impressive. M Dynamic Mode stability control allows even greater slip angles while still providing computer-aided chassis control.
Off-road, the X5 is perhaps less impressive than some of the alternatives, and the often low-profile tires fitted may compromise grip and rugged-terrain capability, but it's not just a soft-roader. The X5 can handle mud, snow, gravel, inclines, and even water crossings when driven properly.
2013 BMW X5
Comfort & Quality
Third-row space is laughable, but the remainder of the 2013 BMW X5's interior is comfortable, spacious, and well-executed.
While not as plush as some of its competition, the X5's interior matches its ride: sporty and firm. The seats are comfortable, aside from the cramped third row, and headroom is very good in the first two rows. The optional dynamic suspension doesn't allow the ride quality to move too far away from comfort in the pursuit of sport.
Materials and quality are perfectly on par with other BMW vehicles, and while that won't entail Range Rover-like woods and leathers, it doesn't entail the Range Rover's price tag, either. One complaint noted by our editors is a flimsy plastic panel covering the opening of the hinged tailgate--it's a minor oversight, but an oversight nonetheless.
Inside the cabin, wind and road noise are kept to a pleasant minimum, and there's no SUV-typical booming to be heard when crossing pavement seams or other small obstacles at speed. Close tolerances in the interior panels and solid construction prevent any squeaks or rattles.
The rear cargo area is large, with door-mounted bins, a deep center console, and seat-back pockets supplementing the large-item area inside the liftgate.
2013 BMW X5
Though it hasn't yet been crash-tested, previous versions of the BMW X5 have scored well, and there's ample standard safety equipment in the 2013 model.
The 2013 X5's standard safety equipment list is fairly extensive. All X5s come with: dual front and side airbags; adaptive brake lights; front and rear head-protecting airbags; active head rests; rollover protection system; trailer stabilization; and hill descent control.
The X5's large side mirrors, ample glass size, and automatic rearview camera also aid rearward visibility.
2013 BMW X5
BMW's available equipment list for the 2013 X5 should satisfy most buyers, from tech to audio to look and feel.
The 2013 BMW X5 is, like other BMWs, highly customizable, but also well-equipped even in standard form. The once difficult-to-use iDrive controller retains its central function in the car's infotainment system, but is now much more intuitive and straightforward to use.
The one caveat with all of the available configurations and high-tech equipment is that the price can balloon quickly. That said, if you're willing to pay for it, there aren't many options you won't find on the 2013 X5.
The iDrive controller gives access to navigation (on equipped models), smartphone-linked apps, the HD Radio-capable audio system, and much more.
The 2013 X5's standard equipment list includes a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory; reconfigurable/folding seats for cargo and passenger arrangements; dynamic cruise control; and speed-sensitive power steering.
Upgrades available on the 2013 X5 include nappa leather; several choices of wood and metal trim; a wide range of upholstery colors; and high-tech add-ons like heads-up display, active steering, and more.
For rear-seat passengers, the optional six-disc CD changer, rear-seat entertainment system with eight-inch screens, heated rear seats, and panoramic moonroof will add to the experience.
2013 BMW X5
The 2013 BMW X5 might not seem it, but it's one of the most efficient vehicles in its class.
The X5 xDrive35i, for example, rates 16 mpg in town and 23 mpg on the highway for 19 mpg combined. That's not fantastic, but it beats many full-size trucks while seating five in luxury.
The xDrive35d diesel model, while still on sale, is not offered as a 2013 model as yet--it continues as a 2012 model due to a late update cycle last year. Regardless of the diesel's model year, it is the fuel mileage hero of the range, EPA-rated at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway for 22 mpg combined.
The V-8-powered xDrive50i model doesn't score highly in gas mileage, rating 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway for 16 mpg combined, though that's still better than much of the V-8 SUV alternatives. The X5 M the thirstiest of the bunch, rated at 12 mpg in town and 17 mpg on the highway for 14 mpg combined--not that gas mileage is a primary concern when buying a 555-horsepower, track-capable SUV.