- Warm cabin trims
- New Traffic Jam Assistant
- Emphasis on handling, driving dynamics
- Lighter, faster, more fuel-efficient
- Winning turbodiesel drivetrain
- Overwrought front-end look
- Still a very small third row
- Can get very pricey with options
The 2015 BMW X5 is a handsome, capable, tech-filled vehicle for the shopper who wants a luxury SUV.
The 2015 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 communities everywhere.
With no dramatic styling changes this generation, the X5 impresses drivers more with a handsomely reworked cabin. Outside, the sculpting on its body is more graceful, with a clear link to the smaller X3 in its tapering roof and low beltline. It's a sport wagon in spirit, if not in footprint. Inside, the sweep of BMW's latest designs transforms the cabin into a better workspace, with base synthetic leather giving way to rich combinations of mocha and ash and aluminum.
In the same niche as the Benz GLE and VW Touareg, the X5 touches all the right powertrain bases. The base twin-turbo 6-cylinder drops 300 hp and 6.2-second 0-60 mph times. A diesel edition with gutsy low-end torque adds a second but also adds many miles per gallon to the EPA ratings. A rorty twin-turbo V-8 drops acceleration times to below 5 seconds with a muted roar. All models sport an 8-speed automatic and most have variable-torque-split all-wheel drive, some with a torque-vectoring rear axle for crisper handling.
Electric power steering, adaptive dampers, and intelligent throttle and transmission programming gives the X5 a huge range in personality. In Eco Pro mode, the upshifts come more quickly and the steering uses less assist. The dampers go to creamy in Comfort mode, while Sport and Sport+ tweak everything for quick, hefty responses. Steering feedback is a notable low point, and an active anti-roll system leaves the driver with conflicting signals as to how much grip is available.
With seating for up to 7 people, the X5 is best hauling four adults. The front seats can feel flat, especially with ventilation, but sport seats and multi-contour seat can be fitted. There's ample head and leg room in the second row; some models can slide the second-row seat on a 3.1-inch track, and the seats split and fold along 40/20/40 sections. Despite an easy-entry function, the third-row optional seat is Oompa-Loompa sized, more useful as a fold-away cargo space behind the X5's two-piece flip-up/fold-down tailgate.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the X5 but it offers standard Bluetooth, while a rearview camera is an option, as are surround-view cameras. Forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking are bundled with blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control.
All X5s have power features, but lack standard leather or a standard rearview camera, even with a base price of almost $54,000. Most versions have navigation and smartphone connectivity. Options include all-wheel drive, premium leather,a rear-seat entertainment system, and Bang & Olufsen audio.
2015 BMW X5
It's still an X5, but BMW's made its bigger SUV look cleaner outside and richer inside.
The current generation of X5 looks and feels softer and more luxurious, both inside and out.
The X5 has become more graceful looking, but it's not too different from past versions. Like the smaller X3, it wears a tapered roof and a low beltline to mimic the look of a sport wagon, not a sport-utility vehicle. The side sculpting wouldn't look out of place on a Mustang or a 3-Series, and it has the effect of making the tall, thick X5 look lighter on the road. The carved-out sections help guide air around the body, too. The defining line wraps from the front end to the LED taillights, injecting some wedgy goodness into the form. We do wish BMW would drop some of the complexity at the front end. With all the cuts and lines, the X5 looks like it's smirking.
In the cabin, the X5 wears simple black synthetic leather and wood trim on a horizontally bowed dash. That's on base models. The X5 glams up with optional trim bundles, some with white leather and oak, another with darker wood and a blend of black and brown leather. Top V-8 versions have premium Dakota leather and soft metallic trim.
That's before BMW applies style kits to the X5. An M Sport edition wears grey trim and aero add-ons and bigger wheels; Luxury models have bright metallic trim, while xLine versions have blackout trim and metallic window trim.
2015 BMW X5
We'd choose the flexible, high-economy diesel X5; all versions handle well, with a moderate amount of off-road capability.
The BMW X5 continues to fit itself into the segment as a jack of all trades, with off-road capabilities, on-road manners, and at least one very willing V-8 available--with more to come, we're sure.
Ride and handling
All X5s now have electric power steering throughout the model line, and choosing Eco Pro also lightens the effort and heft engineered into it. Like most systems of its kind, the X5's electric power steering doesn't offer much in the way of feedback, and dithers on-center no matter if it's in Eco Pro or its Comfort setting. In Sport and Sport+, the steering has the meaty feel that's become common to most BMWs: pause the wheel at a point midway through a corner, and there's immediate buildup, a wall of return force to climb as you unwind it. With Active Steering, the ratio varies as speeds and cornering forces build: it can be an unwelcome variable in sports cars, but in sport-utes like the X5, it's more useful, making size and overall length less of a liability when parking or driving in town.
The techno feel of the rack flows through to the X5's strut and control-arm independent suspension, which in most cases and configurations, gets augmented by adaptive dampers and rear air springs. Dynamic Damper Control puts automatically adjusting shocks at the corners; they're set to work in concert with the steering and throttle and transmission, through the same Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes. Adaptive shocks give the X5 a constant sense of stability; we weren't offered a non-adaptive X5 to drive, but with its mass and performance capability, the adaptive setup's likely to be the preferred one, as are the add-on self-leveling rear air springs that make it Dynamic Damper Control+. It makes the X5 a resolutely flat handler in corners, not entirely forgiving with its ride quality but only truly harsh with the biggest wheels in the most aggressively controlled modes.
Move a step closer to the inevitable X5 M, and BMW will fit the ute with active roll stabilization, which masks some of the body lean generated in deep corners via the adaptive dampers; with an Adaptive M suspension, which tightens up the suspension above and beyond base settings when in Sport and Sport+ modes; and with Dynamic Performance Control, which puts a finer degree of control over the all-wheel-drive system in the driver's hand.
Not every X5 comes with all-wheel drive, but those with the xDrive system have a sophisticated system with a variable torque split front to back, not to mention interaction with traction, stability, and hill-descent control systems. If you're truly using the X5 just as a commuting vehicle, you may never encounter any instance so exotic as to need the upgraded Dynamic Performance Control setup, but like other similar systems, it lets the X5 vary the torque split between the rear wheels, to let it turn in more crisply and change lanes more cleanly--which become more critical attributes as power output climbs and performance and price hit their zeniths.
If you're truly planning to take the X5 off-road, xDrive will show how it apportions power on the big LCD screen atop the center console. We climbed some moderately challenging lumps on the trails surrounding Vancouver 2010's ski jumps, and slogged through some mud without a misstep. It's more in the Explorer/Touareg camp of light off-road capability than in the Range Rover Sport take-no-prisoners talent pool, but the X5 should have no problem making it to a remote-ish cabin in the woods.
This year, the X5's transmission has been improved--shaving as many as two seconds off each of the engines' 0-60 times. The lineup starts with the base X5 and its familiar 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine. Offered either in sDrive35i rear-drive form or as the all-wheel-drive xDrive35i, it makes its peak torque from a low 1,200 rpm to 5,000 rpm. BMW promises 0-60 mph times of 6.1 seconds. We haven't had a chance to drive this version of the X5 yet, but have sampled the brilliant powerplant in BMW's sedans, and can't imagine dissatisfaction with its strong acceleration--but we'll describe it more thoroughly when we've driven one.
We've spent all our time in the 2015 X5 thus far in the diesel and V-8 models. The xDrive35d is powered by a twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder diesel engine, producing 255 hp and 413 lb-ft. BMW promises 0-60 mph times of 6.7 seconds, and it's believable. We spent a half-day driving the X5 from Vancouver to its extra-urban Olympic ski village, and got into an easy rhythm with the turbodiesel, accelerating quickly into holes in city traffic and settling into a relatively quiet cruise. It develops its peak torque before 3,000 rpm, giving it the swift responses of the gas six, for the most part--with a moderate amount of the usual diesel drivetrain noises.
Opt into the most expensive X5 xDrive50i--as we did for the return leg of our Canadian-based test drive--and you'll strap on BMW's twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8, which spins off 445 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque, at engine speeds as low as 2,000 rpm. Peak torque arrives swiftly, and the X5's estimated at 4.7 seconds from 0-60 mph--but the perception of speed isn't as much of a rush as the numbers spell out. In part, it's because the standard all-wheel drive and adjustable suspension on the V-8 model manages the power delivery so well, and because the twin-turbo's so muted by the X5's sound-deadening materials.
All X5s are equipped with an eight-speed automatic with paddle shift controls, which accounts for smooth shifting and some of the fuel-economy gains made this year. The X5's also lost between 170 and 230 pounds over the last generation, and the transmission is part of a suite of controls that are affected when the driver chooses Eco Pro mode on a console-mounted switch. Eco Pro mode slows down throttle response and triggers earlier upshifts into the eight-speed's more economical gears, and it also lets the X5 coast under some conditions by decoupling the engine; it even chooses some navigation routes for the optimum fuel efficiency.
2015 BMW X5
Comfort & Quality
The seats aren't as comfortable as we would want, but the X5 is polished and well-fitted.
The revamp of the X5 has brought interior trim up to a new standard. Like the slightly smaller X3, the X5 now has a stylish cockpit with swooping curves and two different interior palettes of coordinated interior colors and trim to go with the usual choices of aluminum or wood and leather. The basic seat upholstery is synthetic, and some minor switchgear looks less lovingly attended to than it should, but those blips get overlooked in favor of the rich, colorful dash-mounted screen, and the soft glow of ambient interior lighting.
Behind that second-row seat is about 23 cubic feet of space--which you can choose to fill with a fold-away third-row seat. It's as small and unwelcoming to adults as the third-row seats in a Dodge Journey, and tough for anyone not into Garanimals to step into with any grace. The saving grace is the seat folds away in portions, and flattens out of the way along with the second-row seat for up to 66 cubic feet of cargo space. The X5's tailgate is power-operated, and it's kept its unique tailgate/liftgate setup: the lower section drops like a pickup, the top section powers open and closed like a pricey minivan.
The X5 hasn't gained appreciably in terms of interior space, but there's better accommodation for up to seven passengers--especially those in the first two rows.
In the front, the standard power heated seats can be upgraded to multi-contour or sport seats on the six-cylinder gas and diesel models. There's enough adjustment and space in any direction, but like many other ventilated seats we've sampled, the X5's front buckets are flatter and less comfortable across the bottom cushion than without that feature. Between the driver and front passengers is a wide console split down the middle, good for smartphone storage, and on the console itself, there are two bins for possible keyfob storage--the fob wars have left the X5 with one of the heftier, fatter remotes in the industry, so prestigious it's hard to fit in skinny jeans (whatever they might be).
Move to the second row, and the basic setup is a bench with reclining seat portions split 40:20:40, an ideal setup for anyone trying to wedge five adults in the most basic X5. Four will be happier: with the standard panoramic sunroof, there's not much headroom left for six-footers until the seat's reclined, so folding down the middle 20-percent seat as an armrest becomes a de facto standard setup. Better yet is BMW's rear comfort seats, with finer stitching, a 10-degree recline, and a sliding feature that moves the seat along a 3.1-inch track.
2015 BMW X5
Crash-test data isn't complete yet, but the X5 has a raft of standard and available safety gear.
Crash-test ratings for the 2015 BMW X5 are mostly in; and those results, plus a long list of standard and optional safety features leave us believing that this remains of the safest vehicles on the road today.
In New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) testing, the 2015 X5 earned five-star results for frontal and side crash, as well as all subcategories, including frontal testing with a smaller female-size test dummy in the passenger seat and the rigorous side pole test, which simulates a side collision with a utility pole, tree or building corner.
And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which is the other major U.S. agency that conducts crash tests, hasn"t yet fully tested the new X5, but it has earned top "good" results in the moderate overlap frontal and side categories--as well as "Superior" front crash prevention.
Visibility is excellent from behind the wheel of the X5, and with standard parking sensors, it's simple to move very close to garage walls or cars parked in connecting spaces. In addition to those sensors, we'd opt for the rearview camera and for BMW's surround-view cameras, which produce a 360-degree view of surroundings from cameras mounted in the nose and tail and under the side mirror housings. Drivers can toggle between views from the cameras, and place the vehicle perfectly in a tight space--or check for obstacles that can't be seen behind the car's rather high tail.
That system is bundled in a package with blind-spot monitors, speed-limit information (rendered on the iDrive screen), lane-departure warning and collision-alert systems; adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability can be added for $1,200 on top of those features.
All X5 utes get their fair share of safety gear, including curtain airbags, stability control, and Bluetooth. A rearview camera is a $400, stand-alone option on all but the V-8 version, however.
Night vision and a head-up display remain on offer; the X5 can be fitted with full LED lighting.
2015 BMW X5
It's easy to spend more than $70,000 on an X5, but the base model is reasonably well equipped; it gets standard Bluetooth and USB this year.
With a base price of nearly $54,000, the 2015 BMW X5 keeps in line with its competitors. There are a few options that we feel should be standard for that money, but others seem more high-tech than you'd find in other vehicles. We'll start with the infotainment system.
BMW X5 infotainment
BMW's iDrive infotainment controller is standard on the X5. It operates the available navigation system and other ancillary functions, and displays on a new freestanding 10.2-inch screen. The iDrive controller now has a touchpad-style surface on its controller for text entry, Palm Pilot-style.
On the smartphone-connectivity front, BMW Apps (now with various audio-app options) are now standard, with a little help from Apple's iTunes. Connecting to the infotainment system via the iTunes-available, iPhone-based app allows drivers to hear their Facebook and Twitter feed, listen to web-based audio streams, and to tap into apps like Pandora and Stitcher. They're woven into the iDrive controller, which has a puck-shaped dial for navigation through commands and settings, and a touchpad surface for entering text Palm Pilot-style. Voice commands go deeper into the X5's audio and navigation than before: the combination of options of voice controls, dial entry or scratchpad writing, and steering-wheel controls can be overwhelming until you've spent hours upon hours at the controls.
Buyers have a choice of two premium-audio systems--Harman Kardon or Bang & Olufsen, the latter of which has 1,200 watts of power and 16 speakers. There's also a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with twin screens roughly the size of an iPad Mini, attached to the headrests of the front seats. Those systems always beg the question for us: why not just invest in a pair of mobile tablets and an indestructible case?
The base X5 comes with rear-wheel drive, the V-6/eight-speed drivetrain, and power windows, locks, and mirrors; AM/FM/CD player with USB port; Bluetooth with audio streaming; Sensatec synthetic-leather upholstery; 18-inch wheels with run-flat all-season tires; stop/start; a panoramic moonroof; power front heated seats; parking sensors; a power tailgate; and a four-year/50,000-mile warranty with roadside service and free regular maintenance.
On the slightly puzzling side, a rearview camera is a $400 option; any color other than flat white or flat black brings a $550 upcharge; and leather upholstery costs $1,400 at minimum. And if you want all-wheel drive, you'll need to step up into the X5 xDrive35i, which is priced from just over $56,000 and is equipped identically. The xDrive 35d offers similar equipment for $1,500 more in base price. These two all-wheel-drive models can be upgraded to the Dynamic Handling Package, with a rear air suspension and variable damper control, as well as active-roll stabilization.
The X5 can be ordered in one of three trim lines. Luxury Line and xLine packages bring more personalization, with coordinated interior trims that are a step more attention-getting--with Satin Aluminum and high-gloss finishes in the $2,600 xLine and a blacked-out grille chrome strips, and some sporty cues for the $1,700 Luxury Line. The $4,600 M Sport adds a body kit, Shadowline trim, high-gloss roof rails, sport seats, an anthracite headliner, and various other high-performance cues as well as an option for an M Adaptive suspension. Prices for these trim lines are slightly lower on V-8 models.
Then come the quick-pick packages: the third-row seat ($1,700); a cold-weather package with heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel; a driver-assistance package with a rearview camera and a head-up display; full LED lighting package; ventilated multi-contour front seats; blind-spot monitors, surround-view cameras, and speed-limit monitors; and a premium package with keyless entry, soft-close doors, satellite radio, and leather upholstery.
Stand-alone options include active steering (except on sDrive); the active air suspension; a Nappa-leather dashboard; four-zone climate control; adaptive cruise control with full-stop and following capability (see the safety section for more); parking assist; a Harman Kardon audio system ($875) or a Bang & Olufsen setup ($4,500); night vision; and a rear-seat entertainment system. Nineteen-inch wheels with all-season tires and 20-inch wheels with summer tires are optional on all those models.
The X5 xDrive50i makes the rearview camera, metallic paints, 19-inch wheels; front ventilated seats, and leather upholstery are standard. Its above-and-beyond options include most of the above, and additionally, an executive package with ceramic knobs and switches, Harman Kardon audio, head-up display, satellite radio, keyless entry, and side window shades.
2015 BMW X5
The turbodiesel is the king of this particular hill, but even V-8 versions do well enough with an eight-speed automatic.
BMW's adopted a new eight-speed automatic transmission in the X5, but fuel economy climbs only by a mile per gallon here and there.
The xDrive35d diesel is EPA-rated at an impressive 24/31 mpg, or 27 mpg combined. The V-8-powered xDrive50i model doesn't move forward as briskly in gas mileage. It's rated at 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for 17 mpg combined.
As of last year, the X5 xDrive35i steps up its game from 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway to 18/27 mpg, or 21 mpg combined.
Figures for the X5 M are 14/19 mpg or 16 mpg combined