Review

BMW X5 SUV (2018 - ) review

The BMW X5 is a family-friendly luxury SUV with seating for up to seven, equally at home towing a horsebox as it is posing outside the golf club. It competes with rivals like the Audi Q7, Mercedes GLE, Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC90.

Words by: First published: 4th October 2018
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.8
The BMW X5 is a luxury car first and foremost, but one that comes with the added prestige of a BMW badge and an SUV body, along with a little bit off-roading ability. It’s comfortable and quiet in all guises, well-equipped and crammed full of the latest technology. Naturally, none of that comes cheap, though.

Pros

  • Luxurious interior ambience
  • Quiet and smooth engines
  • Decent equipment levels

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited digital customisation
  • Looks like the cheaper X3
Pick of the range
BMW X5 xDrive30d M Sport
Mixes presence with performance and economy
Most economical
BMW X5 xDrive30d xLine
The smaller wheels contribute to efficiency
Best avoided
BMW M50d
Completely unnecessary extravagance

Interested in buying a BMW X5?

How good does it look? 4/5

Like all the other premium luxury SUVs in its class, the BMW X5 is a very large vehicle. BMW’s designers have attempted to disguise that by use of details such as the aerodynamic ‘breathers’ on the sides and sculpted rear bodywork. Up front, a bigger-than-ever ‘kidney’ grille dominates the appearance, while the technical-looking standard LED headlights can be upgraded to use laser technology. These are differentiated by a distinctive blue insert. Alloy wheels range in size from 19- to 22 inches, depending on specification, while the X5 M Sport receives a suitably sporty visual makeover that swaps the standard xLine car’s matt aluminium exterior trim pieces for high-gloss black ones. The M Sport version also gets body-coloured wheel arch covers and other add-ons, giving it a more aggressive and less utilitarian appearance. It’s the most popular specification. The X5 M50d’s design is based on the M Sport look, but there are unique alloy wheels and other bits of detailing to help set it apart.

What's the interior like? 4/5

Because of electric adjustment of the front seats, and lots of steering wheel movement, the X5 is an easy car in which to find a comfortable position. Thanks to the elevated cabin, there’s a great view out over the road. Rear and over-the-shoulder visibility are decent, too, and there’s an arsenal of cameras and sensors to help. The interior of the X5 is very luxurious, with soft leather upholstery and high-quality materials and slick switches. BMW marries that sense of luxury with the latest in-car technology, starting with the impressive looking digital dashboard. This is made up of two 12.3-inch colour displays with crystal-clear graphics. The first, in front of the driver, replaces traditional instruments, and can be customised (we think BMW could have gone further on that score), while the second takes the form of a touch-screen in the middle of the dashboard. The driver can choose to use that, voice control, buttons on the tactile steering wheel or the centrally-mounted rotary controller for most functions. There’s gesture control, too, but it’s of limited use in reality.

How practical is it? 4/5

The BMW X5’s interior compares well, in terms of flexibility, with the best cars in the class. Up front, there’s plenty of room to stretch out and loads of useful storage areas. Notably, the cupholders can be upgraded with cooling and heating. The back doors open wide, allowing access to a large passenger compartment, though, as is the norm in this sector, the middle passenger’s comfort is compromised with a raised centre section in the floor. Optionally, the X5 can be fitted with a third row of seats. Adults can squeeze into them at a push, but they’re best thought of as just for occasional use. Access to them can be eased by specifying electric adjustment for the middle row and they fold down flat into the boot floor when not needed. The seat backs of the second row split 40:20:40 and fold down flat, too, opening up the luggage space from 645 litres to a maximum of 1,860 litres. The seats-up capacity is about average for the class, so it is bettered by some rivals.

What's it like to drive? 4/5

BMW equips the X5 as standard with a highly sophisticated air suspension that adapts to your driving style and the road conditions. The driver may also alter its characteristics by changing the drive mode. Despite BMW’s sporty image, the X5 focuses on comfort first and foremost and it does a great job of isolating its passengers from the world outside. The occasional jolt is passed through to the cabin at low speeds on a poor urban surface, but on the motorway, it’s really comfortable. It’s also composed and stable at higher speeds. There are options to upgrade the suspension further, with a system that actively counteracts body lean in the corners (this feels very strange in operation) and another that gives the X5 four-wheel steering. The latter system is a worthwhile investment, as it helps with low-speed manoeuvring as well as high-speed stability.

How powerful is it? 4/5

BMW offers three conventional engines in the X5, two diesels and one petrol. All are paired with a super-slick eight-speed automatic gearbox and clever four-wheel-drive system. A turbocharged 3.0-litre diesel with 265 horsepower kicks off the range in the xDrive30d model, and we reckon it’s the best engine in the line-up, as it mixes good economy with quietness and more performance than most will ever need. It’s useful for towing, too. The sole petrol option, the xDrive40i, also uses a turbocharged 3.0-litre unit, this time with 340 horsepower. While this engine is smoother than the diesels if you push it harder, it’s doesn’t feel significantly quicker than the xDrive30d, though it will suit those that rarely venture beyond urban confines. Topping the range is the X5 M50d, which uses another version of the 3.0-litre diesel, but with four turbochargers to produce 400 horsepower. It’s undoubtedly fast, but it’s also noisier than the xDrive30d and not really worth the extra outlay. Supplementing this trio is the X5 xDrive45e, a plug-in hybrid version, which we’ve yet to try.

How much will it cost me? 3/5

There isn’t enough of a price difference between the entry-level petrol and diesel X5s for that to be the deciding factor. Instead, buyers need to consider their likely use of the car, as the xDrive30d is considerably more economical over long distances than the xDrive40i. Conversely, the petrol version should be cheaper to maintain. The M50d sits between them in terms of economy, but is significantly more expensive to buy, insure and maintain in terms of tyre wear. The BMW X5 has strong resale values, which helps keep ownership costs down, even if all models are in high insurance groups. Low-mileage drivers should seriously consider the xDrive45e hybrid, as it comes with a low CO2 rating and can, according to BMW, drive up to 50 miles on electric power alone.

How reliable is it? 3/5

In isolation, the previous-generation BMW X5 wasn’t rated highly as a reliable car, with many niggling issues, but a little research shows that it was no worse than its major rivals from Audi, Mercedes, Land Rover and Volvo. There isn’t sufficient data on the current X5’s reliability to make a call on it. The X5 comes with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty that includes BMW Emergency Service, while the high-voltage battery pack in the hybrid model has its own six-year/60,000-mile warranty.

How safe is it? 4/5

As with all cars in this segment, the BMW X5 has a generous list of airbags and other safety devices, including fast-acting stability and traction control systems. BMW generally performs above average in the Euro NCAP safety tests for that reason and the X5 should also fare well thanks to its suite of active safety and driver assistance systems (although it hasn’t yet been tested). Unfortunately, the most sophisticated of these can be found on the options list, including active cruise control that continues to work in stop-start traffic. That’s just one example of the semi-autonomous safety technology available. As standard is an advanced automatic parking system that can not only take care of parallel parking for you, but can also reverse out of a space (or narrow alley) automatically, replicating the steering movements of the past 50 metres.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

The key trim levels are xLine and M Sport and really, the latter is more about image than the addition of any significant luxury equipment. All cars feature snazzy ambient lighting (it looks fab at night), Bluetooth, DAB radio and even a Wi-Fi hotspot. There are also roof rails and an automated tailgate included in the price. Back inside, there’s leather upholstery of various colours and grades and the impressive-looking digital dashboard setup is all included. The X5 M Sport sits on 20-inch alloy wheels and features unique interior and exterior styling, plus upgraded brakes. BMW then groups its most tempting options into packages, including the xOffroad Package, which enables the X5 to go further off-road than most owners would expect of it.

Why buy? 4/5

Because you want a high-quality luxury car with the rugged image of an SUV. Well-heeled families should also consider the X5 to be a rather more impressive alternative to a traditional seven-seat MPV. This car is for people that enjoy cutting-edge technology, but still want creature comforts. Simply put, it’s one of the most impressive options in the large luxury SUV class.

Interested in buying a BMW X5?