The BMW X5 is the one that broadened the luxury sport-utility trend. Introduced for 2000 and last reworked for the 2014 model year, the X5 ranks near the top of any list of luxury-level SUVs. Little has changed for the 2017 model year, except for addition of a 10.2-inch touchscreen to the latest iDrive infotainment system.
The 2017 BMW X5 sDrive35i comes with a lusty turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that develops 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Offered with rear- or all-wheel drive, the X5 sDrive35i can reach 60 mph in just over six seconds.
Those who demand more can step up to the X5 xDrive50i, with a 445-horsepower, 4.4-liter turbo V8 that surges ahead with abundant authority. Acceleration time to 60 mph drops to 4.7 seconds.
BMW also offers the plug-in hybrid X5 xDrive40e, which couples a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine to an electric motor and battery pack, yielding combined output of 308 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Battery-only range is only 14 miles, but the plug-in hybrid earns a 58 MPGe fuel-economy rating from the EPA. With a Level 2 charger, the 9.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack may reach full charge in less than three hours.
A turbodiesel xDrive35d was available in 2015, but federal testers began examining emissions in the wake of Volkswagen’s falsification scandal. Testing was completed in summer 2016, and the turbodiesel has returned. Its 3.0-liter engine generates 255 horsepower.
In a different league entirely, the X5 M unfurls a twin-turbo V8 that generates 567 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. Transmission gearing differs from the regular V8, oil pumps tolerate higher g-force, and a rear air suspension is standard.
All X5s use an 8-speed automatic transmission. An X5 can seat up to seven, but reaching the uncomfortable third row isn’t easy for grownups.
Any of three special lines may be specified. Luxury Line and xLine models add distinctive trim. The Sport option adds an aero body kit and Shadowline trim.
The X5 earned five-star ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, except four-star for rollovers, not uncommon for tall SUVs. Good ratings came from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but only two tests have been performed: side-impact and moderate front overlap.
BMW’s big SUV offers a fine selection of safety features, but most are extra-cost options. Only the xDrive50i, for instance, has a standard rearview camera.
The 2017 BMW X5 sDrive35i ($55,500) comes standard with rear-wheel drive, six-cylinder engine, 19-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, a panoramic moonroof, 14-way power heated front seats, wood trim, power-adjustable steering wheel, Bluetooth, adaptive cruise control, navigation with traffic information, and a power tailgate. X5 xDrive35i ($57,800) adds all-wheel drive.
X5 xDrive50i ($72,300) gets the V8, leather upholstery, 20-way front seats, a rearview camera, keyless ignition, and 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio.
X5 xDrive40e ($62,100) is a plug-in hybrid with all-wheel drive and adjustable dampers with a rear air suspension.
X5 xDrive35d ($59,300) uses a turbodiesel engine and all-wheel drive.
X5 M ($99,795), the high-performance model, gets a 567-horsepower V8.
Today’s X5 exhibits a softer appearance than its predecessors. Wearing BMW’s familiar kidney-shaped grille with chrome surrounds, flanked by nicely positioned headlights, the front end shows a kinship to BMW’s sedans.
With its tapered roofline and low windows, the X5 looks a bit more wagon-like than typical SUVs. A character line reaches back to LED taillights, adding a bit of wedge shaping to the profile.
Inside, the X5 looks like all BMWs, starting with the bright, driver-centered cockpit and shelf-style dashboard configuration. Materials are excellent, matched by top-notch infotainment. Now including a 10.2-inch touchscreen, the iDrive display is crisp and colorful.
Standard poplar wood trim and black leatherette upholstery may be replaced by either of two options: ivory white or mocha Nappa leather. Dakota leather goes into the xDrive50i.
Front occupants are separated by a wide console that includes ample storage. Because of the standard sunroof, six-footers have scant headroom unless seats are reclined.
Although seven passengers can fit inside, the folding third-row seat is mighty small and challenging to reach, except for youngsters. Without third-row seating, cargo space totals 23 cubic feet, expanding to 66 cubic feet with second-row seatbacks down.
BMW’s full-fledged SUV scores highly in both on- and off-road talents. Regardless of engine, useful power will never be in short supply, despite the X5’s hefty curb weight. It’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed with the six-cylinder engine. Then again, the twin-turbo 445-horsepower V8, yielding 480 pound-feet of torque, unleashes a profound surge to satisfy those who crave even greater force. Fitted with plentiful sound-deadening material, the xDrive50i delivers its vigor in a civilized, drama-free manner.
If raucous behavior is the goal, BMW offers the costly but quick X5 M, boosting V8 output to 567 horsepower and shrinking 0-60 mph time to four seconds.
Behavior of the xDrive40e plug-in hybrid system varies according to its settings. In MAX eDrive, the X5 hybrid is propelled solely by electricity, unless you floor the accelerator pedal. AUTO eDrive lets the gasoline engine engage more often. Performance is strong, pleasant and quiet, though an occasional rough shift might occur.
Selecting Eco Pro mode retards throttle responses, provokes earlier upshifts, and lets the X5 coast at times, by disconnecting the engine. The system can even choose certain routes that promise peak fuel-efficiency.
In Eco Pro and Comfort modes, steering feedback is limited, and on-center feel could be better. Sport and Sport+ modes provide greater heft, in keeping with BMW tradition. Optional Active Steering varies the ratio in accord with speed and cornering force.
BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive splits engine torque front to rear, interacting with traction- and stability-control systems. To help with off-roading, an LCD screen can show exactly how power is apportioned between the wheels.
Visibility is excellent, and available surround-view cameras can ease parking. BMW’s Parking Assistant goes further, able to steer the X5 into parallel or perpendicular parking spots by touching a button. Also available is Traffic Jam Assistant, which helps keep the X5 in its lane, at a proper distance from the vehicle ahead.
Fuel economy is on the weak side, even for a heavy SUV. The rear-drive X5 sDrive35i is EPA-rated at 18/25 mpg City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined. Adding all-wheel drive drops the highway estimate to 24 mpg. As expected, picking the twin-turbo V8 slashes EPA ratings to 15/21 mpg City/Highway, or 17 mpg Combined. The 2016 plug-in hybrid managed a 24 mpg Combined rating using gasoline, and 56 MPGe when blending electric and gas operation.
Virtually a benchmark for its category, the X5 blends refined, civilized road behavior with authentic off-road capabilities. Add a helping of interior comfort and style, and the amply-equipped X5 is a vessel of temptations, with a broad choice of potent powertrains. Beware, though. Extravagant use of the options list could boost the price sharply.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.