What's New for 2013
A new M Performance package debuts for the 2013 BMW X5. Besides some cosmetic upgrades, its adds 15 horsepower to the xDrive35i and 40 hp to the xDrive50i. Both get 30 extra pound-feet of torque as well.
Picture this: You're driving on a Nevada highway. The wind is gusting, bringing with it a wall of sand that cloaks the freeway ahead and pelts the car's paint with mother nature's idea of microdermabrasion. As other cars blow about in their lanes, the 2013 BMW X5 you're driving just plows forward as if on a tranquil spring cruise. Then the freeway starts to twist and increase in elevation. Yet the X5 keeps charging on while other, less composed SUVs have to slow down.
It's in these extreme circumstances when the X5 really proves itself, demonstrating a staggering degree of stability and handling prowess for something so big and heavy. It may not be the sort of SUV that ad agencies will show fording a river or climbing a rocky mountain trail, but the X5 has a toughness and solidity all its own. At the same time, this luxury midsize crossover comes with the equipment, quality construction and high-end trappings one expects from BMW.
However, the 2013 BMW X5 isn't the most spacious choice for family hauling purposes. BMW's own X3 isn't that much smaller, for instance, and while the X5 does offer a third-row seat, it's laughable compared to those in the less expensive Acura MDX and Infiniti JX. There are also other sporty choices such as the Infiniti FX and Porsche Cayenne one would likely want to consider. But overall we think pretty highly of the X5. And if your drives regularly involve Nevada sand storms, well, you know what to get.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 BMW X5 is a midsize luxury crossover SUV that seats five. An optional third-row bench adds two more seats, though they are quite small. Five trim levels are offered: xDrive35i, xDrive35i Premium, xDrive35i Sport Activity, xDrive35d and xDrive50i. "xDrive" indicates that it has standard all-wheel drive, while the last three digits represent the engine. A high-performance version known as the X5 M is covered in a separate review.
Standard equipment on the xDrive35i includes 18-inch wheels, automatic and adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, foglamps and automatic wipers. Inside, you get keyless ignition, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats with memory functions, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, the iDrive electronics interface, Bluetooth phone connectivity, the BMW Assist emergency communications system, and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The xDrive35i Premium, xDrive35d and xDrive50i add a panoramic sunroof, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, a power liftgate, rear privacy glass, heated front seats, leather upholstery and a power-adjustable steering wheel. Many of these items are optional on the base X5.
The xDrive35i Sport Activity adds a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch wheels, sport seats, a sport steering wheel, darker exterior trim and an increased top speed. These items are optional on the xDrive50i as part of the Sport Activity package.
The four upper trims offer additional options. The Convenience package adds rear- and top-view parking cameras, keyless ignition/entry, four-zone automatic climate control, rear manual side sunshades, a navigation system, voice controls and real-time traffic information. The Cold Weather package adds a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and headlight washers. The Technology package adds a head-up display, a side-view parking camera and automatic high beams. The Luxury Seating package gets "multicontour" 14-way power front seats with four-way lumbar, adjustable side bolsters, ventilation and massage.
The keyless ignition/entry, automatic high beams, head-up display, navigation system, 14-way seats and satellite radio are also available as stand-alone options. Others include an adaptive adjustable suspension, active steering, adaptive cruise control, power soft-close doors, extended leather upholstery, a rear-seat entertainment system and the BMW Apps suite of Internet-based smartphone features.
The xDrive35i Sport Activity and xDrive50i are also eligible for the M Sport package. This adds additional power, 19-inch wheels, special exterior and interior trim, an M division sport steering wheel and the other Sport Activity features for the 50i.
Powertrains and Performance
The xDrive35i models feature a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that produces 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Both this engine and the 50i get an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive standard. According to BMW, it will go from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. With the Sport Activity's M Sport package, output increases to 315 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque.
The xDrive50i gets a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 good for 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. BMW says it'll hit 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, while EPA-estimated fuel economy is 14/20/16. With its M Sport package, output goes up to 440 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque.
The xDrive35d features a diesel-powered 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that produces 265 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque. It gets a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. In Edmunds performance testing, it brought the X5 from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. It returns an EPA-estimated 16/26/22.
Every 2013 BMW X5 includes stability and traction control, antilock brakes, automatic brake drying, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and adaptive brake lights. The latter flash the taillights under sudden extreme braking as a warning to trailing motorists. Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which provides automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery and on-demand roadside assistance.
In Edmunds brake testing, an xDrive35d with optional 19-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet, which is average for the class.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the X5 its highest rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
As with most BMWs, the X5's interior layout is elegantly austere, with solid construction and high-quality materials. The front seats are nicely shaped and adjust for a wide range of body types. The optional 14-way seats offer even more adjustment.
There are a few drawbacks, though. The iDrive electronics interface works well for wrangling all of the X5's systems, but it can come off as rather complicated; some rival systems are easier to use. Utility can also be a concern. The second-row seats are mounted a bit too low to the floor; longer-legged passengers will likely bemoan this seating position, as it forces knees upwards. The optional third row is even more cramped and really only accommodates children. With both rows folded, cargo space measures 75 cubic feet, about average in this class.
The 2013 BMW X5 is one of the best-handling midsize luxury crossovers around. Whether driving on back roads or on an endless expanse of interstate, the X5 is a champ. Some competitors offer more utility and off-road capabilities, but the X5 ably brings BMW's legendary handling prowess to the SUV arena. You'll notice the elevated ride height and considerable curb weight on tight roads, though. Engine performance is strong throughout the lineup, even with the base six-cylinder.
On the downside, the X5's steering is overly heavy at parking lot speeds, even if its hefty nature adds precision on the open road. We're not fans of optional active steering in other BMWs, but it's well-suited to an SUV like the X5. Road and wind noise are pleasantly muted, but buyers looking for a Lexus-like comfy-couch ride may find this Bimmer a bit firm.