Powerful and efficient new engine, confident ride and handling, sublime front seats, loads of available high-tech features.
Options quickly cause price to skyrocket, not as spacious as some rivals, low-mounted backseat.
The 2011 BMW X5 eases its twin-nostril nose into an alligator-infested Florida everglade, the murky water rising higher and higher toward the driver window. The BMW representative riding shotgun urges a cautious speed. "A driver vent too fast earlier and got stuck. He had to vait for an hour in zee vater." Doesn't that sound fun?
Yet big luxury SUVs like the X5 are all heading into metaphorically murky waters. With gas prices hovering around 3 bucks, green consciences expanding and governments from around the world enacting or threatening strict new emissions regulations, the future has the potential to be gloomy for the X5 and others. As such, big changes are in order for it to stay ahead of the rising tides.
Not that you could tell by looking at the redesigned 2011 X5, though. Note how BMW moved the foglights inward, raised the rear bumper reflectors a few centimeters and resculpted the lower valances front and rear. The iDrive screen is now wider. Not exactly a Heidi Montag makeover.
It's actually under the hood where the 2011 BMW X5 sees those major changes. Not only does the V8 model get the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 from the 7 Series, the base model now features BMW's latest twin-scroll, single-turbo inline-6 that features direct injection and Valvetronic throttle-free intake technology.
Not only does this new 300-horsepower X5 xDrive35i out-accelerate the old V8 model and produce 40 more horses and a whopping 75 more pound-feet of torque than the outgoing xDrive30i, it achieves significantly better fuel economy thanks to a bevy of new high-tech features like an eight-speed automatic and brake energy regeneration. Indeed, this new X5 is more fuel-efficient than an all-wheel-drive Ford Flex.
While we trudged out of that everglade successfully unstuck and uneaten, the BMW X5 likewise seemed capable of making a similar metaphorical escape by lowering its fuel consumption while not only maintaining performance expectations, but exceeding them. At the very least, this powertrain achievement certainly gives the X5 a leg up against competitors like the Acura MDX, Infiniti FX35, Land Rover LR4, Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport. How does it fare in other ways? Well, trudge on.
The 2011 BMW X5 xDrive35i is the base model in the three-trim lineup (four if you count the X5 M), but there's really nothing base about it. With 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque available, this turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 elicits a simple question: Why would you need anything else? Power is immediate and robust, without any trace of turbo lag. There is the same irritating throttle delay found in several of BMW's recent products, but this can be eliminated by selecting Sport mode and its sharper throttle response.
The eight-speed automatic produces the sort of smooth shifts and quick responses you'd expect, but more importantly, its additional ratios are a big reason for the 35i's impressive fuel-economy numbers. According to BMW, the base X5 will return 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. That's only a few mpg lower than the diesel-powered xDrive35d, which is noisier and slower off the line.
The X5 has always put a premium on its handling, however, and for 2011 that doesn't change. Its balance of ride and handling is still exemplary, and although our driving route in South Florida didn't provide many twists or turns, the X5's high-speed stability and driver confidence are indicative of (though not synonymous with) a much smaller sport sedan.
Our test car came equipped with the optional Active Steering system, an advanced variable-ratio and assistance technology available on most BMW models. Normally, we consider it a needless expense, as BMW's standard steering is typically characterized as being a hallmark for communication and response. In the X5, though, it's also characterized by a heavy effort at lower speeds. Active Steering makes things easier on your arms, so even though communication through the wheel isn't as good as with the standard steering, we think it's better suited to a vehicle like the X5.
Despite the commendable handling, the 2011 BMW X5 rides quite comfortably while still feeling buttoned down at elevated speeds. Just as the xDrive35d proved during the severe desert wind storm that struck our Fuel Sipper Smackdown 3, wind and road noise are remarkably well controlled in the X5.
In typical BMW fashion, the X5's driving position is about as good as it gets, thanks to a well-positioned power-adjustable steering wheel, a commanding elevated driver seat and excellent outward visibility fore and aft.
Front-seat comfort is excellent in standard form, but our tester's optional 14-way "multicontour" seats with adjustable lumbar and bolsters are best described as "beyond reproach." The rear seat is a different story, however, as the cushion is rather low and shapeless. A third-row seat is optional, but even if you get it, it's virtually uninhabitable by anyone old enough to remember the Clinton administration.
With its fully loaded features list bursting at the gills, there's a whole lot of functionality to be had in the 2011 BMW X5. Let's address some of the key points, however. For 2011, the X5 finally gets the complete up-to-date iDrive electronics interface with the addition of the 8.8-inch widescreen LCD featured in other BMWs. This, along with last year's revised controller layout and menu structure, makes iDrive an exponentially friendlier interface than loathed previous versions. Climate controls are a little complicated (especially the soft, medium and intensive Auto settings), but most other basic functions are easy to find and figure out.
Our tester came with the optional head-up display, and although it comes in handy by putting navigation directions closer to the driver's line of sight, it is mostly redundant. The optional multiview parking cameras and sideview cameras are more useful. One provides a bird's-eye image of each side of the X5, making parking that much easier, while the other gives you a helpful view when nudging blindly into traffic.
In our real-world functionality testing, the X5's 21.9-cubic-foot cargo bay easily swallows a large suitcase and a golf bag. However, with a rear-facing child seat installed in one of the backseat's outboard positions, the corresponding front seat was practically uninhabitable by those with longer legs.
Design/Fit and Finish
As mentioned earlier, you'd need a side-by-side picture to tell the differences between the 2010 and '11 BMW X5s. Inside, only the bigger iDrive screen is different. In terms of quality and construction, nothing has changed: The X5 still exhibits premium materials, high-quality switchgear and strong fit and finish.
Who should consider this vehicle
The 2011 BMW X5 is not an inexpensive vehicle, especially when loaded with options. Indeed, if you're looking for similar performance and handling for less money, the Infiniti FX35 is a good alternative. If you want more space for your money, the Land Rover LR4 could be a better choice. The Acura MDX is an alternative on both performance and space counts. Perhaps the vehicle closest to the X5 is the Porsche Cayenne, though it's even more expensive.
If you have your heart set on an X5, though, the xDrive35i could be the pick of the litter. The 35d gets better fuel economy, but it's noisier and slower. The V8-powered 50i is, of course, a real kick in the hind end, but you certainly don't need it, given how swift the 35i is.
Is the 2011 BMW X5 a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2011 BMW X5 and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2011 X5 featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
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How do people like the 2011 BMW X5? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2011 BMW X5 and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2011 X5 4.2 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2011 X5.
Review Bought this vehicle with only 9K mile on it, and by far has been the worst reliable vehicle I have ever owned. Mind you, this is my wife SUV. Not even a month of owning it and maybe around a thousand mile, my low oil light indicator turns on but there is still another 10k miles until next oil change, so decided to do an additional oil change at my expense since BMW refused to do one for me. At about 2-3k miles again, going to Austin for the weekend from Houston, and my low oil light come back on again. Took it back to the dealer and they added over 2 quarts of oil. I asked them why the oil consumption, and their response was it's normal. A month or two, rolls out and the Aux. Pump goes out. No problem since it's still under warranty and your driving on a brand new loner car for 3 weeks, since they were on backorder from Germany. A couple of month go by without any issues and then the high battery consumption light come. They replaced the battery and a couple of module and returned the vehicle back in a couple of day, no problem. A couple of months go by again, and bam, the battery light come back again, took it back to the dealer, they kept the vehicle for over a month this time, saying they couldn't find the issue and when they finally did, it turned out to be a right front door handle, that would not dormant. Happy to get the vehicle back, when I get a letter from BMW about a big campaign(another word for a RECALL) and to bring the vehicle in to the dealer. Brought the vehicle to the dealer, and they tell me that it will stay in the shop for a couple of weeks since it's a big campaign for Injector, Vacuum system, Etc. So again, they kept vehicle at the dealer for a month. I'm beginning to get aggravated with vehicle already and am thinking of replacing it already. But instead, decided to keep it, after all, it's a very nice SUV, M-packaged with all the bells and whittles. Just about 2 weeks ago we decided to take a road trip for spring break, and drive to California. Long story short, we broke down in between Bakersfield and San Jose, ruined our Vacation and cost me over $2000 in unexpected repairs bill. The Starter went out, the coils went out and this is ONLY with just a little over 30K MILES!!!!! Folks, I LOVE BMW, having and owing 135i, (2) 335i, x5 3.0, and now the X5 50i, By all means , Stay away from the X5 50i.
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What options are available on the 2011 BMW X5?
Available BMW X5 2011 Submodel Types: SUV, Diesel, Hybrid
Available Trims: xDrive35i, xDrive35d, xDrive50i, 3.0i, 3.0si, 4.8i, xDrive35i Premium, 4.4i, xDrive40e iPerformance, xDrive30i, xDrive48i, sDrive35i, xDrive35i Sport Activity, 4.6is
Exterior Colors: Alpine White, Jet Black, Black Sapphire Metallic, Space Gray Metallic, Dark Graphite Metallic, Mineral White Metallic, Glacier Silver Metallic, Titanium Silver Metallic, Imperial Blue Metallic, Sparkling Brown Metallic, Platinum Gray Metallic, Carbon Black Metallic, Monaco Blue Metallic, Atlas Cedar Metallic, Deep Sea Blue Metallic, Sparkling Bronze Metallic, Toledo Blue Metallic, Platinum Bronze Metallic, Vermilion Red Metallic, Mineral Silver Metallic, Sterling Gray Metallic, Deep Green Metallic, Steel Gray Metallic, Mineral Green Metallic, Orion Silver Metallic, Stratus Gray Metallic, Kalahari Beige Metallic, Siena Red Metallic, Topaz Blue Metallic
Interior Colors: Black Dakota leather, Black leatherette, Terra Dakota leather, Mocha Dakota leather, Beige leatherette, Canberra Beige/Black Dakota leather, Canberra Beige Dakota leather, Black premium leather, Criollo Brown Extended Merino premium leather, Ivory White/Black Dakota leather, Black SensaTec leatherette, Mocha Nappa premium leather, Black Nappa premium leather, Black, Cinnamon Brown Nevada premium leather, Sand Beige Nevada premium leather, Beige, Gray, Sand Beige leather, Black leather, Gray leather, Oyster Nevada premium leather, Black Nevada premium leather, Sand Beige premium leather, Ivory White Nappa premium leather, Saddle Brown premium leather, Tobacco premium leather, Sand Beige Perforated Nevada premium leather, Cinnamon Brown premium leather, Gray premium leather, Tobacco Nevada premium leather, Black Perforated Nevada premium leather, Tobacco/Black leather
Popular Features: Alarm, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Power Driver Seat, Power Liftgate/Trunk, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Trip Computer, AWD/4WD, Auto Climate Control, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Post-collision safety system, Tire Pressure Warning, Upgraded Headlights, Automatic Emergency Braking, Aux Audio Inputs, Sunroof/Moonroof, Bluetooth, USB Inputs, Parking sensors, Navigation, Electronic Folding Mirrors, Heated seats, 6000lb Towing Capacity, Back-up camera, Leather Seats, Keyless Entry/Start, Heads up display, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, Upgraded Stereo, Mobile Internet, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, 360-degree camera, Third-row seating, Pre-collision safety system, 5000lb Towing Capacity, Adaptive Cruise Control, Cooled Seats, Rear Entertainment System