2020 BMW X5 xDrive40i: What's It Like to Live With?
Something for everyone? Testing the 2020 BMW X5 for everyday life at almost 15,000 miles (and counting)
Why Should You Care (updated 09/10/21)
- In-cabin technology is class-leading.
- Family-friendly with a focus on comfort and space.
- Performance is not an afterthought with a turbocharged V6 and two V8 engine options.
- Additional options and safety features can be added to lower trims, but pile onto an already big price tag.
- A big and heavy luxury SUV with surpsingly smoother handling than expected on the open road.
- Comfort mode isn't so comfortable.
What We Bought and Why
• Our test vehicle: 2020 BMW X5 xDrive40i
• Base MSRP: $61,200 (not including $995 destination)
• MSRP as tested: $83,420
The BMW X5 is already known for its refined handling, lush interior and strong engine performance. So, it's easy to see why it's one of the front-runners in the midsize luxury SUV race, where it goes toe to toe with Audi's Q7 and Mercedes' GLE.
This tech-packed powerhouse draws on both luxury and performance for its appeal. The X5 is definitely family-friendly in terms of comfort and space. But it can be sporty, too, offering three engine options: a base turbocharged six-cylinder and two versions of a turbocharged V8 with upwards of 523 horsepower. Plus, it has gadgets to boot.
Can the X5 be practical for a family and be fun to drive? We wanted to find out.
What did we get?
We were outfitted with the 2020 BMW X5 xDrive40i (minus the optional third-row seating) in Ametrin Metallic (or plum) with ivory Merino leather. (We may be questioning this choice later.) Both colors increased the price by $4,400.
The xDrive40i trim is sandwiched between the base sDrive40i and the more powerful xDrive50. It’s powered by a 335-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine. The M50i, which was added this year, rounds out the available trims with a 523-hp twin-turbo V8.
We anticipate the xDrive40i trim will be the most popular among shoppers given the features that come with the price tag. So, you can expect to find the standard amenities BMW is known for, including a 12.3-inch touchscreen display, 16-way power heated front seats with lumbar support, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a hi-fi sound system, adaptive LED headlights and front, side- and rearview cameras.
You also will find a boatload of safety features, such as Park Distance Control (PDC). PDC warns you of the distance between your car and another object to help you avoid a fender bender while parking. The X5 xDrive40i also includes active blind-spot detection and lane departure warning, which alerts you when your car is veering out of a lane.
Additionally, all-wheel drive comes standard on this trim. And, for $350, you can equip your model with heated rear seats, an upgrade we think is worth the spend.
We decided to up the game even further by adding 21-inch wheels, the Driving Assistance Professional and the Off-road and Executive package options for an additional $12,800 — not for pomp and circumstance, but to test if the added features are worth it.
And, boy, are there features.
The BMW's Executive package alone provides heating and cooling cupholders, remote engine start, wireless phone charging, surround- and 3D-view cameras, gesture-controlled functionality (yes, you can literally wave your hand to adjust the radio volume) and more.
Meanwhile, the Driving Assistance Professional adds stop-and-go cruise control, automatic lane changing and assisted driving, which means the SUV will do some driving for you. The lane-changing assistant can support you on multi-lane roads by automatically carrying out steering wheel movements to position the X5 into a destination lane.
Still, even with all of these upgrades, we were not able to add ventilated seats. More on that later.
Why did we get it?
The 2020 X5 ranks third in Edmunds' midsize luxury SUV segment and also takes the third spot in U.S. sales in its class. However, that didn't make it a shoo-in on our long-term vehicle fleet.
Upon first glance, the X5 appears to be going through an identity crisis (well, at least to this vehicle novice). Is this BMW a family-friendly SUV that provides ample comfort and space for hauling children around town? Or is the X5 a performance-backed machine that offers suitable horsepower, nifty gadgets and performance readings for those looking for some oomph while driving on the weekend?
So, we thought a long-term evaluation could help determine if the X5 could be both.
What did we learn?
We were fortunate enough to get our hands on this somewhat pricey ($83K-ish) 2020 BMW xDrive40i in August 2020 thanks to the BMW loaning us this luxury SUV. And, while there were some mixed reviews on handling and overall drive quality, living with this BMW X5 for a year was a positive experience for our team. Our X5 had the turbo six-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive. This meant we had good acceleration and pleasing power for passing on highways and merging into lanes on city roads. The engine is good for casual driving and for the daily commute.
As I mentioned above about handling, the team was conflicted on how a 5,000-pound SUV should drive. Personally, I was skeptical of its size at first, expecting I may have a somewhat difficult time maneuvering the X5. However, it didn't drive like what I thought would feel "big." And it was rather easy to maneuver in tighter spaces.
Others were not pleased with the goofy configuration of this particular car. You can option the Off-Road package, which adds among other things an air suspension that can raise and lower the vehicle. You can also get 21-inch wheels, like on this X5 — the stock wheels are 19s. But avoid the 21-inchers and their small tire sidewalls if you're even thinking about unpaved roads. Brent Romans comments, "Getting both of these options together is like going for a day hike in the hills and then strapping on your New Balance running shoes."
However, we still enjoyed how the X5 behaved when cruising with its various drive modes set to comfort.
Speaking of comfort, the interior’s lush leather seats and roomy cabin exceeded our expectations — well, except the ivory color of the seats. Note to self and others who may contemplate white interior: Only get white leather if you enjoy cleaning interiors. Our X5 quickly started showing rub-off coloring, making them look dirty even when they were clean.
The cabin was sized with ample legroom for even the tallest passenger (and the 16-way power-adjustable front seats make it easy to find the right adjustment for you). And everyone agreed that all controls were easily accessible. Yet, there was one common pain point among our staff. There was no good place to put your phone while driving. Not to mention that the wireless charging station takes up a considerable amount of space.
Speaking of phones, this BMW supports wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. Most our experiences with them were fine, though Android Auto sometimes acted out.
Additionally, despite spending the majority of its time on the highway, the BMW X5 only hit its EPA highway fuel economy estimate once and ended our test with a 20.4 average mpg. Senior Reviews Editor Travis Langness noted after a drive from Los Angeles to Denver and back, "I went 510.9 miles, averaging 71 mph and filling up with 19.528 gallons of 91 octane. That's 26.2 miles per gallon." It's the longest distance anyone traveled on a tank in our X5 (besting the previous distance by about 70 miles) and the best fuel economy we recorded in nearly 15,000 miles of driving.
Our time with the 2020 BMW X5 xDrive40i is at its end, and we'll miss the luxe SUV. It was a reliable vehicle that our editors would highly recommend for its style, refinement and performance. Considering its combination of value, versatility and on-road manners, the xDrive40i remains our X5 trim of choice. But think twice about choosing your interior seating color. And just because a feature is available on the options list doesn't always mean it's a good idea.
The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.
2020 BMW X5 xDrive40i: Real-world fuel economy
After about six months and almost 15,000 miles driven, our overall hovers around 20.4 mpg, which falls just short of the EPA-estimated 22 mpg.
Normally, I wouldn't balk at these results given the size of the X5 and the usual traffic we are up against in Los Angeles. But the pandemic and countywide shutdown in August 2020 have made traffic a thing of the past, even for a brief moment. A standard hourlong drive is currently a breezy 20 minutes, and I am actually able to hit or go slightly above the speed limit on SoCal freeways. So I expected more during this initial test period. However, on a recent road trip, the X5 did average 26.2 mpg.
Average lifetime mpg: 20.4
EPA mpg rating: 22 combined (20 city / 26 highway)
Best fill mpg: 26.2
Best range (miles):: 510.9
Current odometer: 16,787
Fuel economy won big on trip to Sin City
By my comments above, you can sense my initial disappointed in the BMW X5's fuel estimates. However, my recent trip to Las Vegas gave me a glimmer of hope that the X5 can provide the fuel economy it promises. It's about 260 miles from Los Angeles to Las Vegas; it's a trip you hope takes four hours one way. Ours took nine hours total. And, thankfully, we only needed to stop (I hate making stops, btw) and fill up our tank once. The X5 averaged just above 23 miles a gallon and 435 miles range overall. I'll admit, we did have access to plenty of open road and the freedom to maintain a consistent and steady speed throughou our journey. But, good news is the X5 can and does deliver decent fuel economy.
BMW X5 Beats It's EPA Fuel Estimates
After nearly a year in our fleet, we were finally able to beat the EPA's highway fuel economy estimate for our long-term X5. It happened on a road trip to Denver and back. From Littleton, Colo., to Beaver, Utah, is about 500 miles. I went the whole way without stopping for gas. According to the X5's trip meter, I went 510.9 miles, averaging 71 mph and filling up with 19.528 gallons of 91-octane. That's 26.2 miles per gallon. It's the longest distance anyone has travelled on a tank in our X5 (besting the previous longest distance by about 70 miles), and the best fuel economy we've recorded in nearly 15,000 miles of driving. But, it took some serious patience. There are plenty of curvy highway stretches across western Colorado, and many up-and-downhill sections in Utah. There are lots of opportunities to enjoy the X5's power, dashing from corner to corner, but I stayed the course. Then, there's the 80-mph speed limit in some areas that really pushes your patience as other motorists zoom by at 95 mph on a regular basis. But, with some patience and a few excellent playlists, I stuck to the speed limit and got some seriously impressive range and mileage out of the X5. — Travis Langness, sr reviews editor
Recalls performed on this vehicle
• Rearview camera image may malfunction
• Right front brake disc may loosen
• Loose steering column shaft
• NEW! Front axle/right control arm not welded properly
• Extra bolt incorrectly attached to starter motor
"In late June, I got into the X5 this morning and saw this warning: we're due for our first service. Actually, it's a shade overdue thanks to that last big road trip. So, I took the X5 in for service at Sterling BMW in Newport Beach, Calif. It was really easy to call and book an appointment. And, they were even accommodating when I had to reschedule it, twice.
The service consisted of new oil, new oil filter, wiper fluid top-off and a software recall. The reflash (B610321) had to do with updating the dual storage battery. Due to BMW's 3-year, 36,000 miles free maintenance plan, we paid nothing for this visit." — Mike Schmidt, senior manager, vehicle testing operations
2020 BMW X5 xDrive40i: How does it drive?
I was skeptical at first. To me, the X5 is big; I am not. I immediately thought I did not need this much SUV. So I was expecting to have a somewhat difficult time maneuvering the X5. However, it doesn't drive like what I thought would feel "big." Its six-cylinder turbo engine is responsive enough for casual driving or a daily commute. And it can be sporty when it needs to be, easily zipping through traffic on the freeway.
How does it handle?
The heart of the BMW X5 is its tried-and-true handling. It seems to tackle some sharp turns reliably and feels balanced on the road. Yet, at times, it can feel heavy. I found myself fighting the weight (the X5 is around 5,000 pounds) when I stepped on the gas and just wanted to "go." However, once on the open road, the X5 moves, so much so that I found myself easily picking up speed without noticing.
Director of Written Content Brent Romans shares a somewhat similar sentiment. He, too, noticed that the X5 feels like a big and heavy luxury SUV.
"It's more of a kick-back, go-in-a-straight-line kind of SUV," he says. "Yeah, there's a solid grip from the tires if you really want to push it, and it's fairly stable if you engage the Sport driving mode. But that's about it. ... There's no enjoyment to be had from our X5's steering and handling."
The steering also has received mixed results with some of my colleagues stating it can feel overly soft and floaty when driving around turns unless you engage Sport mode, one of several driving modes.
"Our X5's configuration is a little goofy. Specifically, we got two options that are contradictory: the Off-Road package and the "744" 21-inch Y-spoke wheels with run-flat performance tires. As for the wheels, they're 2 inches bigger in diameter than the X5's stock 19s. Consequently, the tire sidewalls are pretty short. That, plus the grippier rubber, enhances handling but isn't so good for off-roading on rocky terrain. Getting both of these options together is like going for a day hike in the hills and then strapping on your New Balance running shoes." — Brent Romans, Director of Written Content
What Our Track Testing Says About BMW X5
Like we do with all vehicles we get our hands on, we test them. And by test, I mean we drive them. Part of that driving includes testing them on a closed track. The X5 took its turn at the end of August.
Vehicles Testing Editor Reese Counts highlighted a "good showing." The X5 boasted a 5-second 0-60 mph and completed a quarter-mile drive in 13.9 seconds. All-in-all that is pretty good, especially when you want to feel like you are actually moving when you step on the gas.
"Off-the-line power is smooth, with less hesitation than some other German turbocharged vehicles. You get a big swell of torque right around 3,000 rpm," adds Reese.
We also learned that in Comfort mode, the shifts are quick-ish and smooth.
"There's very little hesitation and it, honestly, felt more responsive from a stop than the X5M (though it's not nearly as fierce)," says Reese.
And, while our team has had mixed results on handling, Reese weighs in saying "Credit to the tires. There's plenty of grip ... the X5 allows for a mild amount of slip, though it still errs on the side of understeer."
Though there is an ESC Sport mode, our testing confirms that it is still better to disable everything and handle the traction yourself.
"It requires some work to keep it steady at the limit. Roll is mild in Sport mode and moderate in Comfort mode," adds Reese.
Yet, steering feel is non-existent, he says "So, you never get a sense of what the tires are doing. But, all-wheel drive does work seamlessly.""
New Year; New Engine
"Shopping for a 2021 X5? You'll have a different engine lineup to choose from compared to what we did when we got our 2020 X5. BMW discontinued the 456-hp V8-powered xDrive50i, resulting in two main choices: the 335-hp six-cylinder 40i (as either sDrive or xDrive) or the 523-hp M50i. There is, however, a new-for-2021 plug-in hybrid X5, the x45e. It's similar to the 40i but has 389 hp plus the ability to drive an EPA-estimated 31 on all-electric power. We've tested it, and you can read more about it in our xDrive45e Expert Rating. Which one to get? Personally, I'd strongly consider getting the new 45e (Paying about $20,000 more to get the M50i wouldn't be worth it to me.). The 40i and 45e have similar 0-60 mph acceleration (right around 5 seconds for both) and handling characteristics. I like the idea of using less gas because the 30 miles of electric range is pretty decent for a plug-in hybrid. Interestingly, the 45e is actually a little less expensive than the xDrive40i to buy because it qualifies for the federal $7,500 tax credit." — Brent Romans, Director of Written Content
BMW X5 Versatile Powertrain
"Even without the V8, the inline-six in our long-term X5 is plenty quick. Passing power is ample and fuel economy is still pretty alright. I was even impressed by the ECO PRO mode, especially in stop-and-go traffic. This is a pretty versatile powertrain, and I'd be hard pressed to explain why the V8 is better for day to day use." — Kurt Niebuhr, vehicle test editor
BMW X5's Lack of Agility
"There is a stretch of Highway 1 between Monterey, Ca., and Los Angeles, that has a bespoke warning sign advertising 60 miles of hills and curves, which means it's a great place to get a feel for a vehicle's cornering capabilities. So on a recent trip north to Monterey, that is what I did. In short, our nearly 5,000-pound X5 is a bit of a handful. After much fiddling with the settings, I figured out that if I selected Sport Individual mode, put the steering in Comfort, the damping in Sport, the engine in Sport Plus and the transmission in Sport, the BMW X5 was serviceable through the twisty bits. But, only just. Even with the lightened-up steering, you still feel all that mass sloshing about. Leave the steering in Sport, and the extra resistance merely magnifies the X5's reluctance to change direction. I loved the X5's heft on the freeway, but as a shopper, if I regularly drive on winding roads like Highway 1, I'd take a closer look at the smaller and presumably more agile X3." — Josh Sadlier, director, content strategy
What to know about BMW's interior
One of the BMW X5's greatest strengths is that it exceeds in seat comfort compared to other midsize SUVs. Both the front and second rows are plush and supportive. You can tell the interior is not cheaply made. The Merino leather is soft, and the seats conform to your body. However, ride quality has been debatable by some. Read on to see the pros and cons.
The inside of the BMW X5
The 16-way adjustable power front seats make it easy to find the right adjustment for you. At barely 5-foot-2, I usually have a hard time finding the ideal seat-to-wheel-to-dash ratio. But I was able to adjust both the driver and front passenger seats to allow my small frame to sit comfortably while maintaining a higher seat position to see over the front dash easily.
Plus, the X5 driver's seat adjusts high enough that the visor blocks the sun from my eyes. Since I wear corrective lenses when I drive, it is always difficult to find a seat that goes high enough or a vehicle visor that comes down low enough to block the sun from my view while driving.
Heated front seats come standard on xDrive40i, and there is a $350 upgrade option to add heat to the rear seats. However, I was greatly disappointed to discover that ventilated seats are not an option on any 2020 BMW X5 trims. For those who live in tropical climates, I'm sure you can relate to my dismay. Thankfully, the four-zone climate control system produces a considerable amount of air and cools off the SUV rather quickly.
Additionally, there is ample legroom for even the tallest passengers in the second row. We did not drive the X5 with the third-row seating option, so can't confirm leg space for a sixth and seventh passenger.
Dirt along the way
And, remember when I said we may be rethinking the lush ivory Merino leather seats? Well, Brent and his family, who drove the X5 from Fresno, Ca, to Los Angeles, can attest that they look not-so-great when dirty.
"As a father of two young children, that's pretty much right away. Sticky fingerprint smudges, blue jean marks and coffee stains can all be on prime display," he says. "What, you think I'm giving my kids coffee? Don't be ridiculous. I never let them drink it in the car."
But, we think the ambient nighttime lighting in the X5 made up for the seats. "It is distinctly classy," notes Brent. "There are white and blue accent LED stripes along the dash, doors and center console plus blue illumination in the footwells."
Wait there's more! Our X5 has the optional Panoramic Sky Lounge sunroof.
"Open it up at night and it's got hundreds of blue LED lights that kind of look like stars," Brent adds. "Driving our X5 at night makes me feel like I'm at a chic nighttime club where everybody is beautiful and the martinis cost $25 each."
More on the X5's interior
"Everything is accessible and sturdy. The infotainment system buttons and key safety features are within a finger’s reach on the steering wheel and also dominate the large center console. The console also features the shifter, which is complemented by thermal cooling and heating cupholders, a dual-door center storage unit and wireless phone charger. Unfortunately, your mobile device has to have wireless charging capabilities for the wireless charger to work. Not all Android phones tested were compatible. Plus, the wireless charging station takes up a considerable amount of space. This left no room for everyday items, such as a face mask, keys, lip balm, etc. Plus, there is no dedicated area for a pair of glasses, as found in most vehicles.
There still are plenty of other storage spots throughout the SUV's cabin, including pockets on all doors and behind the driver and passenger seats." — Jodi Tourkow, Senior Director, written content
Think twice before getting white seats in the BMW X5
"These white leather seats are nice when you first pick up the X5 from the local dealership, but after a few months, they're looking pretty ghastly. There's rub-off coloring from all sorts of clothes, making them look disgustingly dirty, even when they're relatively clean." — Travis Langness, reviews editor
Drown Out the Noise in the X5's Cabin
"The ride quality in the X5 is pretty bad, but the interior is definitely quiet as can be. Across Utah, where the speed limit is 80 mph and the roads are currently under construction, there was a lot of exterior noise that could've made it's way into the cabin. But it didn't. There was very little road noise from the X5's sporty tires, and even less wind noise from the side mirrors. And, the engine is utterly hushed even at highway speeds. It's a good way to strap in, hook up your smartphone, and binge a few-dozen episodes of your favorite podcast as you cruise across the country." — Travis Langness, reviews editor
Our X5's ride quality is a little bumpier than I expected, says Director of Written Content Brent Romans. "Now, it's a BMW, so maybe one would be inclined to chalk it up to sportiness. But really, this thing's handling is not engaging enough as justification," he says. "To be clear, the bumpiness is far from being uncomfortable. It might also just be a product of our specific test SUV rather than all X5s. We've got the fairly large 21 wheels with performance tires plus the air suspension as part of the off-road package. Either or both of these could be affecting the ride."
Comfort Mode Isn't As Comfy As You Think
"With the Off-Road Package, our X5 came equipped with an air suspension system. You'd think that makes the ride extra comfortable, and for the most part, it does. I kept the drive mode in "Comfort" for the majority of our trip up the coast and found it cushy and smooth around town. At highway speed, however, with any kind of curves or bends, Comfort mode is way too soft. Body movement feels exaggerated, and it takes a lot of input to make the car rotate in the direction you need. Switching over to Sport mode fixes the problem, and is plenty plush itself, but the unsettled ride in those conditions surprised me. Note to self: unless the road is arrow-straight, stay away from Comfort above 55 mph." — Ryan ZumMallen, reviews editor
Sport Mode Needed for Winding Roads
"After a brief hiatus from driving the X5, I managed to rack up 1,000 miles over the holiday break. Almost half of those miles were accumulated during two trips to Big Bear, a mountain town 110-miles from Los Angeles.
One of the things I noticed most echoes what my colleague Ryan mentioned: Comfort is not the best mode for long drives, especially winding roads on icy terrain. Sport mode was my best bet. I assume it is because in this mode, the SUV adjusts lower to the ground. It tightens up the shocks, allowing the X5 to hug the corners tighter." — Jodi Tourkow, senior director, written content
Shhh ... The X5 is almost as quiet as a mouse
"The suspension on the X5 may be on the taut side but man, it still absorbs the road imperfections and keeps the cabin from shaking about. It's really good. Compare that in contrast to the Tesla Model Y where you can feel EVERY road rut like it was a moon crater. All things being equal price-wise, I don't know why you would get the Tesla over the Beemer. You get so much more with the Beemer. Plus, it it whisper quiet in the cabin. Aside from road noise, which is still hushed, it's dang quiet. I noticed how low the volume setting was on the radio and I had no issues still listening to it." — Rex Tokeshi-Torres, vehicle test technician
BMW X5 Is Near-Perfect For a Road Trip
"It's hard to find fault with the X5 as a road-trip companion. I did find one: there can be excessive wind noise around the exterior mirrors at highway speeds, a minor misstep magnified by the cabin’s otherwise perfect serenity. But our purplish Bimmer checks all the other boxes. The driver seat is sublimely comfortable — I did five hours at a stretch and emerged feeling like I'd just sat down. The Harman/Kardon speakers sound appropriately rich and refined across a range of genres. High-speed composure is exemplary, as you'd expect. The range between freeway fuel stops is a legitimate 500-plus miles; I maxed out at 460 on my one complete tank because the last 100 or so miles were stop-and-go around town. Oh, and the turbocharged inline-6 engine is gratifyingly strong and smooth, as pretty much our entire staff has attested by now. What more could a road-tripper ask for? Shush those mirror housings and I've got nothing." — Josh Sadlier, director, content strategy
BMW X5 Ride Quality Lacks Comfort
"I put 2,100 miles on our long-term X5's clock last month, driving back and forth to Denver from Los Angeles. The ride quality was one of my biggest gripes. It's smooth enough over open highways, but in any city center or on any broken section of road, it's terrible. It feels floaty and unsettled over large bumps, and choppy over the small stuff. Then, when you toss a few corners its way, it feels too heavy to be any fun. The optional air suspension would be a complete deal-breaker for me on one of these as it's not just bad at one thing, it's bad at everything." — Travis Langness, sr review editor
The 12.3-inch touchscreen display is the star and highlights BMW's iDrive in-car communications and entertainment system. There is a lot you can see and control via iDrive, including real-time traffic, daily news, driving modes, fuel management and navigation. Navigation coupled with the BMW's voice command is some of the best and easiest to use out there.
And for the car geek in all of us, you can monitor the X5's performance through various display options on the touchscreen. Some of these features are not immediately intuitive but there are "help" options and menus to guide you.
You can also use the hand gesture controls to change stations and adjust the volume, among other tasks. However, the gesture control option seems more gimmicky than useful. Hand placement has to be just right for the gestures to consistently work. I suggest staying old-school; stick with the touchscreen controls or the ones on the center console or steering wheel mount.
Additional standard highlights include Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, but Android Auto isn't available. There are also four accessible USB charge points and small display screen mounting options behind the two front seats — ideal to keep the kids occupied during longer drives.
Adaptive cruise control, active blind-spot detection, cross-traffic alert and the 3D surround-view cameras work really well. But the lane departure warning, which alerts you when the vehicle begins to move out of a lane, can be overly sensitive in the X5. Unless changed via settings on the touchscreen, it automatically self-adjusts over 40 mph when a lane change is not signaled.
The Driving Assistance Professional package also added stop-and-go cruise control, automatic lane changing and assisted driving, which means the SUV will do some driving for you. The lane-changing assistant actually worked really well. But the assisted driving still isn't really ready for prime time. It does allow you to drive hands-free. But depending on the traffic, you have to closely monitor it, keep your hands really close to the wheel at all times and be prepared to manage oversteering.
The assisted parking cameras and alerts (though loud) were nice and helpful. However, actually learning how the automatic parking assistance worked was virtually impossible.
Southern California saw a surge in snow at the end of January 2021. And like most who live in Los Angeles, getting the chance to drive anywhere and experience another "season" is a must. So off to Big Bear (That mountain town, I mentioned previously), I went.
Bad news was every other Angeleno had the same idea, and I was reminded of pre-COVID traffic. Good news was the BMW X5 xDrive 40i held up nicely during the four-hour commute (Did I mention it is only 110 miles away?), especially the assisted-driving feature.
Now, it may seem that I am contradicting my first assessment of this pseudo self-driving amenity. I still stand by my first thought: the assisted driving isn't really ready for the open road at higher speeds.
However, this time around, I was driving on a one-lane highway at speeds between 20 and 35 mph. The hands-free was effective and consistent throughout the trip duration; it stayed in the lane the whole time; and the X5's brake sensors worked effectively. You still have to keep your hands slightly on the wheel at all times or a "yellow" indicator will alert you. — Jodi Tourkow, senior director, written content
BMW X5 Wireless Connection Was a Bit Lackluster
This was my first experience with a wireless Android Auto connection ... and I was not particularly impressed. Because of my lack of experience with this, I'm not setting out to blame any of the things I took issue with on the BMW; they're just things I noticed and didn't particularly care for. First, it takes a solid minute or more to load after starting up the car before your music picks up where it left off. Twice I shut off my phone's Bluetooth and WiFi connection because I thought the connection had gotten hung up. Second, the connection can get choppy, like music-skipping choppy, and that's pretty frustrating. It might be the age of my antiquated Google Pixel phone. But still, I'd just prefer a wired connection. I will say, I did like how BMW fills the wide-format screen with the map and your music selection. Some manufacturers don't and will leave a blank space where the music information is displayed or just throw up the Android Auto logo — that's low effort. — Kurt Niebuhr, vehicle test editor
X5 Driver Aids Can Be Frustrating
The BMW X5's driver aids are frustratingly aggressive. The closest following distance on the adaptive cruise control is way too distant — it allows a massive gap for other cars to slip into on the highway. It's also slow to react to the speed of drivers ahead. And if cruise control is engaged, and you go around a slightly banked corner with someone in the lane next to you? WHAM, the brakes drop you down by 20 mph. The only place where I'm able to use the distance-control part of the adaptive cruise control system, is when I'm on wide-open, relatively-straight highway. — Travis Langness, sr reviews editor
BMW X5 Struggles to Stay Connected
I drove our BMW X5 to and from Colorado this week (a nice, long road trip is good for the soul), and the smartphone connectivity was spotty at best. The wireless Apple CarPlay connection dropped at least a dozen times, cutting my music, halting directions in the middle of nowhere and generally frustrating me. One of the times the system failure was so bad, I had to pull off the freeway, turn off the car, get out, wait for 30 seconds, then boot it all back up just for a successful reconnection of my phone. Oh, and wireless is the only way you can go on this system. Turning off my Bluetooth connection on my phone and plugging it in? That only connects my music. Not really a great set of traits for a vehicle in this price bracket. — Travis Langness, senior reviews editor
2020 BMW X5: Utility
Our X5's cargo area is roomy and provides decent space for luggage. It has 33.9 cubic feet of trunk space, so even with a cabin full of people, you have a good amount of space for cargo. Plus, everything is accessible and sturdy. The infotainment system buttons and key safety features are within a finger's reach on the steering wheel and also dominate the large center console.
Abundant cargo area, but console space is severely lacking
First, the good. Our X5's cargo area is pretty roomy for luggage and the like, says Brent. It also has a few tricks that enhance its utility. The main one is the power liftgate/tailgate combo. The lower tailgate stays in place when you first open the liftgate. This is helpful to make sure things don't roll out or fall out. You can then quickly lower the tailgate by pressing a button. Our X5 also has a button on that tailgate to drop the ride height by a couple of inches, which can make it a little easier to load heavy items. The console also features the shifter, which is complemented by thermal cooling and heating cupholders, a dual-door center storage unit and wireless phone charger.
"Now, the not so good: There's no great place to put your smartphone in this thing," adds Brent. There's a wireless charging pad underneath a sliding lid, but it's not a particularly convenient location. It's also ahead of the front cupholders. Putting drinks in said cupholders prevents you from getting to your phone.
"When I'm driving alone, I can use one of the cupholders to store my phone. But on a recent road trip, my wife and I both had drinks and phones," noted Brent. "We ended up putting our phones on top of the console controls, which was suboptimal. They either covered buttons I wanted to push or slid off when I'd take a turn."
Plus, the wireless charging station takes up a considerable amount of space. And, I agree. The configuration of the wireless charger left no room for everyday items, such as a face mask, keys, lip balm, etc. Plus, there is no dedicated area for a pair of glasses, as found in most vehicles. Unfortunately, your mobile device has to have wireless charging capabilities for the wireless charger to work. Not all Android phones tested were compatible.
However, there still are plenty of other storage spots throughout the SUV's cabin, including pockets on all doors and behind the driver and passenger seats.
Sometimes, it's the little things, or accessories, that matter
"If there's one thing I've learned over my years of camping, it's that people will camp in anything. By now, automakers should account for the possibility that their vehicle could spend time in a campground, especially if it's a fairly large SUV. The X5 does two things right: space and accessibility. With some careful Tetris packing, we squeezed a ton of equipment inside, including a 40-quart cooler, a tent and air mattress, three sleeping bags and two folding chairs. Once at the site, the fold-down tailgate proved super handy as a shelf. But I kept searching the cargo hold for things that weren't there. USB ports or power outlets? A flat space for beverages? Hooks to hang a trash bag? None of that. Our X5 can haul, but it's lacking clever touches that would make a big difference." — Ryan ZumMallen, reviews editor
BMW X5's door pockets = good; 12-volt outlet = cause for concern
"I always like to check the tire pressure and fill up any low tires with air when I am getting ready for a road triip. I have an air compressor that plugs into a 12-volt outlet in any vehicle. But, not this X5 it seems. I tried the outlet in the center console, rear seats and in the cargo area; none worked. This seemed strange, and I began to worry that my compressor was broken. I went to try it in my personal car, and the compressor fired right up. This is something we will look into when we take the BMW X5 in for service soon. However, I want to give kudos to the designer of the door pockets of the BMW X5. I was able to fit a 32-ounce hydroflask in the bottle holder, and it fit perfectly. These pockets are often able to accommodate bottles half that size, so this is a great perk for folks who want to stay hydrated." — Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor
Can the BMW X5's cargo handle a golf bag?
"Although driving from LA to Monterey and back is an epic experience all by itself, my main business on the Monterey Peninsula this time was whacking golf balls. This is why the BMW X5's cargo area was tasked with carrying my golf bag and cart.
How'd it do? Truth be told, I expected to find more usable space in the back of this midsize SUV. Because there's a first-aid kit mounted flush on the left cargo wall, you can't fit a golf bag sideways next to the tailgate, and the cargo area isn't deep enough to accommodate a bag lengthwise. The only way to stow it is diagonally across the cargo floor, which of course makes it harder to pack other stuff around it. I could understand if this were a BMW X1 or an X3, but we're talking about the big daddy X5 here. I looked up the dimensions — it is 2.5 inches wider than my 2001 Land Cruiser!
Your feelings may vary if you're not a golfer. For me, if I'm buying a vehicle of this magnitude, I want the real-world cargo space to be more of a plus." — Josh Sadlier, director, content strategy