Realizing that most SUV buyers rarely, if ever, venture off-road, the BMW X5 was designed for on-road performance and handling. It was BMW's first foray into the luxury SUV market, and its success compelled virtually all of its rivals to follow suit in the decades that followed. Short overhangs, a relatively compact size (the original was 4.5 inches shorter than the 5 Series sedan of the time) and car-based underpinnings combined to give the X5 its superb on-road performance. Built at BMW's first American assembly plant in South Carolina, the X5 quickly became a huge hit for BMW in the U.S.
The first-generation BMW X5 only sat five people, a disappointment for those who wanted greater utility. This concern was addressed with the second-generation model, which offered a third-row seat and room for seven, along with more cargo capacity. Despite this growth, the X5 remained very entertaining to drive as luxury SUVs go. The latest, third-generation X5 stays the course with subtle, evolutionary changes that fortify the X5's standing as a fine choice, new or used, for a midsize luxury SUV that seats five or seven.
Current BMW X5
The current X5 is a midsize SUV sold in four trims, each one signifying a different engine: 35i, 35d, 40e and 50i. Standard features on the 35i and 35d include adaptive xenon headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a power liftgate, heated front seats, navigation, a nine-speaker audio system and premium vinyl upholstery. The 40e includes those features plus adjustable suspension dampers and a rear air suspension. Stepping up to the 50i further adds a rearview camera, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and satellite radio. Most additional features are bundled in packages, but there are many stand-alone options. Highlights include sport front seats, shift paddles, ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control, automated parking and a night-vision camera system.
Powering the 35i model is a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that produces 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. The 35d comes with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six diesel that makes 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. The 40e is a plug-in hybrid that pairs an electric motor with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; the combined output is 308 hp and 332 lb-ft. The range-topping 50i gets a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 good for 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. All have an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 35i comes standard with rear-wheel drive (sDrive), with all-wheel drive (xDrive) optional on that model and standard on all others.
On the road, the third-generation X5 exhibits virtues such as sharp steering, competent handling, a supple ride and effortless high-speed interstate cruising. The interior is elegant, with solid construction and high-quality materials. Models with the upgraded and extended leather options are particularly impressive. From the driver's seat, you're presented with classic BMW gauges and a large central display screen with crisp graphics. The front seats are nicely shaped and adjust for a wide range of body types.
Utility, however, can also be a concern. The second-row seats are comfortable, but rear legroom is merely adequate. Although it increases seating capacity to seven, the optional third row is even more cramped and really only accommodates children. All things considered, however, the latest X5 is a great choice for a midsize luxury crossover SUV.
Used BMW X5 Models
Redesigned for 2014, the current BMW X5 remains about the same size and weight as the previous-generation model and looks mostly similar. The most noticeable visual difference involves the blended-into-the-grille headlight cluster. Among the improvements are a slightly roomier cabin, a second-row seat that is split into 40/20/40 sections, and the adoption of the eight-speed automatic transmission for the diesel-powered engine.
For 2015, BMW tweaked the transmission calibration to deliver minor gains in fuel economy and performance. The 40e plug-in hybrid debuted in 2016, and for 2017, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a wireless charging pad were added to the options list while the four-wheel steering option was dropped.
The second-generation BMW X5 was produced from 2007 to '13. This X5 was bigger, more luxurious and smoother-riding than its predecessor. These BMW X5s offer a fair amount of utility thanks to standard all-wheel drive and an optional third-row seat. They're also quite sporty as they infuse spirited acceleration and sharp handling into the high-riding body of a family-friendly crossover SUV. As such, these second-gen X5s remain very attractive for those who want the "S" in SUV to actually mean something.
This X5 was initially available as the 3.0si (260-hp 3.0-liter inline-six) and the 4.8i (350-hp 4.8-liter V8). Both had six-speed automatic transmissions. These models were renamed xDrive30i and xDrive48i for 2009, the same year the turbodiesel (265-hp) xDrive35d debuted. In 2011, the model names and engines were updated to xDrive35i (300 hp) and xDrive50i (400 hp) with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six and a turbo 4.4-liter V8, respectively. The gas engines had an eight-speed automatic transmission, while the turbodiesel stayed with the older six-speed automatic.
Standard features for the '07 X5 included adaptive xenon headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control and the iDrive interface. Optional extras included adaptive suspension dampers, auto-dimming mirrors, leather upholstery, a rearview camera, parking sensors, upgraded upholstery and a third row of seating. By the end of its run, the X5 could be ordered with a side-view parking camera, automatic high-beam control, heated rear seats and the exciting M Sport package.
In Edmunds road tests of the time, our editors found this X5's handsome cabin very accommodating, with comfortable seating for the first two rows. Materials and build quality were top-notch, and the iDrive system by this time had become one of the better multifunction electronics interfaces available. The heavy steering at low speeds and a smallish, kids-only third-row seat are the only sour notes.
Aside from powertrain changes, the second-generation X5 didn't change much over its lifespan. BMW updated the iDrive interface and navigation system graphics in 2010. A mild styling refresh and larger central display screen were among the upgrades for 2011. For 2013, an M Performance package debuted; in addition to cosmetic upgrades, it added 15 hp to the xDrive35i and 40 hp to the xDrive50i.
The original, first-generation BMW X5 was produced from 2000 to '06. It was initially offered with one engine only: a 4.4-liter V8. A 3.0-liter inline-six debuted the following year. Though the six-cylinder offered superior fuel economy and adequate overall performance, it was often criticized for its lack of off-the-line grunt. The 4.4i reached 60 mph in less than 8 seconds. One note to buyers looking at a first-year BMW X5: All X5 models manufactured after June 2000 (starting with the '01 model year) benefited from important structural changes that improved occupant protection in frontal crashes.
In reviews, we typically praised the first-generation BMW X5 for its carlike ride and handling, its wide range of engine choices, and its top safety scores and equipment. Oft-noted downsides included its lack of off-road ability and small cargo area.
In 2002, the high-performance BMW X5 4.6is debuted, boasting a 4.6-liter V8 making 340 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The midlevel X5 4.4i saw an 8-hp increase to 290 for the year. Towing aficionados welcomed a new version of the stability control system that aided trailer towing. In 2004, the X5's new front fascia received BMW's signature corona ringed headlamps, optional adaptive headlights and new foglamps. The year also marked the introduction of BMW's new all-wheel-drive system, xDrive. Compared to the previous setup, xDrive was far more capable, with its ability to transfer 100 percent of the engine's torque to one individual wheel. (The old system could only distribute torque front to rear.) Also noteworthy for 2004 was the replacement of the high-performance X5 4.6is with the 355-hp 4.8is model. BMW also installed the V8 engine from the 2002 7 Series sedan in the midlevel X5 4.4i, which raised output by 25 horses to 315 hp.