- Athletic handling
- Potent and efficient engines
- Luxurious and comfortable interior
- Huge list of features
- Steadfast high-speed stability
- Standard steering is stiff at low speeds
- Ride may be firm for some
- Hefty price
After coming off a slight refresh last year, the 2012 BMW X5 sees little in the way of change. And that suits us just fine, as the vehicle that defined the luxury crossover SUV segment more than a decade ago still makes the top of the list. With generous features, a choice of powerful engines, a refined interior and solid on-road credentials, it's easy to see why.
As a front-running luxury crossover, the X5 offers nearly every modern convenience we've come to expect. Evolving improvements to BMW's iDrive interface makes controlling these features easy as well. Shoppers also have several engine choices, ranging from a stout turbocharged six-cylinder to a brawny twin-turbo V8 or a torque-rich diesel. There's even a 555-horsepower monster in the X5 M.
All of the X5's rich offerings come at a price, of course. And that price climbs sharply once you begin adding options. Buyers should also be aware that some items, like optional third-row seats suitable only for children, heavy steering effort at low speeds, and a ride quality that might be too stiff for some may tarnish some of the X5's shine.
Even with these drawbacks in mind, the 2012 BMW X5 is a top pick among a strong group of competitors. The Acura MDX, Infiniti FX and Land Rover LR4 are worth a look and will probably leave more money in your bank account. You'll spend a lot for Porsche's Cayenne, but it holds the performance edge. And don't overlook the Mercedes M-Class given its impending redesign this year. For all-around excellence, however, the X5 is hard to beat.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2012
After last year's refresh, the 2012 BMW X5 returns with some previously optional features becoming standard. Most notably, the xDrive50i now comes with the navigation system as standard.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2012 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. The last three digits in the xDrive name indicate 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, foglights, automatic and adaptive xenon headlights, roof rails, a power tailgate with adjustable opening height, automatic wipers, parking sensors, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 10-way power front seats, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, BMW Assist telematics with Bluetooth and a 12-speaker sound system with HD radio, a CD player, an iPod/USB audio interface and an auxiliary audio jack. The diesel-powered xDrive35d is equipped similarly, but adds a panoramic sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, heated front seats and the availability of additional options.
The xDrive35i Premium enhances the 35d's extra content with 19-inch wheels, privacy glass, a power-adjustable steering wheel and leather upholstery (all are available options on the xDrive35d). The xDrive35i Sport Activity adds an upgraded suspension, 20-inch wheels, sport seats, a sport steering wheel, darker exterior trim and an increased top speed. This equipment is optional on the xDrive50i, which instead gets a V8 engine, a navigation system and a 16-speaker premium stereo.
The base xDrive35i offers the fewest options, eligible only for the Convenience package (panoramic sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, wood interior trim and ambience lighting), heated front seats, satellite radio and a navigation system.
These items, plus a cornucopia of others, are available on the higher trims both in packages and as stand-alone options. They include a multiview parking camera, sideview cameras, active steering, an adaptive suspension, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, the third-row seat, Comfort Access keyless entry (push-button start is standard), four-zone climate control, 14-way "multicontour" front seats, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a head-up display, a rear seat entertainment system, the 16-speaker premium sound system and satellite radio.
The M Sport package available on the xDrive35i Sport Activity and xDrive50i includes different 20-inch wheels, the adaptive suspension, parking sensors, a body kit and an M steering wheel.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
As with most BMWs, the X5's interior layout is elegant yet 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 comfort seats offer even more adjustment). The 2012 X5's cabin is not without its drawbacks, though. The second-row seats are mounted a bit too low to the floor, even though headroom is plentiful. 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.
Standard safety equipment on all 2012 BMW X5s includes antilock brakes, stability control, brake drying and standby features, a rollover sensor, BMW Assist emergency telematics, active front head restraints, front side airbags and side curtain airbags for the first and second rows. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the X5 its highest rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, an xDrive35d with optional 19-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in a just-average 121 feet.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
All 2012 BMW X5 models are all-wheel drive but shoppers may choose from three available engines. The xDrive35i is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that produces 300 hp and 300 pound-feet of torque. Both this engine and the xDrive50i come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission. According to BMW, the 35i will go from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. Its EPA-estimated fuel economy registers 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg in combined driving.
The X5 xDrive50i gets a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 producing 400 hp and a robust 450 lb-ft of torque. It'll do the 0-60 run in 5.3 seconds and returns a less efficient fuel economy rating of 14/20/16 mpg.
The X5 xDrive35d features a 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel that produces 265 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque. It comes with a six-speed automatic. In Edmunds acceleration testing, it went from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. This engine, which features so-called "clean diesel" technology returns estimated fuel economy of 19/26/22.
The 2012 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.
The 2012 BMW X5 remains a top choice among luxury crossover SUVs thanks to its athletic performance and refined interior.