- Potent and efficient engines
- Luxurious and comfortable interior
- Huge list of features
- Steadfast high-speed stability
- Third-row seat is strictly for little kids
- Higher price than many competing luxury crossover SUVs
Introduced at the turn of the 21st century, the X5 was the first utility vehicle in the BMW lineup, and in many ways, it's still the most desirable of the German automaker's crossovers. Like every X5 before it, the 2016 BMW X5 is a luxurious and well-built midsize crossover SUV that's spacious enough for everyday family use and capable enough to get you through a snowstorm. What really sets it apart from rivals, though, is its engaging character. It's a delight to drive any day of the year.
Carefully tuned suspension and steering systems contribute much to the BMW X5's winning personality. In spite of its considerable size and weight, this midsize crossover steers with precision and feels athletic going around turns, yet it's also comfy enough for long-distance highway travel. Of course, BMW has always offered a sweet lineup of engines, too. The vast majority of X5 buyers will be happy with the power and efficiency of the entry-level turbocharged six-cylinder, but there's also a turbocharged V8 and a diesel six-cylinder. For 2016, BMW has added a fourth option: the new X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid model that has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a lithium-ion battery pack. The batteries are a supplement rather than the primary power source (13 miles is the limit in electric-only mode), but even so, the hybrid BMW X5 should be almost as quick as a base six-cylinder X5, while consuming less fuel.
Unlike those early days of the X5, though, there's now no shortage of options if you're shopping for a midsize luxury crossover SUV. Although you'd be hard-pressed to find a crossover with a nicer interior, the 2016 BMW X5 might not be the best fit for families, even when equipped with its optional third-row seat. Less expensive models like the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60 have roomier third rows, while the revamped Volvo XC90 offers built-in child booster seats. On the other hand, if it's performance you're after, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne are likely to be just as enjoyable to drive. You'll probably also want to check out long-time rivals like the Lexus RX 350 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (formerly the M-Class), as both are redesigned for 2016. On the whole, though, we think very highly of the BMW X5, and it remains a benchmark in this class.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2016
For 2016, the BMW X5 line expands to include the xDrive40e plug-in hybrid model (late availability). It combines a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a lithium-ion battery pack.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
A midsize crossover SUV, the 2016 BMW X5 comes in 35i, 35d, 40e and 50i trim levels. All have all-wheel drive (xDrive), though there is also a rear-drive version of the 35i available (sDrive). The 40e is the new plug-in hybrid model and arrives later in the model year. (The high-performance X5 M is reviewed separately.) Five-passenger seating is standard, and an optional third-row seat increases capacity to seven.
Standard equipment for the 35i and 35d includes 19-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, LED foglights, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, automatic wipers, a panoramic sunroof, a power liftgate, roof rails, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, "SensaTec" premium vinyl upholstery, heated 10-way power front seats (with four-way power lumbar) and driver memory settings. Electronics features include BMW Assist, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 10.2-inch central display screen, the iDrive controller, a navigation system, voice controls, traffic reporting and a nine-speaker sound system with a CD player, USB and auxiliary audio inputs and HD radio. Look for a very similar equipment list on the xDrive 40e, which also gets standard adjustable suspension dampers and rear air suspension (optional on all other X5s) along with hybrid-specific instrumentation and additional iDrive menu items.
The X5 xDrive50i builds on the 35 models' equipment list with standard keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery, 16-way power (multicontour) front seats, four-zone climate control, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, satellite radio and a rearview camera.
Many option packages are available to help you customize your X5. Starting things off are three optional equipment lines -- Luxury, xLine and M Sport -- that include different wheel designs (up to 20 inches), color schemes and trim and upholstery types. M Sport also includes sport front seats and shift paddles for the transmission.
From here, the Premium package for the 35i and 35d adds keyless ignition and entry, four-zone climate control, satellite radio and leather upholstery, while the Luxury Seating package gets you the multicontour front seats with added ventilation (ventilated seats are a separate option for the 50i). The Cold Weather package includes a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats.
The Driver Assistance package features a rearview camera and a head-up display (35i and 35d). To this, the Driver Assistance Plus package adds adaptive cruise control, a surround-view camera and a long list of driver safety aids highlighted in the Safety section of this review. The Dynamic Handling package (xDrive models only) adds an enhanced all-wheel-drive system and a body roll mitigation feature for improved road holding. The Lighting package bundles upgraded adaptive LED headlights and automatic high-beam headlight control.
Other options for the 2016 BMW X5 include active steering (xDrive models only, excluding the 40e), a sportier adaptive M suspension (not available on 40e), automated parking assist, soft-close automatic doors, upgraded and/or extended leather upholstery, upgraded interior trim, smartphone app integration and rear window manual sunshades. All X5s except the hybrid can be equipped with second-row comfort seats (with fore/aft and recline adjustment) and a third-row seat (includes the rear air suspension). You can also order a deluxe Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system, a rear-seat entertainment system and a night-vision camera system.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
As with most BMWs, the X5's interior layout is elegant, with solid construction and high-quality materials. Models with the upgraded and extended leather options are particularly impressive. From the driver seat, you're presented with classic BMW gauges and a large central display screen with crisp graphics. The standard front seats are ideally shaped and adjust for a wide range of body types, while the available multicontour seats are some of the most comfortable and adjustable seats found in any car.
The iDrive interface works well for controlling and adjusting all of the X5's systems, and even includes a touchpad on the control knob for handwritten navigation inputs. Still, iDrive typically takes a few more clicks and twists of the control knob to get what you want compared with some rival systems that are easier to use.
Utility can also be a concern. The second-row seats are comfortable, but legroom is merely adequate. The optional third row is cramped and will be a tight fit, even for children. With both rows folded, cargo space measures 66 cubic feet, which is about average for the segment and barely better than BMW's smaller X3. One distinct attribute of the X5 is its split two-section liftgate. The lower, smaller section pulls down flat, making it easy to sit on for tailgating.
Every 2016 BMW X5 includes stability and traction control, antilock brakes, automatic brake drying, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active head restraints. Also standard are the BMW Assist and Remote Services emergency communications systems, which provide automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery, remote lock/unlock and on-demand roadside assistance. The optional Driver Assistance package adds a rearview camera and a head-up display, while the Driver Assistance Plus package adds to those items blind-spot monitoring, a top-down camera system, lane-departure warning, speed limit info and a frontal collision warning and mitigation system with pedestrian detection that can apply the vehicle's brakes automatically to prevent or minimize an impact at low speeds.
In a simulated panic stop from 60 mph, the X5 xDrive35i took 122 feet, which is an average distance for the segment.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the X5 earned a top score of "Good" for its performance in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests. The performance of the optional collision mitigation system earned the top "Superior" rating.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The X5 sDrive35i (rear-wheel drive) and xDrive35i (all-wheel drive) models feature a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine that produces 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. As with all other X5s, the 35i models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and the xDrive versions include hill descent control.
The EPA estimates the sDrive35i's fuel economy at 21 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway). The xDrive version is just slightly lower at 20 mpg combined (18/24), and we've easily matched these numbers on our standard test-drive route. In our performance testing, an X5 xDrive 35i accelerated from zero to 60 mph in just 6.1 seconds, a very good number for a base-engine midsize luxury SUV.
The xDrive35d features a diesel-powered 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder that produces 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. BMW estimates its 0-60 performance in 6.7 seconds. Fuel economy estimates weren't available as of this writing, but last year's 35d checked in at 27 mpg combined.
Next up is the new-for-2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid model. It uses a 240-hp version of BMW's turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a specialized version of the eight-speed automatic transmission (with an electric motor built into it) and a 9-kilowatt-hour battery pack housed under the cargo bay floor. Together, this setup delivers 308 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. BMW claims the hybrid will hit 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. The X5 xDrive40e also has an estimated all-electric driving range of 13 miles. With its 3.6kW onboard charger, it should take just under three hours to charge fully at 240 volts.
At the top of the BMW X5 line, the xDrive50i has a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine good for 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. At the pump, you're looking at 17 mpg combined (15/21). BMW puts its 0-60 capability at a very swift 4.9 seconds.
Properly equipped, non-hybrid versions of the X5 can tow up to 6,000 pounds.
The 2016 BMW X5 is one of the best-handling midsize luxury crossovers around. Whether you're driving on back roads or on an endless expanse of interstate, the X5 is a champ, feeling secure and stable, yet also relatively fun to drive. Wind and tire noise are pleasantly muted, and the ride is firm yet forgiving. There's some choppiness on occasion, though, and if you're sensitive to ride comfort, we'd advise against the optional 20-inch wheels.
Engine performance is strong throughout the 2016 BMW X5 lineup, even with the base six-cylinder, which is refined and surprisingly vigorous in this heavy midsize crossover. The turbocharged V8 in the X5 xDrive50i, meanwhile, is a beast, delivering rapid acceleration when you want it while remaining civilized in commuter traffic. Still, our favorite engine is the xDrive35d's diesel six-cylinder. Its prodigious torque output gives you quick acceleration around town, yet it's still strong enough for easy passing on the highway. Its high fuel economy is just a fantastic bonus.
Thanks to its well-rounded nature, the 2016 BMW X5 is a top choice for a luxury crossover SUV, especially if performance is a priority.