BMW X5 Performance
Reviewers reserve their highest praise for the BMW X5’s sporty performance and surprising acceleration. Though the X5 is one of the most expensive SUVs in its class, reviewers say it’s hard to find a more exciting driving experience in a three-row family hauler. If you can afford to opt for the diesel model, you’ll get improved highway fuel economy without sacrificing BMW’s trademark driving dynamics.
- "The current X5 in general rides better than the first-generation vehicle, and its steering is pleasantly weighted. Although tall and heavy, it is nonetheless a sport-utility that doesn't ignore the ‘sport.’" -- Automobile Magazine
- "The X5 is one of the more planted vehicles you will drive. It's strong in corners, nimble in turning and passing and has stout brakes. We put those brakes to the test a few times on the heavily congested roads of Miami and they responded promptly." -- AutoWeek
- "Behind-the-wheel, the 2011 X5 is much as it's always been, with responsive steering and a smooth, compliant ride - even on rough pavement and rutted-up dirt roads. Though it arguably doesn't hustle quite as well when the going gets twisty as the X6, it's still more agile than most offerings in its segment. After all, it may be an SUV, but it's also a BMW." -- Motor Trend
- "Handling was Teutonically taut as we have come to enjoy in most Munich-based vehicles - even if this one was built in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It cornered flatly and handled expressway on and off ramps equally well." -- Left Lane News
- "With the standard 18-inch tires, the ride is comfortable and controlled. Bump absorption is quite good, given the overall sporting intention of this SUV." -- Consumer Guide
Acceleration and Power
The 2012 BMW X5 offers the same set of engines reviewers loved in 2011 models. Base xDrive35i models come with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six engine that makes 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Stepping up to the xDrive35d diesel models requires an extra $4,600 and will get you a 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six that burns diesel fuel. This engine makes less horsepower than the base gas-powered engine with only 265 ponies under the hood, but its 425 pound-feet of torque blow the base engine away. Finally, at $63,800, the top-of-the-line xDrive50i commands a $16,600 price premium over the base model, but comes with a 4.4-liter V8 engine that makes 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. All models come standard with xDrive, BMW’s all-wheel drive system. The gas-powered engines in xDrive35i and xDrive50i models are mated to the same eight-speed automatic transmission with manual mode, while the diesel xDrive35d powerplant gets a six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode.
Reviewers say even the base engine is more than competent for most drivers, but real speed demons will want to step up to the rip-roaring BMW X5 xDriveM, which is reviewed separately. Its $86,400 MSRP isn’t cheap by any means, but for this model, BMW’s high-performance tuning division has squeezed an extra 155 horsepower and 50 pound-feet of torque out of the xDrive50i’s V8 powerplant.
The X5’s excellent driving dynamics come with a fuel economy price though. The EPA estimates that the base xDrive35i will get 16/23 mpg city/highway, while the more-powerful xDrive50i gets about 14/20 mpg city/highway. Figures for the 2012 xDrive35d haven’t been released yet, but the similar 2011 model got an EPA rating of 19/26 mpg city/highway.
- "The xDrive35d diesel enjoys direct throttle response. It feels as fast as many V8 engines, with great power at any speed. The transmission shifts smoothly with alert downshifts." -- Consumer Guide
- "Engine performance is strong throughout the lineup, even with the base six-cylinder." -- Edmunds
- "We found the turbo six adept at charging from 40 to 80 mph, easily dispensing with dawdlers on the two-lane highways on the outskirts of the Florida Everglades." -- Automobile Magazine
- "Thanks to its solid torque range, the 5.3-second 0-60 mph sprint only partially shows this V8's strength. Highway passing is phenomenal and we'll be anxious to visit a less flat testing locale to sample its mountain highway abilities." -- Left Lane News
- "Running north out of Miami in slow traffic, we had plenty of time to experience the legendary smoothness of BMW's inline-six working through its new gearbox. Thinking that eight gears might be one or two too many, your author was surprised at the transmission's smoothness in city driving." -- Autoblog
Handling and Braking
Reviewers rave about the BMW X5’s handling, though shoppers looking to be coddled may want to look elsewhere. This SUV has some serious sporting intentions, so its ride is stiffer and its steering is sportier than most other midsize luxury SUVs. The auto press says the X5’s standard all-wheel drive helps it grip the road well during both light off-road excursions and spirited on-road driving. One reviewer mentions that the X5’s steering is precise and well-weighted, even when the SUV isn’t in Sport mode.
- "With the standard 18-inch tires, the ride is comfortable and controlled. Bump absorption is quite good given the overall sporting intention of this SUV." -- Consumer Guide
- "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." -- Edmunds
- "On gravel roads, the interior of the X5 soaked up rutted and gravel packed roads without transmitting jarring or harshness into the cabin, making it a solid drive-to-the-cabin family hauler." -- Left Lane News
- "The steering has a satisfying weight to it, and allows the driver to pilot this hefty vehicle with ease. Tight turns and cornering are no problem. The suspension is comfortable over all surfaces, and families will like that. For a little more fun, drop it into sport mode with the flick of a button in the center console and the steering immediately gets heavier and more responsive." --AutoWeek