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2018 BMW X5 Overview

BMW first entered the crossover game in 2000, with its first-generation X5. Unlike others, it promised sports-car-like handling with increased ground clearance and light off-road prowess. That is a mantra that has held up over the years, as a larger second-generation X5 was released in 2007, and then a third in 2014. For 2018, the fourth-generation BMW X5 enters its fifth year on the market without a major refresh and minimal updates.

Although it is known as a crossover, BMW refers to the X5 as a Sports Activity Vehicle, or SAV, and that’s evidenced by its athletic styling and powerful engines. All four of its trims, 35i, 35d, 40e iPerformance, and 50i, feature drivetrains that are optimized toward on-road performance. The first of these, 35i, brings a turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine. Unlike all of the other trims, rear-wheel-drive (sDrive in BMW parlance) is standard, while all-wheel-drive (xDrive) is an extra-cost option.

The 50i is the performance variant, showcasing a twin-turbocharged 8-cylinder that shaves the 0 to 60 mph time down to a sports-car-like 4.7 seconds, impressive for such a heavy vehicle. The 35d and 40e iPerformance are fuel-economy champions. The 35d has an inline 6-cylinder diesel with 25 mpg on the combined city, highway cycle and up to 700 miles of range between fill-ups. Lastly, the 40e iPerformance is a plug-in hybrid option that pairs a turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine with electric propulsion for 13 miles of all-electric range and 56 miles-per-gallon-equivalent (MPGe) in electric mode or 24 mpg in hybrid mode, while still being nearly as fast as the base 35i powertrain. With all engines, the transmission is an 8-speed automatic unit. Reviewers say that the X5 performs admirably on the road in a way that defies its heft and footprint, while also noting that the suspension is firmer than those of competing crossovers.

No matter which drivetrain, BMW gives buyers three appearance packages, xLine Design, Luxury Design, and M Sport Design. The xLine Design and Luxury Design are similar, carrying BMW’s standard SUV design language of rugged, squared-off shapes with plenty of black plastic cladding. These two packages differ mostly in their use of satin silver accents for xLine Design or chrome for Luxury Design. The M Sport Design is the most drastic change, doing away with most of the exterior bright-work and replacing the bumpers and side skirts with lowered, body-colored ones. Unique wheels, an M Sport three-spoke steering wheel, M Sport seats, and a performance-tuned suspension are also added. From there, the largest upgrades are grouped into tiers. Premium Tier nets keyless access, satellite radio, and 4-zone climate control. Executive Tier adds surround-view cameras, soft-close automatic doors, automatic high beams, and active park assist. One interesting option is a Dynamic Handling package with electronic mechanisms that actively prevent body roll during cornering. Other à la carte options include heated steering wheel, a head-up display, active cruise control with a stop-and-go city driving feature, and wireless charging.

The X5’s interior is handsome, spacious, and luxurious, with ergonomic high-tech controls, tasteful applications of satin silver and authentic wood, and a standard panoramic moonroof. The iDrive 6.0 system sits front-and-center inside of its pop-up-like display panel, and it can be manipulated by voice, touch, or the rotary controller in the center console. The basic seats are leatherette, but can be fitted with leather. BMW’s all-leather Multi-Contour seats are a worthwhile option, as they are 20-way adjustable, including headrest wings, bolster width, and thigh support. The X5 also features “monostatic” gear selector, which debuted with the 2007 X5 and quickly proliferated across the BMW lineup. It’s shaped like a video game joystick and operates like one, too, in that it always returns to center. Space-wise, the cabin is perfectly comfortable for five people, but is less so for seven with the optional third row. Unlike larger competitor models, the X5’s third-row seats are primarily for children or people of very short stature. One notable feature not seen in competitors is a split-level clamshell rear door; the X5’s powered upper tailgate can be raised and lowered separately from the lower section, which is excellent for loading groceries or actual tailgating.

For standard safety equipment, the X5 includes eight airbags and BMW Assist technology, a subscription model with roadside assistance, stolen-vehicle recovery, and automatic crash notification. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has tested the X5, but data is incomplete. Only the moderate front overlap and side categories are included, receiving top scores of Good. As far as safety aids, BMW offers a bevy of camera and radar-based systems, including blind spot monitoring, collision mitigation, lane departure warning, frontal collision warning, and pedestrian protection. With collision mitigation, the X5 can avoid or significantly decrease the severity of a collision, earning a Superior rating for front crash prevention.

BMW’s X5 was a pioneer of the athletic luxury crossover, but now finds itself in a hot, competitive category. Despite similar entrants crowding the segment, the X5 still holds its own with a magic combination of style, sport, luxury, and middle-of-the-road pricing. Favorable lease rates and 4-year, 50,000-mile warranty with included maintenance—not to mention a $4,668 maximum tax credit for the plug-in hybrid variant—make the X5 an attractive option indeed. And in keeping with BMW practices, it can be configured in a near-infinite number of ways, both styling and performance, so there is an X5 for nearly anyone’s tastes.


Kyree has always been fascinated with the automotive world, especially when it comes to premium European cars. But regardless of the vehicle—whether it's an efficient hybrid or the latest luxury sled—he's always ready to dispense information and advice. These days, he enjoys doing that here at CarGurus.

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