Review: BMW X5

It's spacious, practical and a brilliant on-road performer

08 Jul 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Safe and secure

  • Lots of standard equipment

  • Refined interior

Cons

  • Expensive repairs

  • Firm drive

  • Tyres need replacing often

Our expert rating

The BMW X5 is a midsize luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV) that has been on the scene since 1999. It features all-wheel drive and is available with either manual or automatic transmission. Later models were also made with an option to have seven seats.

Performance

The X5 is a prestigious cruising machine, realistically bought for its good looks and on-road expertise rather than its off-road aptitude. It is surprisingly agile on the road and the engines of most models offer strong performance.

Regardless of its size, it is easy and rewarding to drive, especially fitted with a smooth auto gearbox. Aim for the 3.0 diesel: it is effortless and has just the right sort of “oomph” that a big motor like this requires. Furthermore, it will do around 30mpg, a good 10mpg more than the petrol versions.

Side of BMW X5

Ride and handling

The BMW X5 is a little too firm on lumpy stretches of tarmac, but that pays off on twisty country bends when you can almost forget you’re in a fairly big SUV. Indeed, it is probably the best in its segment for pure on-road prowess. If fitted with M Sport suspension and larger wheels then the hard ride is even more pronounced, but this also adds to its sporty drive.

Interior space

This is a nicely sized vehicle inside and there is plenty of room in the back for three adults. Alas, the load area isn’t the largest, but the boot is a practical shape which makes up for this. What’s more, the tailgate is divided so that just the glass can be opened up, and the lower part descends to give a level loading platform.

Interior BMW X5

What to know before you buy

You will be able to tell a used and abused BMW X5 because, if driven hard, the SUV goes through tyres like there’s no tomorrow. It also burns through brakes and steering bushes, resulting in poor stopping distances and imprecise directionality.

However, electrical gremlins are the most common issue, followed by trouble from the fuel system. Early diesel motors may have problems with fuel injection, which you can identify on a test drive. Evidence of this would be if the X5 runs badly or there are flat spots when increasing speed.

Repairs are never cheap on a BMW X5, but they are quick and usually undemanding. This being the case, you should try and get your used--car dealer to agree to fix any of these issues before you buy.

Rear boot space BMW X5

If it’s a private vendor, then you run a higher risk of buying an X5 that could cause you trouble, but you are likely to pay far less. In addition, the X5’s heft will take some getting used to if you mainly drive in town or regularly park in tight multi-storey car parks. You’ll probably notice this on your test drive.

Alternative cars

The BMW’s key competitors are other large SUVs such as the Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport. But, on tarmac, no SUV, except for the pricey Porsche Cayenne and near regal Range Rover Sport, can touch the talented X5 for its overall blend of performance and handling.

Alternative car to BMW X5 - Audi Q7

Overall verdict

The BMW X5 makes a compelling case for itself as a used car. It is a top family vehicle choice, but you’ll need a fairly large disposable income to support a secondhand version. The X5's sheer mass and efficient all-wheel drive give a sense of safety and security that is often missing in premium cars.

The fact the BMW is spacious, practical and a brilliant on-road performer make it an even tastier used-car proposition.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall