The 2010 BMW X5 offers impressive handling and features, but lacks the styling and interior that makes competitors pop, while the X5 M offers nearly sports car levels of performance with all the utility of a standard X5.
The BMW X5 gets new updates again this year, but rather than the dramatic changes some had hoped for, styling remains somewhat bland. For 2010, the BMW X5 does pick up one major update: an all-new, 555-horsepower twin-turbocharged performance model, the X5 M. Pricing starts from $47,500 and ranges up to a beginning price of $85,400 for the X5 M. That's about on par with Porsche's Cayenne and Mercedes-Benz's M-Class, two of its key competitors.
For the 2010 model year, the X5's exterior and interior styling remain much the same as the previous year, though the aggressive X5 M adds a new level of flair, thanks to its huge air intakes and large wheels. Even so, the X5 has never been a knockout, at worst being inoffensive, though its interior is modern and accommodating.
Several levels of performance can be had, with two standard gasoline models-the xDrive30i and xDrive48i-joined by the xDrive35d diesel and the high-performance X5 M. The new 2010 xDrive35d diesel features BMW's BluePerformance Technology to incorporate AdBlue injection with an inline-6, making BMW's diesel technology clean enough to be sold in all 50 states. At peak, the xDrive35d makes 425 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm and 265 hp at 4,200 rpm.
The diesel drives a lot punchier than the xDrive30i's 260-hp, 3.0-liter gas inline-6. It's also better than the available xDrive48i 350-hp, 4.8-liter V-8 unless you regularly tow heavy loads. The 555-horsepower twin-turbocharged X5 M, on the other hand, is the sports car of this SUV bunch, with enough power to temporarily make you forget you're at the wheel of a 5,000-pound-plus vehicle. All 2010 X5s use a 6-speed automatic to send power to the standard all-wheel-drive system, though the X5 M's advanced M Dynamic stability control adds another layer of control and assistance to the standard stability program. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the X5 ranges from 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway for the entry-level xDrive30i to 14/19 mpg for the xDrive48i and a somewhat more impressive 19/26 mpg for the diesel xDrive35d. The X5 M pays for its power with thirst, rated at 12 mpg in town and 17 mpg on the highway.
Handling is atypical for an SUV-the 2010 X5 actually handles rather well. Despite the height of the 2010 BMW X5, it stays planted in corners, the all-wheel-drive and stability control systems doing their best to keep things in line; this is particularly true of the highly capable X5 M. The automatic transmission conveys solidity and quality, smooth at cruising speeds and under acceleration in Sport mode. The available Sport package adds 19-inch wheels, run-flat all-season tires, and adaptive shocks. Even without it, the X5's composure isn't challenged by slightly extra-legal speeds. Though only the X5 M is bred for the track, all X5s communicate confidence with solid, stable braking and good steering feedback.
Comfort and utility certainly don't take a backseat in the X5. With three rows of seating, the 2010 X5 has ample head- and legroom for seven passengers, as well as plenty of space for your gear and groceries. Front seat passengers get most of the amenities, though rear seat comfort is still very good. Third-row seating is small, but better than some in the class. The flexibility of the seating space is par for the class, with split folding rear seats to fit larger objects, plus a cargo cover to keep valuables hidden and out of the sun. A total of 61.8 cubic feet of space is available with all rear seats flat, or 21.9 cubic feet with all seats upright. Interior fit and finish is characteristically BMW-close tolerances and quality materials abound.
The X5 is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick, also taking top marks in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests, earning five stars in most tests, except for a four-star frontal impact passenger rating and a four-star rollover rating. Standard safety options include dual front and side airbags, plus pre-tensioning seatbelts, front and rear head-protecting airbags, adaptive brake lights, and a central locking system.
A long list of standard and optional features makes the X5 a luxurious ride that can be pushed over the top to fully loaded. The only real complaints with the X5 can be traced back to the curiously complex iDrive controller responsible for audio, navigation, and climate control.
Some of the features that come standard include a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat with memory settings, HD radio with anti-theft AM/FM/CD stereo, seats that configure into a number of cargo and passenger formations, dynamic cruise control, and speed-sensitive power steering. Optional equipment includes a range of packages that can add premium interior elements like Nappa leather, wood and metal trim, and unique color combinations, or high-tech equipment like smartphone integration, a heads-up display, USB and iPod integration, active steering, multicontour seats, and of course, navigation.