The benchmark of mid-size luxury SUVs, the 2016 BMW X5 offers handsome looks, a choice of powertrains, an abundance of tech features, sporty on-road dynamics, and even some off-road capability.
The 2016 BMW X5 is still a high-water mark in the luxury mid-size crossover class. It has superb on-road handling, but a strong measure of off-road capability. Built in South Carolina, the X5 is engineered in Germany.
The X5 is more gracefully sculpted than its predecessors. The resemblance to the X3 is strong, from the low beltline to the tapered roof, more sport wagon than sport-utility vehicle. The cabin bulges with a broad sweep of dash framed by standard black synthetic leather and wood trim, but BMW livens it up with a wide variety of trim choices.
With seats for as many as seven passengers, the X5 could do a little better in comfort. The front seats feel a bit flat. The back seats do too, but they split along 40/20/40 seams and fold down to boost cargo space, plus they recline for long-distance trips. The available third-row seat is for kids only; it'll spend most of its time folded away under Costco boxes. The two-piece tailgate opens via the keyfob, with the glass tilting up and the lower panel dropping down.
With rivals like the VW Touareg, Mercedes GLE and Jeep Grand Cherokee, the X5 has to offer a range of drivetrains. Diesel power is available, as are V-8 thrust and a new plug-in hybrid. The available all-wheel-drive unit provides moderate off-road capability, and BMW muddlesd the SUV roots in extravagant adaptive suspension setups that make it palatable in everyday driving.
BMW fits its 300-hp turbo inline-6 to the standard X5, and it's good for 60-mph runs of 6.1 seconds. The xDrive50i sports a twin-turbo V-8 and drops 60-mph times to 4.7 seconds. A diesel can hit 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, and its around-town torque and fuel economy make up for the slightly slower acceleration. Even the plug-in hybrid is quick--and feels reasonably quick in its all-electric mode. BMW says it can reach 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, with both power sources together; and if you drive gingerly enough it can reach the EPA-rated pure-electric range of 14 miles.
All X5s have variable-ratio electric steering and a driver-selectable set of modes that changes throttle, shifts, steering weight and suspension feel, from economy to sport modes. Dial the system to Sport or Sport+ mode, and the vaunted BMW driving feel sets in. The steering takes a hefty set, the body roll flattens out. The steering doesn't have much feedback at all, and an optional anti-roll system counteracts the usual lean in corners, which can leave drivers guessing as to how much grip they have left.
With a base price of almost $55,000,, the BMW X5 still is missing some features on its standard equipment list, including leather and a rearview camera. Most models come with navigation and an iDrive interface with a touch-sensitive puck controller. With all-wheel drive, prices start at more than $57,000. Up in the $70,000 range, V-8 X5s get rich leather, premium audio, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. The turbodiesel five-seat SUV is our pick, when it's equipped lightly with surround-view cameras and navigation.
The 2016 BMW X5 carries over its stellar crash ratings from previous years. The 2016 model earned five stars from the NHTSA. Among the active-safety options are forward-collision warnings with emergency automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, night vision, automatic parking assist, blind-spot monitors, and surround-view cameras.
Given the wide range of powertrains--inline-6 to V-8, to plug-in hybrid--the X5's fuel economy is predictably all over the map. The most efficient car is also the most expensive: the X5 xDrive40e manages 24 mpg combined and is rated at 56 MPGe (the average distance traveled on the equivalent of one gallon of gasoline). At the other end of the spectrum, the X5 xDrive50i is rated by the EPA at 15 mpg city, 21 highway, 17 combined.