2016 bmw x5
Starting at
3.0L Diesel

255 hp
EPA - est City/Hwy

2016 BMW X5 The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review
Marty Padgett

Marty Padgett

Editorial Director

  • Overwrought front-end look
  • A very small third row
  • Can get very pricey with options

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 continues to be a benchmark for any automaker contemplating a new luxury mid-size SUV. The X5's off-road-ability is outweighed by its superb on-road manners, but that's on purpose—it's a luxury family wagon tailored for comfort, meant for gated-community garages everywhere. The X5 is engineered in Germany and built in South Carolina.

The X5 is more gracefully sculpted than its ancestors. There's plenty of X3 down the sides, where the tapered roofline and lower beltline nudge it gently toward a more sport-wagon-like form. In the cockpit, the monolithic bulge of BMW's latest dash designs shows up in swell form, made distinctive this time with a choice of neutral and brown leathers over the standard black leatherette. It's not so broad a palette until you reach into the more extreme colors on the option list. There's even a reddish-brown.

The X5 can seat up to seven, and for most of those passengers, it provides a warm ambiance. Seat comfort isn't perfect, though, with some flatness in the front buckets. The second-row seats in the X5 can be split 40/20/40, for more flexibility, and they're adjustable for rake. If you get the optional third-row seats, there's an Easy Entry function, but the seats are very small, making them occasional seats at best, cargo space more often, a line-item veto most of the time. The cargo hold can be opened from the keyfob or the driver's seat: the lower piece drops like a truck tailgate, while the upper glass powers open like a minivan tailgate.

The BMW X5 occupies that performance space typical of German SUVs such as the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class and Volkswagen Touareg—or even the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Diesel power is available, as are V-8 thrust and a new plug-in hybrid. The available all-wheel-drive system provides moderate amounts of off-road capability, and BMW offers extravagant suspension systems meant to muddle the crossover roots enough to make it more than palatable on-road. The familiar 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter, twin-turbo, in-line six-cylinder is the base engine, good for 0-60 mph times of about 6.1 seconds. If 0-60 mph times rule, the V-8-powered xDrive50i's 4.7 seconds bests the diesel's 6.7 seconds, but in our estimation, the diesel's fuel economy and in-town torque feel more than make up for two seconds of slack. 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'll reach the EPA-rated pure-electric range of 14 miles.

All X5s have electric power steering with adjustable effort and an Eco Pro mode that also affects throttle progression, the eight-speed automatic's shifts, and even the adaptive damper settings when they're onboard. The X5 feels most BMW-like only when Sport and Sport+ modes are engaged: there's a heft to the steering, a resolute resistance to body roll that only gets more defiant if it's outfitted with M Adaptive controls and a set of rear air springs. It's all but ready to transform into an X5 M, once all the electronics are plugged in. The electronics rob from the experience behind the wheel. There is a lack of steering feedback and the counterdamping applied by the available active-roll stabilization system is artificial.

The BMW X5 carries a base price of nearly $55,000, in line with other European-badged luxury SUVs. At that price, it's still without a few features we think should be standard, such as a rearview camera, any color other than white or gray, and leather upholstery. Navigation is standard equipment on most versions; it comes with the iDrive controller with its touch-write surface and BMW Apps, a connectivity suite that runs via an app. If you want all-wheel drive, you'll need to step up into the X5 xDrive35i, which is priced from just over $57,000. In the $70,000 and up range, the X5 V-8 can be trimmed out with Dakota leather, Bang & Olufsen audio, a rear-seat entertainment system, and more. Our pick? Probably the winning turbodiesel five-seat model, lightly equipped with surround-view cameras and navigation, for the best long-term value of the lineup.

The 2016 BMW X5 carries over its stellar crash ratings from previous years. The 2016 model earned five stars from the federal government in overall safety. Active-safety features are heavily represented on the long options list. Notable features include the Active Driving Assistant (Lane Departure Warning, and a pedestrian collision system with braking), plus ACC Stop & Go (full-range camera-radar cruise control), and a Traffic Jam Assistant that maintains following distance and keeps the vehicle at the center of its lane by providing steering input. BMW Night Vision and a head-up display remain on offer, as well as a Parking Assistant, Surround View system, and Active Blind Spot Detection.

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.


The X5 blends cues from SUVs and sport wagons on the outside and the inside features a richly textured horizontal layout.

The current X5 is more gracefully sculpted than its ancestors. The influences of the latest X3 show up plainly in its sideview, just as those from BMW's latest sedans appear in its front end. The combination of tapered roofline and somewhat low window line give the X5 a bit of a sport-wagon look.

Down its sides, the X5's sculpturing does what the stampings on a Ford Mustang or an Mercedes-Benz S-Class do, scouring some visual weight off its flanks without disturbing the natural order of all car styling—at least, of our modern vintage. The scoop-outs are functional, directing air around the wheels. The character line that pulls up from the front fenders toward the LED taillights injects some wedge into the shape.

It's an attempt to blur the SUV reality further off the X5's face, but the complex intersection of lines across its nose comes off as overwrought. The front kidney grille is “thrust forward,” as BMW puts it, while it's supplemented with a smirk of a horizontal intake just below, and a larger intake down below. The X5's headlights are set high up, nicely detailed, and they can be swapped out entirely for all-LED units.

Inside, the design will be instantly familiar to anyone who's been in other late-model BMWs. Only here the horizontal-shelf layout, with a cockpit-style instrument zone, is wrapped over (and just behind) by a separate layer that merges with the rest of the dash at the door trim. Two interior themes can be ordered as an upgrade to the standard poplar wood trim and black leatherette upholstery: Ivory White Nappa leather matches up with oak or other wood trims, while the Mocha look gets Nappa leather in that color and black Nappa leather on the dash, with contrasting wood trim. Dakota leather upholstery is standard on the xDrive50i and available on the other models.

The X5 can be finagled with any of three trim lines. Luxury Line X5s have more bright metallic flourishes, while the xLine gets a blacked-out grille and under-mirror trim, with bright window sills. The M Sport adds a body kit, Shadowline trim, and high-gloss roof rails, as well as bigger wheels.

The X5 blends cues from SUVs and sport wagons on the outside and the inside features a richly textured horizontal layout.

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All X5s handle well, but the ride may be too firm for some. Power is also willing, but the turbodiesel is the wisest choice.

The BMW X5 continues to fit itself into the segment as a jack of all trades, with off-road capabilities, on-road manners, and a variety of powertrains.

The lineup starts with the base X5 and its familiar twin-turbocharged 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-6 engine. Offered either in sDrive35i rear-drive form or as the all-wheel-drive xDrive35i, it makes its peak torque from a low 1,200 rpm to 5,000 rpm. BMW promises 0-60 mph times of 6.1 seconds. We haven't had a chance to drive this version of the X5 yet, but have sampled the brilliant powerplant in BMW's sedans, and can't imagine dissatisfaction with its strong acceleration.

We've spent all our time in the diesel and V-8 models. The xDrive35d is powered by a 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel engine, producing 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. BMW promises 0-60 mph times of 6.7 seconds, and it's believable. We spent a half-day driving the X5 from Vancouver to its extra-urban Olympic ski village, and got into an easy rhythm with the turbodiesel, accelerating quickly into holes in city traffic and settling into a relatively quiet cruise. It develops its peak torque before 3,000 rpm, giving it the swift responses of the gas six, for the most part, with a moderate amount of the usual diesel drivetrain noises.

Opt into the most expensive X5, the xDrive50i, and you'll strap on BMW's twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8, which spins off 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, at engine speeds as low as 2,000 rpm. Peak torque arrives swiftly, and the X5's estimated 0-60 mph time is just 4.7 seconds. However, the speed doesn't arrive as a rush as the numbers might suggest. In part, it's because the standard all-wheel drive and adjustable suspension on the V-8 model manage the power delivery so well, and because the twin-turbo's so muted by the X5's sound-deadening materials.

The plug-in hybrid version, badged the X5 xDrive 40e, features BMW's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, an electric motor packaged within the 8-speed automatic transmission, and a 9.2-kwh lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged back up to full in less than three hours on Level 2 (240V). Total output is 308 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, and BMW says it can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and drive on electricity alone for up to 14 miles.

The behavior of the hybrid system—and how much the gasoline engine stays off—depends both on the settings you select and how you drive the X5. In the MAX eDrive setting, the X5 is powered only by electric power except if you floor the accelerator; in this mode, speed is limited to 75 mph. Otherwise there's an AUTO eDrive setting that allows the gasoline engine to come on more often and at a lower speed (of around 45 mph).

In a driving experience of several hundred miles, we found the plug-in hybrid system to provide pleasant, quiet, and reasonably strong performance in its electric-only mode, combined with strong acceleration altogether. We noticed just a few rough shifts from the transmission under moderate acceleration; but overall, this is a system that's good for both off-roading and towing.

All X5s are equipped with an 8-speed automatic with paddle shift controls. The transmission is part of the suite of controls that are affected when the driver chooses Eco Pro mode on a console-mounted switch. Eco Pro mode slows down throttle response, triggers earlier upshifts into the 8-speed's more economical gears, and lets the X5 coast under some conditions by decoupling the engine; it even chooses some navigation routes for the optimum fuel efficiency.

All X5s have electric power steering, and choosing Eco Pro also lightens the effort and heft engineered into it. Like most systems of its kind, the X5's electric power steering doesn't offer much in the way of feedback, and dithers on-center no matter if it's in Eco Pro or its Comfort setting. In Sport and Sport+, the steering has the meaty feel that's become common to most BMWs: pause the wheel at a point midway through a corner, and there's immediate buildup, a wall of return force to climb as you unwind it. With the available Active Steering, the ratio varies as speeds and cornering forces build. It can be an unwelcome variable in sports cars, but in sport utes like the X5, it's more useful, making size and overall length less of a liability when parking or driving in town.

The techno feel of the rack flows through to the X5's strut and control-arm independent suspension, which in most cases and configurations, gets augmented by adaptive dampers and rear air springs. Dynamic Damper Control puts automatically adjusting shocks at the corners; they're set to work in concert with the steering, throttle, and transmission, through the same Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes. Adaptive shocks give the X5 a constant sense of stability. We haven't driven an X5 with the non-adaptive suspension, but with this vehicle's mass and performance capability, the adaptive suspension is likely to be the preferred setup and it should also include the add-on self-leveling rear air springs. These features make the X5 a resolutely flat handler in corners, not entirely forgiving with its ride quality but only truly harsh with the biggest wheels in the most aggressively controlled modes.

The xDrive all-wheel drive system provides a variable torque split front to back, not to mention interaction with traction, stability, and hill-descent control systems. If you're truly planning to take the X5 off-road, xDrive will show how it apportions power on the big LCD screen atop the center console. We climbed some moderately challenging lumps on the trails surrounding Vancouver 2010's ski jumps, and slogged through some mud without a misstep. It's more in the Ford Explorer/Volkswagen Touareg camp of light off-road capability than in the Range Rover Sport take-no-prisoners talent pool, but the X5 should have no problem making it to a remote-ish cabin in the woods.

If you're truly using the X5 just as a commuting vehicle, you may never encounter any instance so exotic as to need the upgraded Dynamic Performance Control setup, but like other similar systems, it lets the X5 vary the torque split between the rear wheels, to let it turn in more crisply and change lanes more cleanly.

All X5s handle well, but the ride may be too firm for some. Power is also willing, but the turbodiesel is the wisest choice.

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Comfort & Quality

The X5's cabin is spacious, polished, and well-fitted, though the available third-row seat is just for kids.

The X5 has a stylish cockpit with swooping curves and two different interior palettes of coordinated colors and trim to go with the usual choices of aluminum or wood and leather. The basic seat upholstery is synthetic, and some minor switchgear looks less lovingly attended to than it should, but those blips get overlooked in favor of the rich, colorful dash-mounted screen, and the soft glow of ambient interior lighting.

The X5 can accommodate up to seven passengers, but only those in the first two rows will be comfortable.

In the front, the standard power heated seats can be upgraded to multi-contour or sport seats. There's enough adjustment and space in any direction, but like many other ventilated seats we've sampled, the X5's front buckets are flatter and less comfortable across the bottom cushion than without that feature. Between the driver and front passengers is a wide console split down the middle, good for smartphone storage, and on the console itself, there are two bins for possible keyfob storage.

Move to the second row, and the basic setup is a bench with reclining seat portions split 40/20/40, an ideal setup for anyone trying to wedge five adults in the most basic X5. Four will be happier. With the standard panoramic sunroof, there's not much headroom left for six-footers until the seat is reclined, so folding down the middle 20-percent seat as an armrest becomes a de facto standard setup. Better yet are BMW's second-row comfort seats, with finer stitching, a 10-degree recline, and a sliding feature that moves the seat along a 3.1-inch track.

Behind that second-row seat is about 23 cubic feet of space, which you can choose to fill with a fold-away third-row seat. It's as small and unwelcoming to adults as the third-row seats in a Dodge Journey, and tough for anyone to step into who is not into Garanimals. The saving grace is the seat folds away in portions, and flattens out of the way along with the second-row seat for up to 66 cubic feet of cargo space. The X5's tailgate is power-operated, and it's kept its unique tailgate/liftgate setup: the lower section drops like a pickup, the top section powers open and closed like a pricey minivan.

The X5's cabin is spacious, polished, and well-fitted, though the available third-row seat is just for kids.

JD Power Reliability Ratings

2016 BMW X5 Models
Power Circle Ratings

Overall Quality


5 Overall Quality - Mechanical
4.5 Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
3.5 Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
5 Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
3.5 Overall Quality - Design
3.5 Powertrain Quality - Design
3 Body & Interior Quality - Design
3.5 Features & Accessories Quality - Design

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The X5 offers a lot of standard and available safety gear, but crash test ratings are incomplete.

A long list of standard and optional safety features and a strong body structure leave us believing that the X5 is one of the safest vehicles on the road today.

All X5 'utes get their fair share of safety gear, including curtain airbags, stability control, and Bluetooth. A rearview camera is stand-alone option for base models.

Visibility is excellent from behind the wheel of the X5, and with standard parking sensors, it's simple to move very close to garage walls or cars parked in connecting spaces. In addition to those sensors, we'd opt for BMW's surround-view cameras, which produce a 360-degree view of surroundings from cameras mounted in the nose and tail and under the side mirror housings. Drivers can toggle between views from the cameras, and place the vehicle perfectly in a tight space, or check for obstacles that can't be seen behind the car's rather high tail. This system is bundled in a package with blind-spot monitors, speed-limit information (rendered on the iDrive screen), lane-departure warning and collision-alert systems. Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability can be added on top of those features.

BMW's Parking Assistant takes the wheel when it's ordered. It can steer the vehicle into parallel spots or perpendicular ones at the touch of a button. The same underlying technology couples with adaptive cruise control to bring you Traffic Jam Assistant, which maintains following distance all on its own in heavy traffic, and keeps the vehicle at the center of its lane by providing steering input.

Night vision and a head-up display remain on offer, and the X5 can be fitted with full LED lighting.

Finally, BMW's assistance plans include basic coverage that heightens its automatic-collision alerts to emergency services, based on the vehicle's position, airbag state and speed before impact. It also provides real-time traffic information.

Unfortunately, there isn't full crash-test information for the X5. The IIHS has only rated the X5 in the moderate front overlap and side crash tests, where it earned the top rating of "Good." The IIHS also gives the X5 a "Superior" rating front crash prevention, when optionally equipped, but since it hasn't been subjected to the other tests, it can't be named a Top Safety Pick+. The X5 has earned top marks from the NHTSA, including a five-star overall rating and five stars for front- and side-impact crash protection. The X5 was rated at four stars for rollover crash protection, but it's important to note that that test is a calculation, rather than a real-world crash.

The X5 offers a lot of standard and available safety gear, but crash test ratings are incomplete.

NHTSA 5-Star Safety Rating

2016 BMW X5 Models

Overall Rating


Overall Frontal Barrier Crash Rating: (5/5)
Overall Side Crash Rating: (5/5)
Overall Side Barrier Rating: Not Rated
NHTSA Roll-over Resistance Rating: (4/5)

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Ratings

2016 BMW X5 Models

Side Impact Test Good
Roof Strength Test Not Tested
Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint Not Tested
IIHS Small Overlap Front Test Results Not Tested
IIHS Moderate Overlap Front Test Results Not Tested

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The base model is well equipped for about $55,000, but it's easy to top $70,000 with options or higher line models.

Starting near $55,000, the 2016 BMW X5 is priced in line with its luxury competitors. There are a few options that we feel should be standard for that money, but others seem more high-tech than you'd find in other vehicles.

The base X5 comes with power windows, locks, and mirrors; AM/FM/CD player with USB port; Bluetooth with audio streaming; Sensatec synthetic-leather upholstery; stop-start; power front heated seats; parking sensors; a panoramic moonroof; a power tailgate; 18-inch wheels with run-flat all-season tires; and a four-year/50,000-mile warranty with roadside service and free regular maintenance.

A rearview camera is a $400 option; any color other than white or gray is a $550 additional cost; and leather upholstery costs $1,450 at minimum. Most would think these features would be standard given the price tag. If you want all-wheel drive, you'll need to step up into the X5 xDrive35i, which is priced from just over $57,000 and is equipped identically. The xDrive 35d offers similar equipment for $1,500 more in base price. These two all-wheel-drive models can be upgraded to the Dynamic Handling Package, with a rear air suspension and variable damper control, as well as active-roll stabilization.

The X5 can be ordered in one of three trim lines, Luxury Line, xLine, and M Sport. Luxury Line and xLine packages bring more personalization, with coordinated interior trims that are a step more attention-getting. The xLine features satin aluminum and high-gloss finishes, while the Luxury Line gets blacked-out grille chrome strips and some sporty cues. The M Sport adds a body kit, Shadowline trim, high-gloss roof rails, sport seats, an anthracite headliner, and various other high-performance cues as well as an option for an M Adaptive suspension.

Then come the quick-pick packages: the third-row seat; a cold-weather package with heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel; a driver-assistance package with a rearview camera and a head-up display; a full LED lighting package; ventilated multi-contour front seats; blind-spot monitors, surround-view cameras, and speed-limit monitors; and a Premium package with keyless entry, soft-close doors, satellite radio, and leather upholstery.

Stand-alone options include active steering (except on sDrive); the active air suspension; a Nappa-leather dashboard; four-zone climate control; adaptive cruise control with full-stop and following capability; parking assist; a Harman Kardon audio system or a Bang & Olufsen setup; night vision; and a rear-seat entertainment system. Nineteen-inch wheels with all-season tires and 20-inch wheels with summer tires are also optional.

There's also a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with twin screens roughly the size of an iPad Mini, attached to the headrests of the front seats. Those systems always beg the question for us: why not just invest in a pair of mobile tablets and an indestructible case?

The X5 xDrive50i makes the rearview camera, metallic paints, 19-inch wheels, front ventilated seats, and leather upholstery standard. Its above-and-beyond options include most of the above, plus an Executive package with ceramic knobs and switches, Harman Kardon audio, head-up display, satellite radio, keyless entry, and side window shades.

New for 2016 is the X5 xDrive40e model. It is priced at about $63,000 and comes with the base equipment plus adjustable damper control, the self-leveling rear air suspension, and the navigation system.

BMW's iDrive infotainment controller is standard for all X5 models. It operates the available navigation system and other ancillary functions, and displays on a freestanding 10.2-inch screen.

On the smartphone-connectivity front, the BMW Apps system is standard, with a little help from Apple's iTunes. Connecting to the infotainment system via the iTunes-available, iPhone-based app allows drivers to hear their Facebook and Twitter feed, listen to web-based audio streams, and to tap into apps like Pandora and Stitcher. They're woven into the iDrive controller, which has a puck-shaped dial for navigation through commands and settings, and a touchpad surface for entering text Palm Pilot-style. The combination of options of voice controls, dial entry or scratchpad writing, and steering-wheel controls can be overwhelming until you've spent hours upon hours at the controls.

The base model is well equipped for about $55,000, but it's easy to top $70,000 with options or higher line models.

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Fuel Economy

The gasoline models do fairly well on gas thanks to an 8-speed automatic transmission, but the turbodiesel is the clear choice for fuel economy.

The X5 offers a range of powertrains, from a conventional gasoline inline-6 to a turbodiesel—and now even a plug-in hybrid. The base model, the rear-drive X5 sDrive35i, is rated at 18 mpg city, 25 highway, 21 combined, according to the EPA. The all-wheel-drive version, the xDrive35i, is rated at 18/24/20 mpg.

The xDrive35d diesel is rated at an impressive 23/30/26 mpg. The V-8-powered xDrive50i model is fairly thirsty at 15/21/17 mpg.

The new xDrive40e plug-in hybrid gets a 24 mpg combined rating when using only gasoline and a 56 MPGe rating, which accounts for electric and gasoline operation. The EPA says it is capable of driving 14 miles on an electric charge. (MPGe, or Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, is an EPA measure for the electric equivalent of one gallon of gasoline.) And over two full charges, we saw an actual 14.5 and 16 miles of all-electric driving, as well as 24 mpg overall, through 380 miles of mostly highway driving, including 30 miles of city driving.

The gasoline models do fairly well on gas thanks to an 8-speed automatic transmission, but the turbodiesel is the clear choice for fuel economy.

Fuel Economy Information

Ratings Based on 8 cyl, 4.4 L, SemiAuto-8



6.3 gals/100 miles





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