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2016 Volvo XC90 vs. 2016 BMW X5: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2015

In the luxury-SUV world, the most sought-after models are usually the ones that have been redesigned most recently. That makes the 2016 Volvo XC90 and 2016 BMW X5 two of today's most desirable luxury SUVs, as the models have recently earned full redesigns with new styling, new powertrains, new features and new interiors. But which one is better? And which one should you buy? We've created a close comparison between the XC90 and the X5 to find out, but first let's see exactly what's new with both SUVs for the latest model year.

2016 Volvo XC90

After an unprecedented 13 model years without a major redesign, the XC90 is finally given a thorough ground-up overhaul for 2016. Everything is new: the exterior styling, the interior design, the equipment and the powertrains.

2016 BMW X5

Fully redesigned for the 2014 model year, the X5 is largely unchanged for 2016 -- save for the upcoming addition of a plug-in hybrid model dubbed the X5 xDrive40e.

Reliability

In reliability ratings from experts at J.D. Power, the latest X5 earns a fairly dismal below-average score, one that was generally mirrored by the outgoing model, with the occasional average score peppered in. While the latest XC90 is too new for reliability ratings from J.D. Power, we're a bit concerned with dependability, as the outgoing model has earned primarily below-average scores from the firm over the last few model years.

Those ratings make the XC90 and X5 fairly similar -- and so do their warranties, which offer bumper-to-bumper protection for up to 4 years or 50,000 total miles. As a result, this category is a toss-up -- and we'd suggest that drivers who especially prioritize reliability may want to consider looking elsewhere.

Fuel Economy

The Volvo XC90 offers two engine choices. Base-level T6 models use a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes a muscular 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a standard 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, it returns an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-rated 20 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

Although it isn't out yet, the XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid is expected to go on sale later this year. It'll use the same engine mated to an electric motor for a total estimated output of nearly 400 hp and a fully electric range of around 17 miles before the gasoline engine kicks in.

Meanwhile, the X5 offers a plethora of engine choices. Base models use a 300-hp turbocharged 6-cylinder, which returns up to 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy. Fuel economy-minded drivers can upgrade to the diesel-powered xDrive35d, which touts 255 hp and gas mileage numbers of up to 24 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

Two X5 powertrains offer more power: the V8-powered xDrive50i, which boasts 445 hp and returns 15 mpg city/21 mpg hwy, and the performance-oriented X5 M, which offers an amazing 567 hp and a 14 mpg city/19 mpg hwy EPA rating.

Reportedly, the X5 will add a new plug-in hybrid model this year to square off directly with the XC90 T8. Dubbed the X5 xDrive40e, it boasts a 240-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor that combine for up to 13 miles of electric-only driving before the gasoline engine kicks in.

So which model is better? In base trim, the XC90's 20 mpg city/25 mpg hwy slightly beats out the X5's 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy ratings. But the diesel-powered X5 offers much better numbers than either of those models. As a result, this category goes to the BMW -- at least until we get the final fuel economy figures on plug-in hybrid versions of the XC90 and X5.

Safety

The latest BMW X5 earned a perfect 5-star overall score in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash-test ratings. The XC90 has not yet been rated. Meanwhile, the XC90 earned an excellent Top Safety Pick+ score from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, while the X5 has not yet been rated. Regardless, it's safe to say both of these models will hold up fairly well in a collision.

When it comes to safety features, it's the same story: The XC90 and the X5 offer virtually everything under the sun, from lane-keep assist and blind spot monitoring systems to lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a multiangle rearview camera.

With that said, however, there's no doubt that the XC90 touts more standard safety equipment than the X5. While the X5 still resigns a backup camera to its options list, it's standard in the XC90. The same goes for forward-collision alert and automatic braking, both of which are standard in the Volvo and optional in the BMW. As a result, we think the Volvo has a slight leg up in a direct safety comparison between these two highly safe cars.

Technology

Both the latest XC90 and the X5 are high-tech marvels, boasting just about all the latest gadgets that luxury-car buyers will appreciate. For example, if you want a top-down backup camera, you can get it in both the XC90 and the X5. The same goes for automatic high beams, high-end sound systems and excellent infotainment systems. Both the BMW and Volvo also offer telematics systems with emergency communication, automatic crash notification and remote vehicle assistance. And now, both models will soon tout a plug-in hybrid variant, which places them near the top of the technology ladder from a powertrain standpoint.

Which one is better? While we think both cars offer nearly everything you could want, it's hard to deny that the Volvo's enormous center control screen is a neat high-tech touch that isn't mirrored in the BMW. Otherwise, this category is a toss-up: We can't think of any major feature offered by one model that isn't also available in the other.

Value

If value is a priority, we strongly suspect you'll prefer the Volvo to the BMW. Starting price is one obvious reason: The Volvo is around $4,000 cheaper than its BMW rival despite boasting standard all-wheel drive (an option in the BMW), standard forward-collision alert with automatic braking (an option in the BMW) and 316 hp to the BMW's 300 horses.

And while the BMW offers more variants than the XC90, drivers with an eye on the bottom line will probably skip those choices in favor of a carefully optioned base model. If that sounds like you, we recommend the XC90 over the X5.

Autotrader's Advice

Although the 2016 Volvo XC90 offers a better value than the 2016 BMW X5, we suspect this choice won't be made with value as an especially prominent consideration. After all, many other models -- including the Acura MDX, Lexus RX and Lincoln MKX -- offer even better value than the X5 and XC90 ever will.

Instead, we suspect this decision will come down to wants versus needs. The BMW offers the more desirable badge and the more desirable driving experience, but the Volvo appeals to the practical side with more standard safety features and more interior room. So which one will it be?

We suspect drivers more willing to give in to their desires will pick the BMW, while those looking for a more practical ride will probably choose the Volvo. Fortunately, neither one is a bad decision, as both of these models are among the best luxury crossovers on the market.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Volvo XC90 vs. 2016 BMW X5: Which Is Better? - Autotrader