If the 2018 BMW X5 was the only premium midsize crossover in the world, not many buyers would complain. Here’s a vehicle that offers something for virtually everyone. Or everyone who can afford it, at least. For the family, there’s ample security and safety equipment, road-trip ride quality, plus extra seating for little ones. For the enthusiast, the X5 drives like a big 5,000-pound crossover shouldn’t — with precision, poise and punch.
Drivetrains range from the economical to the energetic. Technology fans will also find plenty to engage with. And there’s that undeniable prestige of a luxury German marque. A high-performance M version is reviewed separately.
What’s New for 2018?
Trapezoidal tailpipes are now standard on the 35i and 35d versions. The M Sport package offers a new design of 21-inch alloy wheel. And BMW has fitted a new transmission to the whole range, but it still has eight forward gears, so there’s no big difference for the driver — and no difference to the official fuel consumption figures. See the 2018 BMW X5 models for sale near you
What We Like
Outstanding diesel fuel economy; sumptuous interior; responsive handling; fully modern technology; third-row seat availability
What We Don’t
One of the priciest upscale midsize crossovers; third row is pretty cramped; limited cargo capacity
The rear-wheel-drive sDrive35i and all-wheel-drive xDrive35i use a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine rated at 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy for the sDrive35i is rated at 18 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg in combined driving. The xDrive35i achieves 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined.
The all-wheel-drive xDrive35d has a diesel-powered turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six that generates 255 hp and 413 lb-ft. It achieves 23 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined.
The xDrive40e iPerformance plug-in hybrid (PHEV) combines a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor for a total of 308 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. In all-electric mode, range is around 13 miles. A complete recharge is estimated to take less than three hours using a 240-volt supply. This extra hardware, including a lithium-ion battery pack, adds more than 200 pounds to the curb weight. But according to the EPA, the 40e can still achieve the mpg equivalent (MPGe) of 56, along with 24 mpg combined using gas only.
All X5 variants have an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 BMW X5 is available as the sDrive35i ("s" signifies rear-wheel drive), xDrive35i, xDrive35d, xDrive50i or xDrive40e iPerformance.
The sDrive35i ($57,945) comes standard with 19-in alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, adaptive xenon headlights, LED fog lights, a roof spoiler, a power tailgate, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, a universal garage door opener, a power adjustable steering wheel, leatherette upholstery, 10-way power front seats (heated) with driver’s-side memory functions, iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity, a 9-speaker audio setup (including two subwoofers) and the iDrive infotainment system with navigation, 20GB of audio storage and a 10.2-in high-resolution screen.
The xDrive35i ($60,245) adds all-wheel drive, hill-descent control and eligibility for the Dynamic Handling package, which includes adaptive dampers, active roll resistance and a rear air suspension.
The xDrive35d ($61,745) swaps in the diesel engine, but is otherwise equipped similarly to the xDrive35i.
The xDrive40e iPerformance ($64,495) has the hybrid hardware and dedicated dials.
The xDrive50i ($74,795) upgrades to the twin-turbo V8 and adds chrome exterior accents, metallic paint, keyless entry and ignition, 20-way multicontour front seats, leather upholstery, quad-zone climate control, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon Surround Sound system, satellite radio and a rearview camera. Most of the xDrive50i’s standard extras are offered on other models as options.
Add-on bundles include the Cold Weather package (a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and heated headlight washers), the Lighting package (LED adaptive headlights with automatic high beams) and the Driver Assistance Plus package (see the Safety section below).
Other options include 20-in wheels, active steering, automated parking assist, soft-close doors, a head-up display, Nappa leather upholstery, adjustable second-row seats, wireless smartphone charging, Wi-Fi, a top-of-the-line Bang & Olufsen audio system (with a motorized center speaker that rises to the occasion) and a rear-seat entertainment system with twin 9.2-in monitors, adaptive cruise control and a third-row seat (which comes with the rear air suspension). There are also the Luxury (formerly known as the Luxury Line) and M Sport packages, with distinctive aesthetics, as well as numerous customization possibilities.
The third seating row is another option, bringing the occupant count up to seven.
Cargo space measures 23 cu. ft. behind the second-row seats and 66 cu ft. with the rear seats folded down. That’s less room than most midsize crossovers provide (and not much more than BMW’s X3 compact crossover). The plug-in hybrid has to accommodate the battery pack and other hardware, so its cargo space figures contract to 17.7 and 60.7 cu ft., respectively.
The X5 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front side and full-length side curtain). The standard BMW Assist telematics system provides automatic crash notification, emergency assistance and more.
An optional Driver Assistance Plus package adds blind spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, a collision-mitigation system with full auto-stop capability, a driver drowsiness monitor and a 360-degree safety camera system. An infrared night-vision system with pedestrian detection is also offered.
In government crash tests, the X5 sDrive35i took the maximum of five stars overall, with five stars in both the front- and side-impact tests, and four for rollover protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the X5 top scores for the moderate-overlap frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests and for the optional collision-mitigation system.
Behind the Wheel
Tight seams on the dashboard and consistently high-quality materials are typical of the X5’s premium credentials. The wood trim on the dash curves gracefully toward the passenger-side A-pillar, while the 10.2-in iDrive display lives in an iPad-like housing that protrudes above the center stack. The iDrive system also has BMW’s rotary controller, with touchpad and touchscreen functionality for a genuinely user-friendly interface.
The standard front seats are supportive and great. However, we’re strong advocates of the available multicontour seats. With seemingly infinite adjustments, plus an uncanny combination of firmness and compliance, these 20-way chairs are among the best in any vehicle. We also like the optional adjustable second-row seats, though sadly, they can’t be ordered with the third-row seat. As for the third row, it’s nice that BMW continues to offer it, but most adults will find it cramped and uncomfortable. The X5 is more of a 5+2 crossover than a genuine 7-seater.
The 3.0-liter turbo inline-six delivers smooth, strong acceleration, while the 8-speed automatic performs rapid yet seamless shifts. This powertrain is all most folks will ever need. The slightly pricier xDrive35d’s turbodiesel engine has effortless torque and great fuel efficiency going for it. For those unafraid of thrilling acceleration and steep fuel costs, the xDrive50i’s twin-turbo V8 is tremendous in so many ways.
The X5 strikes a sublime balance between comfort and control. In typical Germanic fashion, the ride is firm, but the sophisticated dampers absorb sharp impacts expertly. Through the corners, the X5’s sedan-derived platform (from the 5 Series) delivers excellent handling, particularly if the optional active roll-stabilization system is specified. High-speed stability is exemplary, with little road or wind noise. From the driver’s seat, crossovers don’t get much better than this.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Acura MDX — Wonderfully refined. The third-row seat is also pretty tight, but you get more for your money overall.
2018 Audi Q7 — Lots of space, tech, safety and sophistication.
2018 BMW X6 — Yes, it’s essentially the same as the X5. But just in case you didn’t need quite so much rear passenger and cargo space, and would prefer something with more "out there" styling, consider this.
2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class — A luxury crossover with a similar range of models to the X5 and X6.
2018 Porsche Cayenne — Doesn’t have the X5’s 3-row versatility, but delivers awesome performance and undeniable Porsche cachet.
2018 Volvo XC90 — Not particularly a driver’s machine, but comes with its own cool factor and lots of tech. Integrated child booster seats are available.
Used Land Rover Range Rover — There’s nothing like a Range Rover, and a pristine low-mileage example can be acquired for the price of a new X5.
Assuming there’s no problem buying a plug-in hybrid with the knowledge that fuel savings probably won’t offset the extra initial cost and the point would be to reduce emissions, the xDrive40e has excellent equipment and power levels.