The BMW X5 is the German luxury brand’s midsize crossover. The X5 has established a strong reputation for athletic driving manners and luxurious amenities in its 20-plus years in existence. This fourth-gen model debuted just two years ago and is its best iteration yet. The 2021 BMW X5 is a standout midsize luxury SUV even among strong competitors like the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Lexus RX, Audi Q7 and Acura MDX.
The X5 comes standard with two rows and seating for five. A three-row/seven-passenger setup is available, but the last row is tight. If you regularly plan to carry more than five passengers, the larger BMW X7 is a better choice.
For 2021 the BMW X5 broadens its appeal with a new plug-in hybrid model that can travel 30 miles on electricity alone. At nearly $60,000 this BMW is priced higher than rivals, but unlike its Mercedes and Audi competitors, the X5 comes with a more powerful 6-cylinder engine vs. a 4-cylinder. For the power-hungry, a roaring twin-turbo V8 can be had in the M50i model, while the 2021 BMW X5 M is a 600-horsepower high-performance beast with a $105,000-plus price tag.
The xDrive45e plug-in hybrid joins the 2021 X5 lineup. All models finally get Android Auto integration, something that had been long missing in BMWs. The 6-cylinder 40i models get a 48-volt mild hybrid system, while the xDrive50i model is dropped. Also discontinued is the off-road package formerly available in the xDrive40i. Other changes include the addition of remote start in X5 40i models, a drive recorder added to the Parking Assistance Package, front ventilated seats standard in the M50i. See the 2021 BMW X5 models for sale near you
What We Like
- Sumptuous interior
- Responsive handling
- Great technology
- Lots of standard equipment
What We Don’t
- Higher starting price than rivals
- Optional third-row is tight
$59,400-105,100 (plus $995 destination charge)
All X5 variants use an 8-speed automatic transmission and have active grille shutters and engine stop-start features to maximize fuel efficiency. Towing capacity is 7,200 pounds. The only 2021 X5 that is rear-wheel drive (RWD) is the base sDrive40i. All other models are all-wheel-drive, which BMW calls “xDrive.”
The RWD sDrive40i and AWD xDrive40i employ a turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline-6 engine rated at 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fuel economy is 21 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg in combined driving for the sDrive version and 21 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined for the xDrive model.
The new xDrive45e plug-in hybrid is the most efficient of the X5 lineup. It also uses a turbocharged inline-6 that is paired with a battery-powered electric motor. Total power output is 389 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque. The xDrive45e can travel an estimated 30 miles on electricity before the gasoline engine kicks in. Even in electric-only mode, you can get the gasoline engine to switch on for more power by depressing the accelerator pedal through the kick-down position or by switching to a different drive mode. With the gasoline engine and electric powertrain working together, the EPA rates this model at 50 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) combined, or 20 mpg combined with just the engine.
The M50i uses a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that produces 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. The EPA rates it at 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined.
More powerful – and less-efficient – is the 2021 BMW X5 M, the high-performance version of the X5. It also uses a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, but this one is tuned to make 600 hp (or 617 hp with the Competition package) and 553 lb-ft of torque. The X5 M does 0-60 mph in a blistering 3.8 seconds, but pays a steeper price at the pump with EPA fuel economy of 13 mpg city, 18 mpg hwy and 15 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2021 BMW X5 is available in five main trims: sDrive40i, xDrive40i, xDrive45e, M50i, and X5 M.
The sDrive40i ($59,400, plus $995 destination charge) comes with 19-in alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams, programmable LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights/taillights, a panoramic moonroof with powered sunshade, aluminum roof rails, keyless entry/ignition with customizable presets, rain-sensing wipers, a power-adjustable tilt-and-telescopic steering column, dual-zone automatic climate control, selectable driving modes, hill-descent control, dynamic dampers, a roof spoiler, heated/power-folding side mirrors, a self-dimming rearview mirror/driver’s-side exterior mirror, heated/16-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory, simulated leather upholstery, ambient cabin lighting, a hands-free powered lift gate, 40/20/40 split/folding rear seats, universal garage door opener, dual 12.3-in displays (one for driver information, the other for the infotainment system), a 10-speaker/205-watt audio setup, HD radio, navigation with real-time traffic information and on-street parking space availability, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, USB ports (including Type-C versions in each front seat backrest), Bluetooth, natural speech commands, 32GB of multimedia storage and emergency response/stolen vehicle location services, and a 1-year subscription to SiriusXM. All new BMW’s include 3 years/36,000 miles of complimentary maintenance.
Driving assistance features, also standard, include forward-collision mitigation with daytime pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, dynamic cruise control, speed limit information, front/rear parking sensors and active blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The xDrive40i ($61,700) adds AWD.
The new xDrive45e ($65,400) includes a plug-in hybrid powertrain air suspension. Note that this model is also eligible for financial incentive, including a $7,500 federal tax credit.
The xDrive50i ($77,145)
The M50i ($82,800) includes a twin-turbo V8, leather interior, 20-way multicontour front seats with ventilation, quad-zone automatic climate control, wireless charging, Wi-Fi, 16-speaker/464-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound system, 20-in alloy wheels, larger air intakes, M Sport brakes/rear differential/aerodynamic additions/steering wheel and an adaptive M suspension.
The X5 M ($105,100) also comes with the twin-turbo V8, but this one is tuned to make 600 horsepower. In addition to the extra power, the X5 M has a roster of high-performance hardware that ranges from M Sport differential and sport-oriented all-wheel-drive system to upgraded braking and suspension. It comes loaded with 21-in wheels, 18-way adjustable performance seats, and other M-specific features. The optional Competition package is costly at $9,000 but bumps output to 617 hp and adds performance exhaust and some extra details like M seatbelts.
The 40i models are eligible for a Convenience package that brings quad-zone climate control, Wi-Fi, wireless charging and remote start. A Premium package includes those Convenience items while adding a head-up display, gesture control and Harmon/Kardon audio. The Executive builds on these features with adaptive LED headlights with Laserlight, rear sunshades, glass controls and more.
A Driving Assistance Professional package includes Traffic Jam Assist, allowing the driver to release the steering wheel and let the X5 handle the stop/go drudgery, including a few highways. Plus an Emergency Stop feature and help with evasive actions.
The Luxury Seating package brings multicontour ventilated/massaging front seats. A Parking Assistance package does the hard work when maneuvering into perpendicular or parallel parking spaces.
Other extras include the third seating row, trailer hitch, rear heated seats and steering wheel, and air suspension. X50i models can be further spruced up with a superb Bowers & Wilkins audiophile system and leather dashboard.
Cargo space measures 33.9 cu ft. behind the second-row seats and 72.3 cu ft. with the rear seats folded down. Even with its battery pack, the xDrive45e plug-in hybrid has nearly the same cargo capacity, losing just 0.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 1.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
The X5 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and eight airbags. The standard BMW Assist telematics system provides automatic crash notification, emergency assistance and more. Standard active safety systems include lane-departure warning, frontal-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot detection. Optional is adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, lane-keep assist and Emergency Stop Assist. The latter brings the vehicle to a stop if the driver has a health emergency.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave this generation of X5 four out of five stars overall, with four stars each for driver and front passenger protection, plus five stars for side impact performance.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the X5 top scores in most categories, making it a Top Safety Pick Plus when the top-of-the-line headlights are fitted. The standard headlights were considered poor.
Behind the Wheel
From the driver’s seat, it’s hard to believe the X5 is a crossover/SUV at all. Thanks to the different drive modes, the adaptive suspension spans a range of comfort and control, while retaining control in the most comfortable setting and some comfort in the sportiest setting. Through the corners, the X5 delivers involving, athletic handling. High-speed stability is exemplary, with little road or wind noise. Crossovers don’t get much better than this.
The 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6 delivers smooth, strong acceleration, while the 8-speed automatic performs rapid yet seamless shifts. This should please most drivers and is a highly recommendable engine.
For those who like their crossovers to pack more thrills, the xDrive50i’s twin-turbo V8 is magnificent. Or the M50i can sprint from standstill to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, which is remarkable for a vehicle of this size and weight. And of, course, if that still isn’t remarkable enough and you have deeper pockets, the X5 M is even faster. Furthermore, the way it sticks to a tarmac seems to defy the laws of physics.
The standard front seats are supportive and great. However, we’re big fans of the optional 20-way multicontour seats, which are among our favorite seats in any vehicle. Regarding the third row, it’s a nice to have in a pinch but is best suited to the smaller and younger members of the family.
Superb fit and finish in the cabin is complemented by high-quality materials and well-thought-out design. Aside from the finicky and optional gesture-control system, the infotainment interface is user-friendly.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class — This rival German luxury SUV also brings a lot of tech to the table, along with softer exterior styling and slightly plusher driving manners.
2020 Acura MDX — The Acura MDX also comes with a 6-cylinder standard, is available as a hybrid, and starts around $15,000 less than the X5.
2020 Porsche Cayenne — The Porsche is pricier and a bit less practical, but it has the driving manners of, well, a Porsche.
Used BMW X5 – The X5 has been around over two decades, so there are many used ones out there. Note that this latest generation debuted in 2019, so models before that won’t have as much tech as the current model.
Questions You May Ask
What does the X5 name mean?
Every BMW crossover SUV has the ”X“ prefix, signifying that it’s a crossover. But BMW’s marketing department also likes to call them Sports Activity Vehicles instead of the usual sport-utility vehicle (SUV). The original X5 was based on the 5 Series midsize sedan.
What generation of BMW X5 is the 2021 model?
Time flies, having fun, etc. This is now the fourth X5 generation, which made its debut two years ago.
Where is the 2021 BMW X5 built?
The X5 is made in America, specifically at BMW’s factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where the X3, X4, X6 and X7 are also produced.
Think seriously about acquiring the most driver assistance features before going for a bigger engine. The standard inline-6 is wonderful in its own right. The new plug-in hybrid X5 looks equally appealing. Its higher starting price can be potentially offset by federal and state incentives, and it may be eligible for single-occupant carpool-lane access in some states. Find a BMW X5 for sale