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2018 BMW X5 Review

2018 BMW X5 Review
The 2018 BMW X5 remains a thoughtful crossover SUV for families, although enthusiasts may be left wanting unless the right options are selected.

The 2018 BMW X5 is a luxury mid-size crossover that started the craze. It's handsomely equipped and reasonably capable with that all-important roundel planted in its snout.


It’s a strong overall package, albeit one that lacks some of the BMW verve of yore. We’ve rated it a 7.2 out of 10 based on its excellent real-world usability, strong engines, and varied lineup.

The X5 changes little for 2018, other than a sport-tuned version of its automatic transmission is now standard on almost all versions, and the German automaker has shuffled option packages to act more like trim levels. That means that the popular Premium package—which you’re likely to find on just about every X5 stocked on a dealer lot—now acts as a gateway to most individual options. There’s less configurability, but little lacking in this lineup.

(A new BMW X5 arrives for the 2019 model year. Details should be confirmed later this year.)

The X5 remains available with 3.0-liter turbo-6 or 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 gas engines, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel, and a plug-in hybrid variant that costs a lot for its limited 14-mile electric-only range. Rear-wheel drive is standard with the base gas engine. All-wheel drive is optional on the base X5 and standard elsewhere. All models use 8-speed automatic transmissions. Despite its chunky looks, there’s not a lot of off-road ability here—not that most buyers are likely to go mud-plugging.

An X5 M model tops the lineup with a 567-horsepower version of the X5’s available V-8. With its track-tuned suspension, sports seats, and beefed up steering, it’s a reasonable facsimile of a high-riding sports wagon. It’s as absurd as its six-figure price tag suggests, but it is a lot cheaper than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

A roomy interior with great room for five adults awaits buyers. For those who want a little more space, a third row is optional, but it’s not great. For occasional use, the third row is acceptable for kids and may be worth considering for carpooling families.

The X5 lineup has scored exceptionally well in all crash-tests so far, but we don’t have a complete picture from the IIHS and can’t assign a score.

Styling
Although a little dowdy outside, the BMW X5 is very attractive inside.

With its evolutionary looks, the 2018 BMW X5 isn’t a head-turner, but its warmly attractive interior more than makes up for that.

It’s one conservative ride inside and out, but we like the way its cabin is laid out enough to assign it a 7 out of 10, including two extra points for its inner trappings. 

The X5’s exterior is the definition of a BMW crossover, a look that the automaker has perfected over the last decade. If you’ve been to an upscale shopping mall, you’ve seen some variation on the theme. The automaker’s twin kidney grille is displayed prominently up front with some subtle creasing along the sides that adds a hint of definition. At the rear, its tail lights arc gently upward. The X5’s tailgate is a two-piece design—a boon for hanging out before a baseball game, but a slight hindrance for loading bigger items.

Inside, that corporate conservative look carries over, but to better effect. All models boast meaty three-spoke steering wheels and a choice between several wood and aluminum options. Controls are arrayed in a simple fashion, with most grouped together within easy reach of the driver. Even rear seat drivers are treated to a hint more fashion than most crossovers thanks to intricately finished door panels and unique stitching patterns for their leatherette or leather seats.

Performance
Terrific ride quality and strong engines make the BMW X5 a joy to drive, although it's not especially sporty unless the right options are selected.

There’s a lot to choose from under the 2018 BMW X5’s hood. We’ve given this lineup a 7 out of 10, awarding a point each for the wide range of excellent engines and its comfortable, soft ride quality. 

Some models are even fairly entertaining to drive, although we doubt you’ll want to hustle any X5 short of the X5 M on a race track.

Let’s start with the base and most popular configuration: the X5 sDrive35i and xDrive35i. Their nameplates denote standard rear-wheel drive (sDrive) or optional all-wheel drive (xDrive), but both have the same 300-horsepower, 300 pound-feet of torque 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 engine underhood. Regardless of drive, they use a new sport-tuned 8-speed automatic transmission that helps them sprint to 60 mph in just over six seconds. That’s plenty fast for a crossover SUV that weighs around 4,700 pounds unladen. The base engine is smooth and torquey, with power coming on just after throttle tip-in.
For those who want more, the X5 xDrive50i subs in a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 rated at 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. It’s rocket-fast and should be more than adequate for any user, although enthusiasts may fault it for its silence. With a V-8 this good, we’d like to hear a little more underhood rumble.

Those who want to use the least fuel have two options: a turbodiesel and a plug-in hybrid variant. The X5 xDrive35d pairs a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 rated at 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque to all-wheel drive and the 8-speed automatic; it’s thrifty, refined, and powerful. It’s our choice for most drivers, even though it’s a rare find on a dealer lot. BMW charges only a $1,500 premium for the diesel over a similarly optioned xDrive35i. Given its strong resale, it’s probably the smartest buy of the lineup.

The hybrid X5 xDrive40e is more of a head-scratcher. A 2.0-liter turbo-4 gas engine mates to an 8-speed automatic and is supplemented by a 9.2-kwh lithium-ion battery pack. Combined, BMW quotes 308 hp and 332 lb-ft. Charged up, the xDrive40e can go 14 miles solely on electricity before the gas engine kicks on. The hybrid system behaves differently depending on the selected setting. Pick MAX eDrive and you’ll use no gasoline unless you floor the accelerator, but it limits the top speed to 75 mph. Leave it in automatic mode and the gas engine will mostly stay off below 45 mph. That sounds nice, but the $4,000 premium will take a long time to recoup unless your daily commute can be done only on electricity.

At the top of the heap is the X5 M. At almost $30,000 more than the X5 xDrive50i, it’s a questionable value proposition. But once you hear its screaming 567-hp V-8 and feel how much more buttoned-down its suspension is on a race track, suddenly it seems almost like a deal. And it is, at least compared to an equivalent Porsche Cayenne.

BMW X5 ride and handling
BMW offers several suspension setups for the X5, depending on the engine selected. Base models are the softest; frankly, they’re downright plush and may surprise someone used to an older BMW in the way that they wallow around corners and how little road feedback makes its way through the steering wheel.

An optional adaptive suspension provides a better sense of stability and is probably worth the cash for buyers who will find themselves on curvy roads. It significantly flattens the crossover out when pushed hard into corners and works well to quell the X5’s hefty mass. The upgraded Dynamic Performance Control system lets drivers tailor torque rearward for even better handling prowess.

Opt for the M Sport package, however, and things get a bit firmer and better controlled. There’s still not much going on through the steering wheel, however.

The X5 M predictably takes things to the next level with beefier brakes and an even firmer suspension. We’ve pushed them hard on race tracks and have found that they mask their weight and size exceptionally well. Other than the high seating position, there’s not much here to indicate you’re in an SUV when you’re pushing an X5 M.

No model is really much of a mud-plugger, but BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system works well on a snowy road or over a graded forest road on the way to a trailhead. If you want to go further, perhaps visit a Land Rover or Lexus dealership for a Range Rover Sport or a GX 460.

Comfort & Quality
Great room for five, good cargo capacity, and a well-wrought interior are all assets for the BMW X5.

The 2018 BMW X5 lineup spans a wide range, but all versions feel appropriately high-class for their price, offer good room for five, and plenty of cargo space.

At the base end, the X5 is upholstered in synthetic leather that’s reasonably convincing, but real hides in several grades of quality are optional in a wide range of hues. Glossy wood trim is standard, with several variations on the options list to allow buyers to tailor their X5 to their tastes. The X5’s standard front seats are supportive and power-adjustable; optional sports seats on some trim configurations can feel a little more confining for wider drivers. Our favorite thrones are the extra-cost multi-contour variants, which are beautifully finished and adjustable in every conceivable direction short of ejector seat mode.

Second-row passengers are treated to good room and a great view out thanks to a low belt line. Five can sit comfortably here, but four will be happier on a longer drive.

The optional third-row seats are definitely an occasional-use setup. Select them only if you plan to occasionally carry small kids back there, although it doesn’t hamper the 23 cubic feet of cargo room with the second row upright. Fold things down and you’ll have a maximum of 66 cubes accessed by a power-operated two-piece tailgate. A small bottom section flops down if needed; it’s a nice touch that’s useful for tailgating and doesn’t hamper access too much.

Safety
What safety scores we have are all very positive, but we can't assign a full score to the BMW X5.

A wide array of safety tech is available on the 2018 BMW X5, but you’ll pay quite a bit for the most advanced tech. The X5 has all the right ingredients to score high on our scale, but incomplete testing results from the IIHS mean we can’t assign it a final value. 

All X5s now come with a standard rearview camera, something that previously required paying extra—a surprise given their hefty prices. A head-up display is optional, as are features like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, a surround-view camera system, and active lane control.

Add BMW’s Parking Assistant and, at the press of a button, the X5 will slide itself into most parallel or perpendicular parking situations. An optional Traffic Jam Assistant provides a small degree of autonomy in high traffic situations by keeping the X5 within its lane and a set distance from the vehicle in front. You won’t want to open up your newspaper or take a nap with the system engaged, but it’s convenient and stress-relieving.

The feds have rated the X5 at five stars overall in their barrage of tests. The insurance industry-funded IIHS gave the BMW crossover a “Good” score in its moderate overlap front and side-impact tests, but several other tests haven’t yet been conducted. The X5’s two levels of automatic emergency braking perform well in the IIHS test, while its standard adaptive xenon and optional LED headlights both score “Acceptable.” 

Features
Good base content, excellent infotainment, and lots of optional equipment help the BMW X5 socre well for features.

Even with some streamlining of the 2018 BMW X5’s ordering sheet this year, you’ll still want to spend some time working your way through its optional equipment to ensure you’re getting exactly what you—and your budget—may want.

We’ve awarded the X5 extra points above average for its standard and optional equipment, as well as its large 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system. 

At the base end for gas and turbodiesel 6-cylinder models, you’ll find reasonably convincing synthetic leather upholstery, 14-way power-adjustable and heated front seats, adaptive xenon headlights, nine-speaker audio, a power tailgate, and a power panoramic moonroof. You’ll pay extra for leather upholstery and metallic paint, the norm for luxury crossovers.

The base X5 xDrive35i runs $57,945 with a mandatory $995 destination charge. Opting for all-wheel drive bumps that figure to $60,245. The all-wheel drive xDrive35d lists for $61,745.

The X5 xDrive40e runs $64,495, but in addition to its hybrid powertrain, it includes a normally optional adaptive suspension system.

The V-8-powered X5 xDrive50i runs a hefty $74,795, but in addition to its engine, it includes leather upholstery, 20-way power seats, keyless ignition, Harman Kardon audio, and a few other goodies. The X5 M builds on that with its own suspension, more power, and bigger brakes, plus a styling kit similar to the optional M Sport package.

BMW has slightly simplified its lineup this year. Last year’s Premium package remains with its leather upholstery, keyless ignition, and satellite radio, but it now serves as a gateway to more optional equipment. From there, the M Sport package adds a firmer suspension, unique looks, and sports seats. The range-topping Executive package includes just about everything orderable on the X5; it’s the one for hedonists.

There’s still lots of optional equipment available depending on the trim level. Some highlights include active air suspension and steering, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, and numerous wheel designs. Tick every option on an X5 M and you’ll face a bill upward of $120,000.

All X5s feature a terrific infotainment system, the latest evolution of BMW’s iDrive system. A 10.2-inch high-resolution glass screen looks as though it was cribbed from an Apple Store. It does without BMW’s confusing gesture control system now available on some models, but that’s fine with us. Between its touchscreen, its control knob, and a laptop-like touchpad, it makes sorting through myriad menus relatively painless. On most models, Apple CarPlay is a $300 option.

Fuel Economy
The 2018 BMW X5 is reasonably efficient at all levels.

With so many powertrain options available, the 2018 BMW X5’s fuel-economy story isn’t all that easy to tell.

To simplify, we’ve based our score on the one you’re statistically most likely to take home, the xDrive35i. It’s rated using the EPA test at 18 mpg city, 24 highway, 20 combined, enough to earn a 6 out of 10.  

From there, you can sip less or guzzle more.

Stick with the rear-wheel-drive sDrive35i and things improve slightly to 18/25/21 mpg. The diesel xDrive35d comes in at an impressive 23/29/25 mpg.

The hybrid xDrive40e is rated at 24 mpg combined, but 56 MPGe based on how much energy is required to produce the electricity that gives it a 14 mile electric-only range. As with any plug-in hybrid, your mileage may (and will) vary. With a short commute, you may almost never use gasoline. On a highway trip, the xDrive40e may be just as thirsty as the non-hybrid xDrive35i.

With power comes consumption. The xDrive50i’s V-8 guzzles at 15/21/17 mpg, but the X5 M is thirstier: 14/19/16 mpg.

All models except the diesel require premium unleaded. Every X5 also cuts its engine out at stoplights to save fuel normally burnt while idling. The system is less obtrusive than some we’ve tested, but you’ll still probably notice the engine turning off and back on automatically.

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