2020 BMW X5: Six Cylinders are Enough

Strong points
  • Sporty handling
  • Healthy six-cylinder engine
  • Attractive and driver-friendly cockpit
Weak points
  • Expensive options
  • Heavier than the old X5
  • A bit too much like other BMW X models
Full report

Completely redesigned and improved last year, the BMW X5 is making headlines in 2020 with the ultra-high-performance X5 M generating up to 617 horsepower. And for 2021 the plug-in hybrid variant returns with 389 horsepower and nearly 50 kilometres of range.

That’s all very nice, but just how many people will buy an X5 to have fun on a track or even save gas? Isn’t the base model enough, with a few options thrown in the mix? Here’s what you need to know…

Modern Appeal

Based on a new CLAR platform and featuring a fresh new design, BMW’s midsize luxury SUV looks modern and racy with a strong enough personality to go head-to-head with any of the brand new or redesigned competitors including the Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Porsche Cayenne, Lexus RX, Cadillac XT6 and Lincoln Aviator.

Available features such as Laserlight headlamps with blue accents, 22-inch M Sport alloy wheels in a two-tone finish and welcome lighting give the X5 even more flair and distinction. On a practical note, the power-assisted split rear hatch (with a small fold-down tailgate panel that reduces the loading height) is a clever touch.

If there’s one thing we can complain about the exterior, it’s that the X5 looks a bit too much like other BMW SUVs, particularly the larger X7.

Photo: BMW AG

Greater Focus on Technology

The interior of the 2020 BMW X5 is a wonderful place to enjoy the road in. The iDrive 7.0 infotainment system is user-friendly enough and can be controlled via the touchscreen, rotary controller on the centre console, voice commands that start with “Hey BMW…” or even gesture control (just do a circling motion with your finger near the interface to adjust the volume, for instance). For those who prefer Android Auto, it will finally be available starting this summer.

The main screen measures 12.3 inches just like the available Live Cockpit Professional instrument cluster, and you have access to a myriad of information, settings and connectivity services. We’re not saying it’s a must, but the optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system is a real treat for music lovers.

Visibility is quite good, noise insulation and ambient lighting allow for relaxed driving, and the Comfort seats in our tester compared favourably to those of Volvo and Lexus, which many consider to be benchmarks. The selection of materials and finishes is outstanding; we recommend the rich, coffee-coloured Vernasca leather—very attractive and classy. As for interior room, the front seats offer plenty of it and the second-row seats accommodate three people with ease (we didn’t try the optional three-row variant).

Photo: BMW AG

Six-cylinder Engine Does Admirable Work

Unlike some of its competitors, the 2020 BMW X5 doesn’t come with a four-cylinder engine. The base xDrive40i model uses a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder that delivers 335 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque via an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission.

This powertrain should easily satisfy at least four out of five drivers. Consider 0-100 km/h acceleration in 5.7 seconds. What’s more, despite tipping the scales at more than 2,250 kilograms, this burly SUV is moderately thirsty with a combined rating of 10.5 L/100 km, though premium gas is required, obviously.

Between the standard X5 and the fearsome X5 M, you’ll find the new X5 M50i (replacing the xDrive50i) whose twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine puts out 523 horsepower. Reaching triple-digit speeds takes just 4.3 seconds, but do you actually want to get to work this quickly?

Photo: BMW

Big Competitive Edge

On the road, the BMW X5 continues to dominate the field with sportier handling. It’s not like you’re driving a car, but close. For a more thrilling experience, the available M Sport exhaust system will delight your ears. Also, there’s a significant difference in character between Comfort and Sport+ modes. We must warn you that the engine hates lower revs in Sport and Sport+ modes, urging drivers to put more pressure on the throttle.

While we found the xDrive all-wheel drive system to be beyond reproach, the available adaptive air suspension (five different positions) requires a yellow flag. It’s nicely calibrated and effective at masking most road imperfections, but should it fail at some point, the repair costs out of warranty would be quite high.

Photo: BMW AG

Priced Like a True German SUV

Starting at $73,500, the 2020 BMW X5 xDrive40i is right in the same ballpark as other six-cylinder midsize SUVs from Germany. Of course, there’s a ton of options to choose from. Be careful because these can boost the price in a hurry. The Premium Excellence Package alone costs a whopping $17,000 (Merino leather interior, panoramic roof, front seats with massage, more advanced safety technologies, etc.). Think long and hard about what you really need.

On the other hand, the Advanced Driver Assistant ($2,000), xOffroad Package ($2,950) and M Sport Package ($3,000) are interesting if you want more safety, better capability away from the pavement or just more style.   

Ultimately, the 2020 BMW X5 is a very well-rounded, high-quality product with no major flaws, combining superior performance and driving dynamics with a luxurious and state-of-the-art cabin. Honestly, other than the cost, it’s hard to make a case against it.

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