The BMW X5 was arguably the first sporty SUV, and it has not strayed from its original, and highly successful, formula. The X5 lineup has grown over the years and now encompasses four engines, all turbocharged: a six, two V-8s, and a diesel. The six-cylinder xDrive35i comes in three trim levels. The V-8 xDrive50i, the diesel xDrive35d, and the X5 M are all single models. In all cases, xDrive is BMW’s designation for four-wheel drive, which is standard. Don’t think you have to move up from the 35i to get a quick X5. The 35i gets to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, the 50i does it in 5.3 seconds, and the rocket-ship X5 M zooms to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The diesel’s 6.9-second time sounds less impressive by comparison, but its prodigious torque makes it very responsive once under way. It also gets an impressive 19/26 mpg, far better than the next-best version, the 35i, at 16/23. All X5 models get around corners faster than you’d expect given their height and weight. The all-wheel-drive system sends a majority of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels for sportier handling. Active roll stabilization (for flatter cornering) and adaptive electronic damping control (to adjust the damper firmness) are available for the top-spec 35i and the 50i and are standard on the X5 M, which also comes with dynamic performance control to maximize responsiveness. Of course, the M has a firmer suspension; a lower ride height; and massive, twenty-inch wheels. Like most BMWs, the X5 offers a long list of options, but if you regularly carry a passel of kids, be sure to opt for the third-row seats.

Drive: 4-wheel
Trim levels: xDrive35i, xDrive35i Premium, xDrive35i Sports Activity, xDrive35d, xDrive50i, X5 M
Body style: SUV/crossover, 5- or 7-passenger
Engines: 3.0L turbo I-6, 300 hp, 300 lb-ft
3.0L turbo-diesel I-6, 265 hp, 425 lb-ft
4.4L twin-turbo V-8, 400 hp, 450 lb-ft
4.4L twin-turbo V-8, 555 hp, 500 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6- or 8-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 102.4 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 6000 lb; cargo (rear seats
up/down) 35.8/75.2 cu ft

The only significant changes have to do with equipment. BMW Assist (a telematics system), roof rails, and an iPod/USB adapter are standard on all models. The midlevel and top-spec xDrive 35i models add a power liftgate, heated seats, ambient lighting, and a few other items. The xDrive 50i now includes the previously mentioned 35i stuff plus nav. The diesel gains 35i items as well as leather, a power steering column, and heated seats.

Front, side, and side curtain air bags; traction and stability control (with trailer stabilization); ABS with panic brake assist; and xenon adaptive headlamps are standard. Rearview and sideview cameras and a lane-departure warning system are optional. BMW Assist, with automated crash response, is standard.

All: 12-19 mpg city/17-26 mpg highway

  • Drives like a tall sport sedan
  • Impressive towing capacity
  • Diesel gets good fuel economy
  • Third seat is cramped
  • Ride can be stiff
  • V-8 engines are thirsty

The original sporty SUV and still a good one.

  • Infiniti FX
  • Mercedes-Benz ML
  • Porsche Cayenne
  • Range Rover Sport
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