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BMW X5 2020 review: xDrive40i off-road test

At face value, luxury SUVs might seem like they have quite limited appeal and even more limited capabilities when it comes to actually doing anything other than driving on smooth city streets – but the reality is much more complicated than that.

Vehicles like BMW’s X5 look city-slick, suit urban life and comfortably occupy an expensive niche within a niche, however, before you make a snap judgement of such a vehicle’s suitability to real daily life or even its efficacy on any surface other than the black top, it’s wise to remember the old adage: don’t judge a book by its cover.

So, does the X5 justify its more than $120,000 price-tag? Read on

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The BMW X5 xDrive40i costs $120,900 as standard, but our test vehicle with the M Sport package had metallic paintwork ($2000), an M Sport exhaust system ($1000), a trailer tow hitch ($2500), and 22-inch M light alloy, double-spoke wheels ($3900). So, with those optional extras, our X5 has a MSRP of $130,300, which includes GST and the Luxury Car tax.

It has a 3.0-litre petrol engine, eight-speed Sport automatic transmission, five seats and a list of standard features that is long and impressive and includes full leather interior, heated front seats, adaptive suspension, heads-up display, around-view monitor, a 12.3-Inch display screen, multimedia system with Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is coming to BMWs in the second half of 2020), adjustable pedals, gesture control, roof rails and panorama glass roof.

Inside, the X5 features a massive 12.3-Inch display screen. Inside, the X5 features a massive 12.3-Inch display screen.

Driver-assist tech includes evasive steering assist, front cross-traffic alert, and driving profile selection, among plenty of other safety gear.

This X5 has a dizzying array of onboard features, but you’ll have to set aside an hour or so of your own time to go through all of those in a specs sheet. I’m not going to do it for you – I’m not your life coach. The options list is just as swollen, so make yourself a cuppa and prepare yourself.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

It’s a sleek unit. The black Sapphire metallic paint and chrome touches on the exterior, such as the grille and exhaust tips, make for quite an eye-catching combination.

There is no doubt the X5 is a truly premium vehicle. There is no doubt the X5 is a truly premium vehicle.

The double-spoke 22-inch alloy wheels cap off this X5’s glam exterior appearance.

Inside, it’s all black and leather, with nice subtle highlights, such decorative stitching and aluminium ‘Tetragon’ interior trim finishers.

The interior is luxurious but that superlative should be a given considering this X5’s price-tag.  The interior is luxurious but that superlative should be a given considering this X5’s price-tag. 

Add to that, there are distinctive M Sport model designations peppered around the interior, on the door-sill finishers and the exterior.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

As mentioned, it has a 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol engine – producing 250kW/450Nm – and that’s paired with an eight-speed Sport automatic transmission. It has BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system.

The 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol engine punches out  250kW/450Nm. The 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol engine punches out 250kW/450Nm.

Acceleration is listed as 5.5 secs (from 0-100km/h) and, may I say, on the numerous occasions that I energetically pressed my right foot to the floor from a full stop, the X5’s off-the-mark punchiness was such that I fleetingly imagined every time that I was Top Gun’s Maverick gunning a fighter jet off the deck of an aircraft carrier. (Hey, a bloke’s allowed to dream.)

How practical is the space inside?

The interior, draped in leather ‘Vernasca’ (whatever that is), has a real premium feel about it. Fit and finish is very impressive but I’d hate to have to clean any bit of it because it’d all get dirty easy enough, especially if forced into real-life duties.

The interior is an area seemingly entirely made up of soft-touch surfaces.  The interior is an area seemingly entirely made up of soft-touch surfaces. 

But the X5 is certainly a family-friendly space in terms of general comfort. The five seats, front and second row, are plush and supportive and the interior is an area seemingly entirely made up of soft-touch surfaces. 

There are ample storage spaces throughout the cabin – cupholders front and rear, door pockets, centre console, coat hanger/hooks, as well as charge points (USB and 12V outlets) galore.

The five seats, front and second row, are plush and supportive. The five seats, front and second row, are plush and supportive.

Cargo space is listed as 645 litres with the second row up, and 1860 litres with the second row down.

It has a split tailgate that is hands-free or button-operated, making the rear cargo area an easy space to access if you have your hands full of grocery bags, or kids, or pets, or all of those things.

Boot space is rated at 645 litres. Boot space is rated at 645 litres.

Overall, the interior is luxurious but that superlative should be a given considering this X5’s price-tag. 

Oh, there’s also an onboard first-aid kit.

What's it like as a daily driver?

The X5 is a very easy vehicle to live with day to day for a couple of significant reasons.

Firstly, it’s very comfortable. That full leather interior cocoons you in a space that’s plush and premium and once you’re moving those characteristics become even more evident. 

Secondly, it drives well. The X5 is very car-like in its ride and handling, very composed and it always feels natural through minor lumps and bumps.

At 1745mm high, 4922mm long (with a 2975mm-long wheelbase), 2004mm wide and with a listed kerb weight of 2035kg, it feels long and low and weighty. Ground clearance is 214mm (unladen), so it’s not actually that low. 

The black Sapphire metallic paint and chrome touches make for quite an eye-catching combination. The black Sapphire metallic paint and chrome touches make for quite an eye-catching combination.

The various driving modes – Sport, Comfort and Eco pro – give you the option to dial in different X5 factors to match terrain- and condition-specific requirements. Hit the Adaptive button and the X5 tweaks steering, engine power output and suspension, among many other vehicle characteristics, to suit your driving style.

Handling is as restrained or as dynamic as you need it to be, but there’s a trade-off for all of the X5’s constant control and assuredness: it feels like you’re always one step removed from the actual driving experience.

Also, at times, its suspension – double wishbone and coil springs up front and coils at the rear – feels too wound up as the X5 tends to stiffly skip and judder through more severe sections of chopped-up bitumen and gravel, but its 22-inch alloy rims and low-profile Pirelli P Zero tyres (315/30 R22 107Y) don’t help – only adding to that stiffness.

The double-spoke 22-inch alloy wheels cap off this X5’s glam exterior appearance. The double-spoke 22-inch alloy wheels cap off this X5’s glam exterior appearance.

Niggle time: the multimedia toggle/dial/control to the left of the steptronic shifter is rather fiddly to use with precision.

Overall though, this is very nice to drive, day in, day out.

What's it like for touring?

Great, if your idea of touring stretches to trips on smooth roads and well-maintained dirt or gravel tracks and perhaps through very shallow mud puddles. If the terrain gets any more serious than that, then the X5’s dimensions, its wheel size, ground clearance etc will prove a bit of a hindrance to safe progress. Because it’s essentially hamstrung by those dimensions – long and low – and its 22-inch wheels and low-profile road-biased tyres.

An X5 driver could try to use momentum to punch this SUV through tougher terrain, but I’d advise against that because relying on more speed and more aggressive driving will only increase the risk of damage to the vehicle.

With its effective xDrive AWD system the X5 is well suited to light-duty weekend camping jaunts and snow trips, although you’ll need to find legal snow chains to fit the 22-inch wheel-and-tyre set-up on this X5. Good luck.

The 22-inch wheels and low-profile tyres prove a hindrance on rougher terrains. The 22-inch wheels and low-profile tyres prove a hindrance on rougher terrains.

If you want to do a spot of decent off-roading in something posh, and that’s actually capable of tackling something more challenging than the properly maintained gravel road to your favourite campsite, then you’re probably better off looking at a 200 Series Land Cruiser or a Land Rover Discovery or a Range Rover.

Unbraked towing capacity is listed as 750kg, and braked towing capacity is 2700kg.

How much fuel does it consume?

This X5 has a claimed fuel consumption of 9.2L/100km (combined). I recorded an on-test fuel consumption of 10.6L/100km after more than 200km of driving, with only a brief run on gravel roads and over a short but tricky section of chopped-up undulating dirt track.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The X5 does not yet have an ANCAP safety rating. It has dual front, driver knee, second-row head and curtain airbags, as well as blind-spot sensor, driver-fatigue warning, parking assistant plus, hill descent control and more.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The X5’s warranty is currently for three years/unlimited kilometres, but with Mercedes-Benz having switched to a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty in March this year, BMW may follow suit. 

Servicing is available in five-year/80,000km packages: Basic is $2050, Plus is $5270.

There is no doubt the X5 is a truly premium vehicle that is good looking, great to drive and very comfortable. 

As an urban commuter it is a very appealing potential buy … but it’s not cheap. You’re getting a very slick package, however, I’m not convinced it’s a value-for-money one.

But, you know what, that’s okay because I most likely have a very different idea of day-to-day life – and how a vehicle fits into that – than someone who already owns an X5 or is looking at a new one as their potential next vehicle of choice.

$120,900

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Adventure score

3.6/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'