2020 BMW X5 Review

2020 BMW X5 - BMW's Sport-Activity Vehicle sets the standard amongst luxury midsize crossovers.


Debuting in 1999, the X5 was BMW's first crossover. Dubbed an SAV (Sport Activity Vehicle) by BMW, the X5 has been one of BMW's best-selling models for nearly 20 years. Most recently redesigned in 2019, the X5 is a 4-door wagon with seating for up to seven passengers. Competitors include the Audi Q7, Cadillac XT6, Genesis GV80, Infiniti QX60, Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Lexus RX, Lincoln Aviator, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC90.

The 2020 X5 model lineup includes 40i, 50i and M50i trims. The 40i gets a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine that makes 335 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. 50i models get a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that makes 456 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. M50i models get an enhanced version of that engine that makes 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. There are also X5 M and Competition models that have more than 600 horsepower. All engines pair with an 8-speed automatic transmission. While the 40i is available with rear- (sDrive) or all-wheel drive (xDrive), other models are all-wheel drive only. Maximum towing capacity is 7200 pounds regardless of engine.

Standard safety equipment includes forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control with steering assist is optional. The 40i starts at $66,170 and includes LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, adaptive suspension dampers, power-adjustable and heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, 12.3-inch central display with Apple CarPlay compatibility and 10-speaker sound system. The 50i starts at $86,795 and adds upgraded front seats, 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and four-zone climate control. M50i has an MRSP of $93,295 and adds larger brakes, sport suspension tuning and upgraded differentials. Key options include ventilated and massaging front seats, night-vision system, Bowers & Wilkins sound system and rear-seat entertainment system.

Regardless of engine or tune, drivers will be more than happy with the X5's acceleration. And that's the rub. The turbocharged six will push the X5 from 0 to 60 MH in about 5 seconds. Plenty quick for most. Spending nearly $20K more gets you a V8 but only a gain of about 1 second to 60 MPH. Not sure that trade off is worth it. In either case, the X5 has ample power in reserve for passing situations and mates well to the smooth shifting 8-speed automatic.

Though it offers all-wheel-drive, the X5 isn't a true off-road-ready vehicle. Performance tires, sport suspension and modest ground clearance make sure of that. To that end, there's no low range for off-road slogging either. And just because you buy an xDrive model, don't think you won't have trouble in the snow thanks to those performance tires. If you live in an area with a four-season climate, you should consider swapping the summer-rated tires for snow tires in the winter. Most BMW dealers will happily do the swap at no charge and some even store your unused tires as well.

EPA ratings for the X5 are a bit disappointing, with the best numbers being 21 MPG city and 26 MPG highway for the SDrive 40i. Things only go downhill from there as the xDrive X5 50i sees only 16 MPG city and 22 MPG highway. As you'd expect in this class, all engines require premium-grade fuel as well. In routine suburban commuting it's tough to hit 20 MPG overall unless you spend a fair amount of time on the highway. Even then, don't expect better than 22 MPG overall. The 21-gallon fuel tank does limit trips to the gas station gives a highway range in excess of 400 miles.  

X5 might just be the best overall handling midsize crossover on the market today. Regardless of trim, the X5 has athletic moves that rival some of today's top sports sedans, albeit slightly tempered by the taller build. Steering feel is amazingly neutral and has just the right amount of heft. The X5 responds as if it is directly connected to the driver's brain. Even more so with the available rear-steering system. Brakes have ample stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal. Body motions are kept nicely in check. Tires have ample dry-road grip. Altogether, the X5 comes across as extremely sporty and composed, no matter how quickly you snap the whip.

With such athletic moves, you might think the X5's ride would be buckboard hard and that couldn't be further from the truth, at least on 40i models. There's a suppleness to the suspension that only comes with sophistication and years of tuning. BMW got it right on the X5 to the point that even the larger wheels and tires on the 50i don't impact ride quality much. Though the sport themed X5 M remains refined in most driving situations, it's firm suspension can get a bit harsh on rough roads. So, it is best to take that model for a longer test drive to make sure you are okay with the extra jiggle.

Though the X5 can be very quiet when cruising, there's a sportiness to the exhaust note during hard acceleration that some might find obtrusive. In addition, the performance tires can kick up quite a ruckus on rough concrete roads.

As is the case with all BMWs, the X5's interior deftly blends Teutonic honesty with a dash of luxury and flair. While the interiors might come across as a bit stoic, there is no denying they feature top-notch materials and exemplary fit-and-finish. The dash boasts twin 12.3-inch displays: one for the gauge cluster and another for the infotainment system. Both are sharp and readable. Drivers can configure the instrument display to their liking and it provides a wealth of information, as does the crisp head-up display. The infotainment screen is controlled by a jog dial or hand gestures.

The front seats are heavily padded and offer a multitude of adjustments, including additional thigh support. Though the padding is firm and heavily contoured, the array of adjustments makes it fairly easy to get comfortable. Head and leg room are great and drivers have a commanding and, mostly unobstructed, view of the road. Second-row seats are also thickly padded and offer enough room for adults, but aren't the roomiest in the class. The optional third-row seat is mostly a token measure, with just enough space for kids -- though you can move the second-row seats forward to add leg room.

On the technology front the X5 might make some NASA scientists blush. In addition to the twin digital displays, the X5 is fitted with a large head-up display and gesture control that allows you to adjust the audio system with hand signals. It's of dubious value, but a cool parlor trick. BMW also offers its own "smart" assistant to allow you to change temperature, find a parking spot and make dinner reservations using voice commands. Unfortunately, support for Android Auto doesn't come until 2021, so you'd have to trade that Android phone for Apple for full integration.

The X5 is a lot larger than it looks from the outside in terms of cargo capacity. Second row up, there's 33.9 cubic feet. Fold the second row and you'll find 72.3 cubic feet. The hatch has an unusual clamshell design that's a bit awkward at first, but makes more sense the more you use it. The bottom quarter folds down like a tailgate, and while that makes it a longer stretch to get items in and out, it also gives a handy shelf and helps contain items when opening the hatch. Interior storage is modest with just a few open and covered bins. The available wireless charging tray one of the best in the business in terms of holding devices securely.

Bottom Line - Outside of the price, it's hard to find fault with the X5, as it does so much so well. Dynamically no midsize crossover can match its sport-sedan like on-road demeanor and few have better overall composure. On the safety and tech front it's also unmatched, provided you pay for some options and extras. The M and Competition models are strictly for gear heads or people that have more money than sense, but the i40 and i50 models are clear best bets in the midsize luxury crossover segment. 

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.