The previous two generations BMW X5 have been a smashing success for the Munich-based automaker. Even though the sporty BMW SUV joined the segment two years after the launch of the Mercedes-Benz ML, it has shortly become one of the highest rated and sold premium SUVs.
With every generation, the Sport Activity Vehicle – as BMW proudly names it – has not only gotten bigger but also better. The third generation F15 X5 arrived in 2013 and compared to the outgoing model, it was is 1.25 inches longer, 1/2 inches shorter, and about 1/4 inches wider. The length of the new BMW X5 is 192.3 in (4,886 mm), width is 76.2 in (1,938 mm) and height is measured at 69.3 in (1,938 mm). The wheelbase is 115.4 (2,933 mm), compared to 115.5 (2,933 mm) for the E70 model.
Despite the increase in size, the xDrive35i model is lighter by 170 lbs while the xDrive50i is lighter by 230 lbs than its predecessor. It’s not enough of a difference to completely transform the driving dynamics, as it’s still a fairly heavy SUV (4,836 pounds), but BMW touts the fact that it’s more fuel efficient.
For the first time, the new BMW X5 comes with three distinctive lines: xLine, Luxury and M Sport, catering to a wider range of personal preferences. Also a premiere for the X5 is the sDrive model, a rear-wheel drive platform that has been added for sunny weather markets.
The BMW design team has once again gone with an evolutionary design technique. The F15 X5 builds atop the E70 model with some design cues from the second-generation X3. The Air Curtains, now on several BMW models, made a debut on the X5, along with the Air Breathers on the side. For the first time BMW introduces Vertical Aero Blades that work in conjunction with the roof spoiler. Furthermore, to improve aerodynamics, the new BMW X5 features air deflectors on the front wheel arches.
The headlights are now blended to the exterior contours of the kidney, matching BMW’s latest design DNA.
The all new X5 still has short overhangs with a stretched wheelbase and just like the second generation X5 can remarkably accommodate available third row seating.
Compared to the styling of the last generation, the new X5 is more elegant and dynamic. The character line runs the length of its beltline and further accentuates the dynamics and size of this SUV.
The interior looks classic BMW and again isn’t breaking new ground, but has added nice enhancements such as an button activated tailgate and larger storage compartments. The dashboard borrows the layering design from other BMW cars and looks wider than the previous generation.
The driver-oriented console returns to the X5, this time with three customizable color schemes, and higher quality materials. Customers can choose between red, blue or white ambient lights to tailor their driving moods. The trim options are also more diversified than ever, with lots of several colors and a special mocha-colored trim fro the X Line Package.
Row two includes a 40/20/40 split with heated seats and more space for passengers. The boot offers 23 cubic feet more than the previous model and 66 cubes with the second row seats folded down. BMW continues to offer optional third row seats.
BMW fitted a new 10.2 inch free-standing LCD display controlled by the new iDrive Touch knob.
The one-touch open and closing function makes moving a lot of gear simpler, and the remote-open function on the key fob will make visits to the grocery store that much quicker.
Customers will like the seats if they prefer supportive over soft, so the typical BMW seats will likely cater to those that enjoy spirited driving. The drivers can adjust the temperature, lumbar, and other functions, in more ways than before and more than you would ever need.
While potentially not as luxurious as the Mercedes-Benz ML, the new X5 stands out with its functional and versatile cabin, a rare combination of luxury and sportiness, with the simplicity one expects from BMW. There are of course plenty of customers who are looking for more whistles and bells inside the cabin, but if you’re up for a function over form interior, then the X5 is a clear winner.
We’ve sampled the xDrive35i model, one that it’s likely to find its way into more garages than the gas-guzzler xDrive50i. Under the hood, you can find BMW’s multi-award winning 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline-six. The engine makes 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque and goes from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, which is an improvement of 0.2 seconds over the previous version.
BMW offers only one transmission for the xDrive35i, the ZF 8-speed, known from other models as well, which delivers crisp, smooth shifts and effortlessly delivers the torque to the all four wheels. A pair of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters makes driving a bit more fun.
Standard for 2014 is a standard stop-start system, which boosts fuel economy in stop-and-go driving. In our one week test, the BMW X5 xDrive35i returned a 20 MPG, close to the official 21 MPG.
To improve the driving dynamics of the new X5, BMW engineers worked hard to develop new chassis settings and suspension. The driver has the option to switch between different driving settings, from Comfort to Sport+, catering to a variety of driving styles. These settings affected the suspension, throttle, and steering response.
Chicago driving can be often boring, the stop-and-go traffic is annoying and uninspiring, but thanks to the Comfort mode and smooth shifts, rush hour commuting is not too bad. Since we’re looking for more fun, we’ve headed to the Chicago North Side where some twisties falsely reminded us of the beautiful back roads in Europe. With the Sport+ enabled and its near 50/50 weight balance, the X5 lacks any understeer, aided by the adaptive suspension which makes cornering smooth and effortless. Granted not everyone will run in Sport+, but it’s reassuring to know the X5 can deliver when requested. BMW’s Dynamic Traction Control program is also available in Sport+.
For the more adventurous type of driver, the 8-speed also offers a manual mode with the paddle shifters or the gear lever controlling the RPMs and speed.
Just like other BMWs, the X5 uses an electric power-steering system (EPS) which has been often criticized by the purists. BMW claims that the system helps with fuel consumption, yet it remains precise and involving. Many X5 owners – read soccer moms – are unlikely to notice the slightly less road feedback as experienced in previous generations, and for those really looking for that old school driving style, the BMW Active Steering somewhat alienates the steering feedback response by tightening up the turning ratio for twisty road driving.
Probably one of the most important check marks in the buying process of an X5 is the safety aspect. Used primarily by families, the X5 SUV has to be safe and to inspire confidence, regardless of the driver behind the wheel. And BMW delivers once again on this.
In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a five star rating for the 2015 BMW X5 in the Frontal Crash Test. The perfect rating applies to both the driver and passenger testing. In the Side Crash Rating and Side Pole Crash Rating, the new BMW X5 also scored a perfect five star.
NHTSA also rated the 2015 BMW X5 with a four star rating in the rollover test.
The premium SUVs segment is getting more crowded every year. Traditional and strong competitors like the Mercedes-Benz ML, Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, are now joined by others, one example is the new Volvo XC-90 which aims to challenge the German domination. Consumers have now more choices than ever and putting the “Best SUV” label can be a challenging task for any journalist. While some of us value the driving experience, there are others who emphasize the luxury and comfort angle in their reviews.
With all the options, our X5 tester had an MSRP of $68,000.
Bottom line is that the new X5 is top-notch in the luxury crossover world and if you’re looking for a premium SUV, the 2015 BMW X5 deserves a prolonged test at your local dealership.