In a recent road test by Car Magazine, the BMW X5 went head to head with the Volvo XC90 and Range Rover Sport. All three vehicles were fitted with the smallest diesel engines each company offers, with both the Volvo and BMW getting four-cylinders while the big Range brought a turbocharged V6 to the fight. On paper, from the get go, the BMW X5 seemed to be doomed. It’s the oldest car of the bunch, has the smallest and least powerful engine, returns only mid-pack fuel economy and is, sadly, the least exciting.
Things started to change once the three cars got out onto the road, however.
The Range Rover, in typical Range Rover fashion, is a stunner. It looks fantastic as a standing object. The looks continue as you step inside, as well, with wonderfully supple leather and real metal and wood trim everywhere. However, this is where the Range Rover stops dazzling. The infotainment system is sloppy and unintuitive at best. This sentiment followed while driving, as well, as it feels as massive and heavy as it is. Admittedly, this might be by design, as the Range Rover is the only SUV in the test to have a proper low-range transfer case and genuine off-road capability, so maybe it’s supposed to feel big and mighty. But in this company, the big and mighty feel just translates to feeling uneasy on tight roads. At least it looks great, though.
The Volvo XC90 does its typical Volvo thing. From the outside it looks safe and calm, like a welcome companion. Step inside and that feeling continues, as the blonde wood veneers, tall glass, and supple leather greet you with a pleasant airy feel that is genuinely relaxing. The ride and handling are equally as calming. Though this XC90 was fitted with the standard steel springs, which brought some complaints, the optional air suspension has been said to be absolutely fantastic. The steering is light and accurate with good turn-in but never feels nervous. This is a serene driving experience typical of the Swedes. However, its infotainment system is still a bit difficult to use, despite being one of the better touch screens in the business, and the materials feel a bit cheap to the touch, despite how good they look. The XC90 is also not the handler that the X5 or Range Rover are.
The BMW X5, which looked like it was going to finish last before the test even started, actually ended up being the favorite. It doesn’t do it with flash, but instead with substance. The most vanilla looking car in the test, with the simplest interior, won the test editors at CAR over by driving better than the other two, having the best ride by far, having the sweetest engine and having an interior and infotainment system that were top notch. The interior, while not being as flashy as the ‘Rover or as modern as the XC90, simply worked better than the others. It was more ergonomic and easier to live with. The materials also felt best in the test, without any of the cheapness felt in the Volvo or sloppiness in the Range Rover. Simply put, the BMW X5 has more steak than sizzle, in comparison to the other two, making it the best car here, with the Volvo XC90 and Range Rover Sport following behind, respectively. BMW’s still got it.