BMW is not a brand with a long history of SUVs, with its first coming in 1999. However, in the two decades that BMW has been making SUVs, it’s become one of the better SUV makers in the automotive world. In fact, it has two SUVs that are absolutely outstanding; the BMW X5 and X7. The only question is which one to buy?
Obviously, the BMW X7 is more expensive than the X5, so it’s not going to have a ton of overlapping customers. However, a heavily optioned X5 xDrive40i can get very close to the price of an entry-level X7 xDrive40i. Pus, the high-performance X5 M50i is actually more money than the entry-level X7. So, for some customers, it could come down to which they want to buy; a loaded X5 or a base-model X7.
Reasons for Buying the BMW X7
It’s actually a tough question. A loaded BMW X5 is going to be an absolutely lovely machine. The cabin of the X5 is wonderful and packed full of features. However, the X7, even in the entry level xDrive40i model, is fabulous. The materials are better than even the most heavily optioned X5 and it has a ton of extra interior space. The BMW X7 is taller, wider and far more cavernous inside. So sitting in an X7 will feel more luxurious than an X5, regardless of options or trim level.
Another feather in the X7’s cap is its true third row of seating. While a third row is optional on the smaller X5, it’s really not that useful. You’d only really use the X5’s third row in a pinch, if you had to. However, the third row in the X7 is positively spacious. I’m only 5’9″, so I’m not very tall but I’m about the average height of an adult American male and I can fit in the back of the X7 comfortably. Plus, you can get a dedicated climate zone for the rearmost row, bumping the total climate zones up to four, there are several USB-C ports, cupholders and even its own little fixed glass panel in the roof. So it’s about as accommodating as a third row can possibly be.
Then there’s the ride. The BMW X7 is, unquestionably the best luxury car in the Bavarian stable. It rides better than the 7 Series, while also being shockingly enjoyable to drive. For a tall, immensely heavy SUV, the X7 is surprisingly nimble and almost fun to drive. All while sporting a pillowy, composed ride that borders on Mercedes-Benz S-Class-good.
Reasons for Buying the BMW X5
While the BMW X7 is the better luxury car, the BMW X5 strikes a better balance between comfort and fun. While no two-and-a-half-ton SUV is fun to drive, the X5’s capabilities are impressive for it’s size. As far as SUVs go, the X5’s steering is great, its chassis balance and agility shame all SUVs in its class not named Cayenne and all of its engines are brilliant (they’re the same as the X7’s but feel quicker in the lighter X5). If you need a large SUV but also want to have some fun, the X5 is going to be better for you than the X7.
Obviously, cost is a factor as well. There’s one school of thought that says if you can afford the more expensive car, get the more expensive car. However, that’s not necessarily always a good move. While the X7 is undoubtedly nicer to ride in than the X5, it’s not that much nicer. That’s not an indictment of the X7 but praise for the X5. I’ve personally driven in both quite a bit and the X5 is almost as good to drive and ride in. Its interior is lovely and it has all of the same tech on offer as the X7. The BMW X5 is about 8/10ths the luxury car the X7 is, while coming in at almost $20,000 cheaper, depending on options, and being more fun to drive.
There’s also the look. While the BMW X7 has a great looking interior, it has a face only a mother could love. It’s a rough looking car up front, while the BMW X5 is handsome and sophisticated from all angles. In X5 M50i trim, it’s downright gorgeous. It’s a great looking SUV that’s bound to make your neighbors jealous. Looks aren’t everything, of course, but they still matter and the X5 is the better looking car.
One last feather in the X5’s cap is the availability of a proper M version. The BMW X7 has an M50i variant but that’s just an M Performance model; consider it an M-lite. However, the BMW X5 M is a proper M Division product and is a seriously fast machine. So if you want a genuine performance SUV, the X5 is the only one of the two that can provide such a thing.
Maybe I’m riding the fence but there’s no clear cut answer. The BMW X5 and X7 are both excellent SUVs that, when priced certain ways, can actually have overlapping customers that will have to choose between them. Do you go for a highly optioned X5 or an entry-level X7? That’s a tough question but you have to weigh their pros and cons and figure out which one best suits you.