The entry-level four-cylinder X5 models offer a lot of car for not a lot of cash.
The new BMW X5 range now has a pair of affordable new entry-level models, including the most affordable X5 ever sold here which just also happens to be the first ever to be offered with rear-wheel drive.
The new rear-drive X5 sDrive25d starts at $82,900 - almost $10,000 less than the previous-generation BMW X5 base model (the xDrive30d, which has been promoted to a more senior position for the new-generation range) – while buyers who insist upon all-wheel drive need to pay $87,900 for the xDrive25d.
The entry-point puts the BMW X5 sDrive25d smack-bang on the money when it comes to its main rivals. The Mercedes-Benz ML250 BlueTec, for example, is identically priced at $82,900, while the Audi Q7 starts at $90,500 and the Range Rover Sport range is further out of reach at $102,800. Other rivals include the Infiniti QX70 (formerly FX, priced from: $76,400), and the smaller Lexus RX (from $69,045 for the base RX270, or $82,900 for the more closely matched RX450h Luxury).
BMW hasn't left out a whole load of equipment to get to that price point, either. The list of standard inclusions features bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and fog lamps, 18-inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors, reverse-view and surround-view camera, auto lights and high-beams, auto wipers, leather trim, electronically adjustable front seats with memory settings, dual-zone climate control and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. It also has a handy automated boot opening and closing system.
Other convenience items such as satellite navigation with a 10.25-inch screen, head-up display, voice control Bluetooth with phone and audio streaming are standard, as is a lane departure warning system and pedestrian and traffic warning systems. Read the full pricing and specification details here.
Inside, the new BMW X5 base models feel anything but basic. The finishes are of a high quality, with soft plastics on the dash and the aforementioned leather lining the seats and other touch points.
The dash-top screen controlled via a neat, touch-sensitive iDrive media controller adds to the ambience. However, the seemingly unneeded array of numbered stereo buttons on the dash, the climate system’s out-dated orange instrumentation and the plain instrument cluster dials dull the experience somewhat.
It is spacious, with the rear seat offering good levels of head- and legroom - easily large enough to accommodate three across the bench. There are three top-tether child seat points, while the two outboard seats also offer ISOFIX connection points.
Storage is well taken care of, with large bottle holders integrated into the generous front and rear door pockets, good sized cupholders behind the gear selector and in the fold-down armrest in the rear, and a reasonably copious centre console.
The boot is bigger than the old model, too, with 650 litres of cargo capacity – easily large enough to swallow a pram, golf clubs or a number of suitcases. It also features those ever-handy 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats, allowing up to 1870L of cargo capacity, according to BMW.
Buyers can opt for a third row of seating to increase its passenger capacity to seven, but in five-seat models there’s a space-saver spare wheel under the floor – odd considering the BMW X5 range comes with run-flat tyres as standard. The company says Aussie buyers want the peace of mind of a spare, just in case.
Under the bonnet the new 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine produces 160kW of power at 4400rpm and 450Nm of torque from 1500-2500rpm. The engine is teamed to an eight-speed automatic transmission that helps the sDrive25d sip just 5.8 litres of diesel per 100km, while the xDrive25d uses a claimed 6.0L/100km.
The engine is smooth and revs quite cleanly from low in the rev range, with only the slightest hint of lag below 1500rpm. Given the weight of the car (1941 kilograms for rear-drive; 1986kg for all-drive) it is hardly face-melting in terms of pace, but once speeds rise it offers good flexibility, and it responds quickly when you plant your foot for overtaking manoeuvres. It never sounds clattery like many diesel offerings, and there’s no humming or uncomfortable vibration at idle (no, not because it has stop-start that kills the engine – it’s actually very refined).
The eight-speed automatic is geared towards efficiency, keeping the engine operating close to its torque band in order for good in-gear acceleration and to keep fuel use low. The gearshifts are smooth – almost unnoticeable at times – and the gearbox chooses the right gear to make the most of the situation.
Enthusiastic drivers may question the lack of paddle-shifters on the 25d models, but they can be had as part of optional sports-oriented packages. More pragmatic types will appreciate both entry-level models offer 2700 kilograms of braked towing capacity, the same as the rest of the X5 range.
However, both the sDrive and xDrive models lack some of the polish buyers may expect of a BMW.
The ride for models fitted with 18-inch wheels was not settled enough – picking up many of the smaller inconsistencies of the road, and lacking the luxurious, cushy ride characteristics of the previous model. The ride is not uncomfortable, but buyers surrounded by less-than-perfect roads may find it a little tiresome. The optional 20-inch wheels exacerbate its bumpy nature, and it is no better whether you are in the sDrive or xDrive model.
Through corners both base X5s offer some noticeable body roll, and on narrower roads the car feels difficult to position – in short, it’s a big bus and it feels it.
The sDrive model’s steering is over-assisted and vague, and lacks the response and feedback BMW is renowned known for even with the “Drive Experience” mode set to Sport (which adds weight to the steering and changes throttle and gearshift response). The lack of all-wheel-drive traction is barely noticeable on the road, and there's also adequate cornering grip.
Steering weight is improved in the xDrive version, though it still isn’t nearly as sharp as the old model. With it set to Sport, the steering is improved – but there’s no way to isolate the extra responsiveness at the tiller without also making it more aggressive with its throttle and transmission actions.
Unlike many of its premium rivals, the X5 is available with a capped-price servicing program – five years or 80,000km of BMW’s Service Inclusive prepaid coverage starts from $990.
Overall, the X5 sDrive25d and xDrive25d models offer sufficient power for most people’s needs – only someone who wants more toys would really need to consider spending more for a higher-output diesel model.
They make the BMW X5 more financially accessible than before, even if the large German SUV hasn't improved in all areas over the old model.