While the top-selling BMW X5 remains more popular in diesel-powered xDrive30d form here in Australia, a worldwide move away from this fuel type has driven demand for petrol alternatives such as the xDrive40i.
At a list price of $115,990, it commands a $3000 premium over the aforementioned 30d, and is around $4000 pricier than the newly launched Mercedes-Benz GLE450 petrol – its most obvious competitor.
While the 30d’s 3.0-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder makes 195kW of power and 620Nm of torque, the 40i’s 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-scroll turbo petrol produces a brawnier 250kW of power but an inferior 450Nm of torque, between 1500 and 2500rpm.
The petrol model’s combined-cycle fuel consumption is 9.2 litres of premium petrol per 100km, which is 22 per cent higher than the more frugal diesel.
However, its sprightly 5.5-second 0–100km/h sprint time is a full second quicker than the 30d. Both are licensed to lug up to 3500kg braked if fitted with the right tow package.
So, you have a ballpark of what fuel use to expect, my 386km combined loop with a mixture of driving and two occupants with weekend bags returned us 11.1L/100km.
The 40i’s engine offers plentiful grunt and rolling response, and hints of that sonorous note typical of Bimmer’s inline sixes thanks to our car’s fitted $1000 M Sport Exhaust.
It’s not as ‘relaxed’ as the 30d, but certainly sharper off the mark. Plus it’s quieter – a key issue for urban buyers who perhaps don’t need a diesel’s longer range and superior towing ability.
While it doesn’t offer the 48V onboard electrical system and belt-driven starter-alternator used in the Mercedes GLE rival, the BMW’s conventional stop/start system is still so smooth you hardly notice it. The driveline also captures and recycles otherwise wasted brake energy.
Yet, it is a little confusing as to why this engine carries a price premium over the diesel. Price parity we would understand better, that way buyers would have a far simpler choice.
As a prospective buyer, are you urban-focused? Opt for the petrol. Are you a regular fan of country sojourns, snow-runs and towing that boat or caravan? It's diesel for you.
The ZF-made eight-speed automatic transmission never puts a foot wrong, and is matched with a permanent rear-biased all-wheel-drive system that BMW calls xDrive, capable of a fully variable torque split between the axles, hill-descent control, and individual-wheel engine torque vectoring.
Without going too far down an engineering-led rabbit hole, the X5 sits upon BMW’s new modular ‘CLAR’ underpinnings largely shared with the G30 5 Series.
The suspension combines a double-wishbone set-up at the front and a five-link set-up at the rear, and comes standard with adaptive damper control that can add or remove stiffness from the ride.
This new X5 is 42mm longer between the wheels than the old one and 36mm longer overall. Additionally, it’s 66mm wider, taking it out to a commanding two metres across. The tare mass is 2005kg.
The standard wheel and tyre package comprises 20-inch alloys on tyres measuring 275mm x 45mm at the front and 305mm x 40mm at the rear.
The handling is typically gravity-defying, with the X5 able to carry tremendous cornering speeds. It feels more stable, planted and comfortable on a twisting road than anything this tall and heavy ought to, and that’s without the fancy $2250 extra Integral Active (rear-wheel) Steering feature.
The ride quality degrades somewhat over really choppy roads or potholes, down to the stiff and slim tyre sidewalls, though we’ve come to expect this of any large SUVs sold on big sexy wheels.
You can option alloys as large as 22 inches in diameter, on very low-profile 315/30 rear tyres that we can’t imagine would be particularly comfortable.
One option we’d consider is the two-axle air suspension, which costs between $2300 and $3900 depending on what else it’s specified with precisely. Such a system adjusts your ride height, auto levels under weight, and typically adds some smoothness to proceedings.
This can be paired with various off-road engine torque and ESC-fettling modes, underbody protection, and high-tech displays that are covered here, but we wouldn’t bother. If you’re going luxury off-roading, just purchase a Range Rover Sport or Lexus LX.
The X5 is also well specified with driver-assistance features including adaptive cruise control (with a speed-limiter option), cross-traffic alert front and rear, lane-departure assist that steers you between road lines for a limited time before prompting you to concentrate, an evasion aid system built into the AEB, and an automated parking assist function.
You’d battle to find much to complain about regarding the understated interior.
It’s beautifully finished with lashings of leather and metallic inlays, sports a huge driver-facing 12.3-inch display with crisp 1920x1080 resolution running BMW’s 7.0 operating system, and offers to the driver a gorgeous steering wheel ahead of a fully digital instrument cluster augmented by a head-up display on the windscreen.
The integration of the technology worked really well for the most part, with the resolution and customisation of the screens both outstanding, and the iDrive system as intuitive as ever.
However, the voice-controlled personal assistant is not as intuitive as the Mercedes MBUX alternative, which seamlessly controls almost all non-driving-related auto functions.
More than once the BMW system failed to call the person I’d instructed it to, and failed to enter the suitable navigation endpoint. I tried a few accents, too. Good old Siri on my iPhone ran rings around it, though BMW is promising regular updates to the system as it matures.
There's also the full range of services from BMW ConnectedDrive such as in-car internet, Intelligent Emergency Call, concierge services, real-time traffic updates, and a system that sends car data to your workshop ahead of your service.
One nifty piece of tech expanding on this theme, which is rolling out region by region, is a new digital key that employs Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to allow the vehicle to be locked and unlocked from your Android smartphone.
All the driver has to do to open the vehicle is put their phone to the door handle. Once inside, the engine can be started as soon as the phone has been placed in the Qi wireless charging smartphone tray.
Let’s run through some other standard features. You get a 360-degree view camera, 20GB hard drive, satellite navigation with real-world overlays, DAB+, a 10-speaker audio system with 205W amp, adjustable ambient cabin lighting in various colours, a massive panoramic sunroof, ‘Vernasca’ leather seats with heating, a proximity key fob, climate control, and adaptive LED headlights.
Of course, there are a few other options that look quite appealing. Our test car came with a BMW Individual dark (Anthracite) headliner that costs $800, a gesture control system for $500 (don’t bother), wireless phone charger ($900, should be standard), and the $4000 M Sport package with uprated blue-calliper brakes, sportier suspension, special steering wheel and instruments, and an aero package on the outside.
Beyond this you could have a field day. Just a few of the multitude of extra-cost options include ventilated seats ($1500, which is taking the Mickey), front massaging seats ($2000), a Bowers and Wilkins 3D Diamond surround-sound system ($9200), an electric luggage cover and anti-slip rail system ($1200), a Sky Lounge with LED roof lighting ($1600), and heated/cooled cupholders ($500).
The back seats are largely excellent in terms of space for two adults or three kids, though you’re lacking some amenities. The rear vents don’t have their own digital climate-control adjustment (that’s a $900 option), rear seat heating costs $1500, rear sun blinds $600, or HD screens in each seat $4800, though you do get standard USB-C points and mounting points for an iPad holder.
You can also order a third seating row for $3700, though if you want to regularly carry seven occupants, BMW will attempt to woo you into the bigger X7. The third row in most SUVs this size is best for kids.
The tailgate can be opened by a simple kicking motion under the bumper, or conventional button. And unlike some rivals, this hands-free system seems free of bugs. Luggage capacity is 645L and expands to 1860L with the second-row seats folded flat. There’s also a neat centre ski port.
As ever, the rear tailgate splits into two sections, with each segment electronically actuated for the first time. The lower portion can either stay in place to hold in your paraphernalia, or come down and act as a makeshift bench. The pull-out cargo cover is also a work of genius, with the fixed beam simply sliding into place and clipping in.
From an ownership perspective, you get a three-year warranty that is starting to look dated, though Mercedes and Audi are no better. Servicing can be paid for in advance, with five-year/80,000km packages priced at $2050 for the basic offer, and $5270 for the ‘plus’ package that additionally renews brake pads and discs, plus wiper blades.
So, that’s a look at the BMW X5 xDrive40i. Should you buy this over the 30d? If you mostly do urban commuting, yes. If you regularly shlep to the snow or tow a trailer, then diesel is probably your better bet. The two options should be priced the same, instead of this one carrying a premium.
Beyond this, the X5 remains a great looking, comfortable, yet dynamic luxury SUV that is one of BMW’s very best models. As with any premium brand, you need to go easy on ticking those options boxes, but it’s a top-seller for good reason.