Before you read this review, you should know that I am a 14-year-old boy who absolutely lives and breathes cars. My parents often find me on my Mac on websites such as CarAdvice or YouTube, researching all the latest news and reviews on what is happening in the automotive industry, when I should be doing my homework.
I dream of one day owning a BMW 5 Series for their excellent blend between luxury and sportiness. I also aspire to one day become an automotive journalist and work in a business such as CarAdvice, or start my own motoring website or blog after I have completed my school and university studies.
This is my second review (my first one was also of an X5), so as I haven’t yet got my licence, I am writing this review from the perspective of someone whose family is very fortunate to own an X5. I then add in parts about what my parents think about the car (after I have prompted them with a series of questions).
But anyway, that is enough about me … let’s get cracking on this review.
I am in a family of five plus one dog. We have always liked the space and practicality offered by the X5, so we decided in the middle of 2016 during BMW’s Demonstrator Clearance to purchase a new BMW F15 X5 sDrive 25d.
We have been fortunate to previously own two E70 X5 xDrive 30ds (One LCI and Pre-LCI) and they were both amazing cars that truly were Ultimate Driving Machines, which made me question – Is BMW capable of creating an admirable successor to the E70?
To cut a long story short, yes, BMW surely is capable, and here’s why…
We took delivery of our new F15 X5 sDrive 25d about seven months ago with 900 demonstrator kilometres on it. Our car has the following optional features fitted:
- M Sport Package
- Innovations Package (More on this later)
- Panoramic Glass Sunroof
- Alpine White Paint
- Dakota Black Leather with American Oak Trim
- Black Kidney Grilles
- Gloss Black M Sport 469 M wheels, painted by our dealer
When driving out of the showroom, the first impressions of our new car were excellent – and yes, the smell was awesome. The initial change you notice from behind the wheel, is how much lighter the steering is. This is because the F15 gains electrically-assisted power steering, instead of the E70’s older hydraulic system. Consequently, the F15 is much easier to manoeuvre and my Mum reckons it is like driving a lot smaller car. Seems like the new electrically-assisted steering is good… right?
This new steering system in the X5 has been criticised in many reviews for not feeling like a BMW, and unfortunately, I partially agree with these statements. It is too light in its Comfort setting, and is only decently weighted in Sports mode, which isn’t ideal for daily driving – my Dad is a bit of a stickler for Eco Pro Mode and likes to see how many extra kms he gets out of a tank.
However, the X5 isn’t meant to be a 'hardcore' driver's car. It is the most driver focussed SUV out in the current market, other than the Porsche Cayenne (which in my view doesn't look that good in base form).
The truth is, that most X5s, just like ours, spend most of their time around town, where this new steering system is appreciated, not out on twisty back roads. Either way, Sport and Sport+ mode makes the car as driver focussed as an X5 should be, and weights up the steering reasonably well.
It would be nice to be able to have an individual setting (like on some Mercedes-Benz models) where you can mix and match your throttle, suspension and steering settings. Despite not having much feel, the steering is by no means indirect. You have confidence that when you turn the wheel in, the front wheels will go exactly where you want them to.
The suspension/comfort of the F15 is vastly improved over that of the E70, which had a firm ride for a luxury SUV, and a tendency to crash over imperfections in the road. The F15 is undoubtedly the more comfortable X5, but the suspension is still a bit on the firm side for an SUV of this calibre.
Nevertheless, my family prefers to have a good handling car than one that doesn’t handle well and lacks a sporty demeanour. The suspension can be summed up as being compliant but not acquiescent.
I believe that the suspension could provide better comfort, while maintaining a sporty behaviour if BMW included the adaptive suspension package as standard, especially when we have spent money on the M Sport Package, which includes Adaptive M Suspension on every other X5 variant, except for the sDrive 25d. If there is a reason for this not being on the sDrive 25d, let me know!
But, I am not going to let this small, niggly, issue ruin my view of the F15 as the standard ride is already nice enough, and much better than the E70 X5. An example of the improved handling was when we were test driving the F15 X5. When going through corners, it felt much tighter and more as though it ‘hugged’ the road than the E70 which may have also been influenced by it being a rear-wheel drive.
Also, the speed of going through corners is higher than the E70, and, there is much less body roll and the car genuinely feels more planted. What I’m trying to say, is that the F15 handles extremely well for its size. It feels nimble and less ’truck’ like than the E70 ever did because of these new handling refinements, and the new steering.
Having previously had xDrive 30d X5s, we were expecting an unwelcome change in power and ‘go’ factor in the smaller-engined sDrive 25d. But, my Dad was surprised that the 2.0L turbocharged four-pot is quite brisk when you stomp on it!
With a hefty 500Nm of torque (50 less than a standard M3) on tap from just 1500-3000rpm and 170kW of power at 4000rpm, the sDrive 25d is no slouch and will prove a challenge for most at the lights – just ask my Mum! While the engine stops peak torque and power at 4000rpm, the X5 feels as though the engine is still pulling all the way to the redline.
The F15 engine has been masterfully coupled to the ZF eight-speed automatic. Gear changes are nice and soft in comfort, almost imperceptible, but in sports mode, they are more prompt and much sharper.
Fuel economy gains are also evident. In the E70 we were getting about 11-13L/100km on average, but in this new car it is at 7-9L/100km, which is terrific for a near two-tonne SUV. We have had to fill up with diesel only about once a month, and we drive with the car in EcoPro during peak hour, but other than that we drive with a heavy foot in Sport/Sport+ mode on weekends…
My one gripe with the engine would be the very harsh, rattly and weak engine note it produces – it doesn’t encourage you do hold out the revs for a long time, even if it does improve across the rev range.
The sound is marginally improved in the cabin by BMW pumping some of the 'nice' sounds from the engine into the cabin through the speakers. Still, it cannot produce the nice grunt the E70 did. But, really it is a 2.0L diesel, so it is never going to sound as nice as the in-line six! Or you could just drive with the windows up all the time…
The F15 X5 looks very handsome with the M Sport package and all the black accents which are a feature of it. We decided to get our BMW dealer to paint the wheels black, and exchange the chrome grilles for a set of glossy black kidney grilles, which not only makes this car more individual, but also a lot sportier.
The LED lights look sleek at night and give the car a very classy look, indeed. The design is good enough to make people realise you’re driving an affluent car, but also turns heads and make people think, “Wow, what a sporty X5 that is!” I absolutely love the exterior of this car!
From the inside, the F15 feels very similar to the E70. A few buttons have moved to new places, and the overall design of the interior is much more premium than before, even if it is just an evolutionary design.
BMW has adopted a much more flowing, and modern design to the dash, which is hardly showing its age compared to the previous car, which aged very quickly on the inside. It may not have the ‘wow’ factor of newer cars in the market (think Audi Q7, Volvo XC90), but it certainly fulfils the criteria of a luxury car’s interior, and feels higher in quality and superiorly built than the newer cars.
We did look at an F-Pace as an alternative to the X5, but we felt the quality was sub-standard for the price you were going to pay for the Jaguar. The stitching on the dash isn’t even straight, and the paddles on the wheel are plastic and lack the weighted 'click' satisfaction and feel that the ice-cold metal does in the X5.
The interior of the F15 X5 is leaking with ambient lighting (a feature of the Innovations Pack), which adds a very luxurious and ‘nightclub-ish’ (not that I would know!) feel to the interior and makes the car more configurable to your mood. However, the colour selection is rather small and you can’t mix and match what you want, you must choose ones from the menu.
The M steering wheel feels nice in the hand, especially when it is draped in Nappa leather. It has all the frequently used buttons which make it ergonomically great, yet stylish. It is smaller in diameter than the E70’s M-Sport steering wheel, but it adapts a much more sophisticated design with chunkier and thicker bolstering. BMW is renowned for making nice steering wheels that evoke a sense of sportiness, and this one is no exception.
The iDrive system is by far the best in the business, and remains my favourite in-car infotainment system. It is predominantly carried over from the E70, but the graphics have been changed, and so has the screen (now 10.25 inches), the display quality has improved and the swivel wheel now has a touchpad on top, meaning that you can now write with your finger to input destinations (for example). Given where it is located, this is okay if you are left-handed but a bit hard if you are not.
If you are in the market for the X5, I would recommend that you tick the Innovations Package on your order form. BMW Australia recently made it a NCO (No Cost Option) for the X5 range, making it an absolute steal considering the amount of kit you get. Plus, it does help with resale down the track.
As a part of the Innovations Package you get:
- Colour Head-Up Display (displays everything you want right in front of you, it is great, we love it. It is a lot nicer than most other manufacturers' as it doesn't over complicate the screen, keeping you focussed on the road)
- Surround View Camera System (is an absolute godsend, which means there is no excuse to scuff those beautiful AND expensive rims)
- Lights Package (Lights on the door handles, and interior lighting which you can change the colour of)
- Anti-dazzle mirrors
- Lane Change warning
The delivery experience was great and the dealer made us feel proud of our purchase, which was nice.
I can’t really delve into the service/maintenance from BMW for this car yet, as it is only a new car, but judging from the E70, it will be great again with no issues at all. However, the tyres are likely to be costly to replace, just like the E70, due to their large size. (UPDATE: we got a puncture in our right-front tyre from a thick screw. BMW said it wasn't repairable so we had to have it replaced. To add to an already large annoyance, the tyre that is on our car is no longer in Australia, meaning that we have had BOTH front tyres changed. Thankfully, BMW was kind enough to give us the second tyre for free. Still… we are $600+ out of pocket).
So, to sum up the F15 X5, it is the perfect all-rounder, yet again. It has been criticised all over the world for trying to be different things at once; a sports wagon, a luxury car and a technological masterpiece, and reviewers say it does none of the aforementioned very well.
However, I strongly argue they are wrong. You see, I tend to view it as a car that offers you a bit of everything and ties it all into an attractive package. The X5 has a bit of sport, tech and luxury, which offers you the best of everything, instead of having a car with one driving style, and one personality.
This is our third X5, and as always, I suspect it will be a great experience.
Thanks for taking the time to read this review, and stay tuned as I will have other reviews of the cars of my family and friends.
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss this comparison below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.