Back in April of this year, our X5 sDrive 25d was in at our local BMW dealership getting some work carried out on it. During this time, my family was given the opportunity to drive around in the big brother of our X5, the xDrive 30d, for just under a month. Since we had an ample amount of time behind the wheel of the 30d, I figured I would put a small review together of our experience with the objective of helping those who are in the market for a new X5 and need some guidance as to what variant to choose.
Before I get into how the 30d stacks up against the 25d out on the road, let me outline the differences that each variant has on paper.
In addition to the base-model sDrive25d variant ($86,155 MSRP), the pricier 30d ($102,855 MSRP) comes standard with bigger 19 inch wheels, high beam assistant for the carried over bi-xenon headlamps, a surround view camera system (works in conjunction with the standard rear-view camera), ambient lighting, and BMW’s notoriously excellent head-up display. Our loaner was fitted with the ubiquitous M Sport package, which brings with it Adaptive M Suspension – a feature that is absent from our 25d. The third-row seating option was also equipped, which adds air suspension to the rear axle. Furthermore, it was optioned with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and being an MY17 vehicle, the car also had BMW’s new iDrive 5.0. This is the most up-to-date iDrive system that you can find in BMW dealerships, besides the new G30 5 Series which debuts iDrive 6.0.
Where the major difference between these two cars lies is in the engine bay. The 30d gains one litre of displacement and two extra cylinders over the 25d, generating an extra 20 KW and 60 NM over the already spritely outputs of our car (170 KW and 500 NM). The inclusion of BMW’s xDrive system also aids in bringing the 0-100km/h sprint for the 30d down to a hot-hatch shaming 6.8 seconds – nearly a full second quicker than the sDrive 25d.
Now, let’s get on to the important part… how they differ on the road!
The day that we were getting our loan car, my Dad was secretive about what car we were getting. I was hoping for a new 5 Series, a 3 Series, a 1 Series… in other words, anything in the BMW range except an X5.
So, when I saw an essentially identical X5 on the driveway that evening, I was somewhat bummed out. However, as I took a proper look around the car and noticed that it was the more potent 30d variant, boasted the new iDrive 5.0 system AND Adaptive Cruise Control… my disappointment quickly turned into curiosity, and I was eager to go out for a drive.
Right off the bat, I asked my Dad what major difference he noticed when driving away from the dealership for the first time. He simply said, “It’s much quicker...” As he said those words, he popped it into Sport Mode and the 8-speed ZF auto instantly dropped down a gear, and I heard the oh so missed sound from our old E70 X5… an in-line 6 soundtrack.
A wry smile appeared across my face as we took off from the lights and the revs climbed through the tachometer. Gone was the rattily and weak note of the 25d, and in its place was the sonorous in-line six growl that we had said goodbye to just 7 months ago. In my opinion, the sound is a reason alone to splurge on the 30d over the 25d. But not everyone is a car nut like me, and probably couldn't care less how their diesel X5 sounds.
The 30d’s engine has great aural pleasure – but how good is it as an engine? Well to be frank, pretty darn awesome.
While 6.8 seconds to 100km/h might be considered conservative by today’s standards, the 30d will not disappoint at the traffic lights. It is pretty rapid for a near two-tonne oiler. The 30d makes me wonder how the M50D would go! The one thing that stood out to me when putting the 30d up against the 25d is how much more torque there is. Though an extra 60 NM doesn't seem like much on paper, during some accelerations from the lights I found that I was pushed back into my seat many more times than in the 25d. Fuel economy wise, we averaged about 10L/100km in our time with the car, which is a little high. Mind you, we drove in Sport Mode for most of the time and drove in urban areas. For some added context, we normally average 8L/100km in our 25d. Given the meagre conditions to get good fuel economy, I believe that the 30d should settle at around 9L/100km with a more sedate driving mode and some highway runs.
As I mentioned earlier, our loan car was fitted with Adaptive M Suspension which is an absent feature on our sDrive 25d. This is despite the fact that it too is fitted with the M Sport pack. After driving in the 30d for the time we did, there is undoubtedly a noticeable difference in ride quality across all driving modes compared to our car. The Comfort mode in the 30d irons out the imperfections in the road so well in comparison to the standard sprung sDrive 25d, and as a result, it has a much cushier ride quality. Sport Mode however, isn’t as firm as what I thought it would be. Sure, there is a slight change in firmness when Sport mode is selected, but not to the degree I expected.
Another inclusion of the 30d over our 25d (as it is a 2017 model) is the new and improved iDrive 5.0 system. In comparison to the system in our car, the biggest change would have to do with how the system is operated. The traditional iDrive wheel is still there, but a touch screen is now included, and I must say I am a fan. The only let down is that the screen is in the exact same place as it was in the 2016 model, which was not operated through a touchscreen interface. This means that when you reach out to use the screen in the 2017 car, it is probably about a hand’s length away from where you are able easily to use it while driving, which means it is pretty much useless if you are a driver. Despite this minor letdown, the revamped system’s menu layouts, animations, functionality and general looks are a huge improvement over the iDrive 4.0 system featured in our car. It does somewhat lift the ambience of the cabin too. It isn’t as intuitive as iDrive 4.0, but if you spend more time with it, you will grow to learn how to use it very quickly.
I also found that the touchscreen was very responsive whenever you used it. I have been in some cars where the touch interface is laggy and unresponsive. The same can’t be said about this system in the Beemer. It is quick to respond and silky smooth in its operation. It was so good that I likened it to using an iPhone in the way it responded and felt to use.
The Adaptive Cruise Control – while still being an option on both models – was something that Dad will sure to be include on our next BMW. The system took the strain out of longer journeys and made driving a whole lot safer, as the car kept a constant distance between itself and the car in front of it. This meant that if an evasive manoeuvre needed to take place, then there was space and time to do so. The system was not flustered by people who cut in front of you either.
In conclusion, after spending nearly a month in the 30d, I can now see why it remains the top seller in the X5 range, despite the sDrive and xDrive 25d models not being incredibly bad in comparison and quite a bit cheaper. Mum and Dad both came to the decision that if we were back in July 2016 and buying all over again, we would have got the 30d. The 30d engine is just so much better suited to the X5, whereas the 2.0L seems a bit out of place in such a big car. It feels as though the 30d is right at home, whereas the 25d is begging to be moved into a 3 or 5 Series.
However, that takes nothing away from the 25d; as it still is a fantastic car with a great engine. What the 25d does well at in regard to performance, comfort and equipment, the 30d excels in. To be honest, you really can’t go wrong with either car as they are both excellent Sports Activity Vehicles that will spoil the driver (in a good way) regardless of what model you choose. If someone was on the fence about what model to choose, I would highly recommend the xDrive 30d.