BMW blazed itself a new trail in the late 1990s when it launched the first X5 sport-utility vehicle, and the 2011 X5 continues to provide good handling, seating for five, and enough off-road ability to make it a popular choice among affluent suburbanites. It competes with the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, the lower end of the Range Rover line, and the Audi Q7, among others in the expansive luxury sport-utility field.
The brand has been slow to the hybrid game—its sole offering is the pricey and very low-production ActiveHybrid X6 “sports activity vehicle” model—but the green alternative in the X5 line has historically been the clean-diesel xDrive35d version. The EPA rates the diesel X5 at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 22 mpg; specifying the smallest 3.0-liter gasoline engine lowers that to 16 city, 23 highway, 19 combined.
Like all BMWs, the X5 line combines excellent handling with brisk performance, though the X5 M hot-rod version is the quickest by far and offers almost every advantage of lesser X5s. It has the usual suite of active safety features, including advanced traction and stability control, but its precise handling and superior responsiveness may contribute as much to on-road safety as they do.
We find the X5’s looks less polarizing than those of other recent BMWs; it may be the simplest, plainest vehicle in the lineup. Inside, five people can travel in comfort, though like the Audi Q7, the third-row seats are better suited to children than standard-sized adults.
Fit, finish, and interior materials are rich and well suited to the luxury SUV class, though not as elegant as those of the Q7. Any feature you may desire that isn’t included as standard can likely be ordered. BMW has steadily evolved its iDrive controller system to address the roar of early criticism, and it’s now functional and easier to learn, if still not particularly intuitive.
The 2011 BMW X5 line starts around $46,000, but top-end models can soar to $85,000 and higher. For more details, see the full review of the 2011 BMW X5 on our sister site, TheCarConnection.