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Monday, June 5, 2023

Review: The 2021 BMW X5 has muscle and manners

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The BMW X5 is the German brand’s midsize luxury SUV, or “Sports Activity Vehicle” (SAV), as BMW
likes to call it. The X5 was among the first luxury crossovers and is a leader in its class, most recently winning the Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award in its segment. To that end, it was able to edge out worthy competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Audi Q7, and Acura MDX.

There’s a lot to like in the BMW X5. It offers a variety of engines — from a wonderful inline-6 and brawny V8 to a new plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model – has excellent driving manners, a wealth of luxury and tech features, and badge appeal. Most X5 models are equipped with seating for five, but a 7-passenger setup is available via an optional small third row. If all-out performance is your thing, there’s the 600-horsepower 2021 BMW X5 M.

In addition to an X5 PHEV that can travel around 30 miles on electricity alone, BMW has updated the 2021 X5 with Android Auto integration (finally), and added a 48-volt mild-hybrid system to 6-cylinder models.

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The X5’s roughly $60,000 starting price is higher than that of its Mercedes rival, but that price brings a bigger standard engine, more power, and an edge in driving manners.

How much does the 2021 BMW X5 cost?

The 2021 BMW X5 has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $59,400, plus a destination fee of $995, for a rear-drive 40i model. The all-wheel-drive (AWD) xDrive40i starts at $61,700. The new plug-in hybrid xDrive45e starts at $65,400, but we think it can be a potentially good value. That’s because it is eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, plus potential state incentives.

The V8 X5 M50i is significantly higher, starting at $82,800. Keep in mind these are the base prices. Check a few option boxes, and you’re looking at thousands more. The 2021 BMW X5 M starts at $105,100.

At its starting price, the BMW X5 is more expensive than rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Lexus RX, and Volvo XC90. Others, such as the Porsche Cayenne and Land Rover Range Rover Sport, begin higher. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying.

We expect the X5’s resale value to be good, but not up to the level of the Porsche Cayenne or Lexus RX.

Driving the 2021 BMW X5

As we’ve noted, the X5’s road manners are outstanding. Indeed, in overall vehicle dynamics, this latest-generation X5 outclasses its luxury SUV rivals. It also proves that BMW hasn’t forgotten that whole “Ultimate Driving Machine” motto, even in a crossover that will likely spend its life as an executive commuter or shuffling kids to piano lessons and sports practice.

The 2021 X5 is also one of those rare examples where the base engine, a turbocharged inline-6, has all the muscle required to make the whole package a truly remarkable machine, feeling lighter than the X5’s 5,000-pound bulk would suggest.

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Part of the secret lies in the selectable driving modes, ranging from Eco Pro to Sport Plus. So the X5 will satisfy on a corner-carving solo jaunt as well as carry a family in soothing comfort. The all-wheel-drive setups have a rearward power bias to create more of a sporty feel, sending more drive to the front whenever necessary. If you don’t need AWD and want to shave some costs, the X5 is also the rare SUV that’s available with just rear-wheel drive RWD) in the base X5 sDrive40i.

But if you have a real craving for power and the deep pockets to scratch that itch, the V8-powered X5 M50i is undeniably satisfying. Its 523 horses enable this luxury SUV to do 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds – sports car territory. The X5 M, with its 600-hp twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, is even quicker.

We are eager to test the new X5 PHEV, so stay tuned for our impressions on this new-gen plug-in X5. It has more power than the last one offered in 2018, and over twice the all-electric driving range.

All X5s use a sublime 8-speed automatic transmission that really is among the best out there. For 2019 and 2020, the X5 was available with an off-road package that gave it some genuine chops for off-roading, but that package has been discontinued for 2021. A shame, but we imagine not many buyers are taking their high-end SUV off the beaten path.

Favorite features 

Powertrain choice
With the addition of the plug-in hybrid, the 2021 BMW X5 has a powertrain for every taste. The best part is, you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Luxury and tech
Beyond its famed driving manners, the BMW still offers a lot of luxurious features in the X5. Amenities range from massaging front seats to a night-vision assist system and a superb-sounding Bowers & Wilkins premium audio option.

2021 BMW X5 interior

In its standard form, the 2021 BMW X5 comes as a 5-seater with the usual two rows of seating. A third row is optional ($2,300, including the air suspension as well), bringing the occupant count to seven. It’s not a place where many adults would be happy to spend their time, but it works well enough for the school run.

The first two rows, on the other hand, are great. They’re spacious and comfortable. Although the standard front seats are perfectly fine, the optional multi-contour upgrades (a reasonable $750, or standard in the 50i models) are among the finest available, bringing 20-way-power adjustment with memory settings.

Cabin materials are top-quality, and the dashboard is smartly streamlined along either side of a high-resolution 10.2-inch touchscreen in the center. Every X5 also has a 12.3-inch digital driver-information display replacing the traditional instrument cluster.

Behind the second seating row is 33.9 cubic feet of luggage space. When they’re folded, the cargo area expands to 72.3 cubic feet. The new 2021 BMX X5 plug-in hybrid, called the xDrive45e, sacrifices little cargo space despite having a battery pack under its body. It only gives up 0.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 1.1 cubic feet with them down.

2021 BMW X5 exterior

To our eyes, the BMW X5 has a great blending of style, ruggedness, and utility. It is handsome, big, and bold, but not to the point of being intimidating. Yes, its twin-kidney grille is large, but not as huge as the gaping front end of the X7.

Around back, this latest BMW X5 retains two-part clamshell tailgate that has long been used on this model. It is highly useful. With the bottom part up, it keeps cargo from falling out the back. With it down, you get a small tailgate. Furthermore, both are power-operated with hands-free operation.

2021 BMW X5 standard features

The X5 comes in five main versions: sDrive40i, xDrive40i, M50i and xDrive45e, and X5 M. The 40i models represent those with 6-cylinder engines. The main difference is that the sDrive is rear-wheel drive, and the xDrive is all-wheel drive. Otherwise, both those models include keyless entry, hands-free power tailgate, SensaTec faux leather upholstery, power-adjustable steering column, heated front seats, automatic climate control, panoramic moonroof, remote engine start, and universal garage remote.

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The X5’s standard tech includes a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, navigation, and a 10-speaker/205-watt audio system with AM/FM/HD Radio. Standard safety systems include frontal collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning. New BMWs come with three years/36,000 miles of complimentary maintenance.

High-performance hardware abounds on the X5 M. It ranges from the M Sport differential and sport-oriented all-wheel-drive system to upgraded braking and suspension components. The X5 M also has 21-in wheels and sport seats.

2021 BMW X5 options

BMW X5 M50i models come with the more powerful V-8 engine and a host of performance upgrades, plus more amenities. Among them are leather interior, 4-zone climate control, massaging and ventilated front seats. The new xDrive45e plug-in hybrid SUV includes many of the features on the 6-cylinder models, plus air suspension.

No matter what BMW X5 you choose, there is a long list of options available. Among them are genuine leather upholstery in various colors, remote engine start, head-up display and gesture control for audio and the like, Harman Kardon or Bowers & Wilkins premium audio systems, wireless phone charging and Wi-Fi hot spot, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera.

A Competition Package is available on the X5 M. For $9,000 you get bumped engine output (617 hp), a performance exhaust, and nifty details like M seat belts.

2021 BMW X5 engine

An inline-6 engine is a BMW specialty. The version propelling 2021 X5 40i models displaces three liters and is turbocharged to develop 335 horsepower. It’s smooth while still packing a punch. It should be more than adequate for the majority of buyers. This year a 48-volt mild-hybrid system is added, though fuel economy ratings are the same.

BMW also makes an awesome twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8. The M50i uses a version that provides a glorious 523 horsepower. In the X5 M, it produces a nice even 600 horsepower.

New this year is the xDrive45e, a plug-in hybrid. Whereas the past version used a 4-cylinder engine, this new one combines a turbocharged inline-6 with an electric motor. It makes 389 horsepower in all and has an electric-only range estimated at 30 miles.

All versions employ an 8-speed automatic transmission. The sDrive40i is rear-wheel drive (RWD); the others have an all-wheel-drive system that BMW calls xDrive. Maximum towing capacity is 7,200 pounds, including the plug-in hybrid.

These engines have a fuel-saving automatic stop/start feature, cutting the engine when idling. Drivers irritated by the restart action can turn it off.

3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 (40i models)
335 horsepower @ 5,500-6,500 rpm
330 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-5,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/26 mpg (RWD), 21/25 mpg (AWD)

3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 + electric motor (xDrive45e)
389 horsepower combined
331 lb-ft torque combined
EPA combined fuel economy: 50 MPGe / 20 mpg

4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (M50i)
523 horsepower @ 5,500-6,000 rpm
553 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-4,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 mpg

4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (X5 M)
600 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
553 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-5,860 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/18 mpg

Which model is right for me? 

2021 BMW X5 sDrive40i

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and navigation
Heated/16-way-power front seats
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Power tailgate
19-inch alloy wheels

2021 BMW X5 xDrive40i

All-wheel drive

2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e

Plug-in hybrid powertrain
2-axle air suspension

2021 BMW X5 M50i

Twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 with 523 horsepower
Leather upholstery
Quad-zone automatic climate control
Wireless phone charging
Harman Kardon 16-speaker/464-watt surround-sound system
M performance upgrades

2021 BMW X5 M

Twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 with 600 horsepower
M Sport differential
Adaptive suspension
Power tailgate
21-inch alloy wheels
Panoramic sunroof
Sport seats
Head-up display

2021 BMW X5 safety technology 

Driver assistance features: Although the 2021 X5 is far from the least expensive luxury-midsize-crossover SUV, at least its inventory of standard equipment includes some much-welcome driver aids. Every version comes with forward-collision mitigation with daytime pedestrian detection, active blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, dynamic cruise control, parking sensors at both ends, and speed-limit information.

Driving Assistance Professional package: This is optional and brings some partial autonomy into the 2021 X5. Traffic Jam Assist can take the wheel along with the accelerator and brakes during the stop/go grind of busy roads. Evasive-action assistance is also part of the package, plus the ability to bring the X5 to a complete stop in the event of a health emergency, and an automatic lane-change function.

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Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection: Another cool option that could easily end up paying for itself. Night Vision extends beyond the pool of light thrown out by the headlights to pick up on any possible hazards and provide the driver time in which to react. It can also tell the difference between humans and animals.

People also ask 

What does the X5 name mean?

Every BMW crossover SUV has the “X” prefix, signifying that it’s a crossover. The original X5 was based on the 5 Series midsize sedan.

What generation of BMW X5 is the 2021 model?

Time flies, having fun, etc. This is now the fourth X5 generation, which made its debut two years ago.

Where is the 2021 BMW X5 made?

The X5 is made in the U.S., specifically at BMW’s factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where the X3, X4, X6, and X7 are also produced.

This story originally ran on KBB.com.

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