Big-selling X5 derivative is spacious, smooth, suave and sporting on request, as well as being predictably good

What is it?

In all likelihood, this will be the biggest-selling BMW X5 of the renewed range: the xDrive 30d.

For those not initiated into the logic of BMW’s current naming regime, that means 3.0-litres and 255bhp of straight-six turbodiesel power, an appealing blend of sub-7.0sec 0-62mph performance and 40mpg-plus economy, and a sub-£50k starting price.

We’re testing it just as the wider X5 lineup fully fills out. This month brought the beginning of production of the xDrive 40d, -25d and -35i models at BMW’s Spartanburg factory, as well as the only two-wheel drive derivative: the four-cylinder, 149g/km sDrive 25d. Keep your eyes peeled for a verdict on the latter early in the new year.

What's it like?

Clearly no daring reinvention of the luxury 4x4 concept - nor even the idea of a BMW X5 in all honesty. But it’s spacious, convenient, refined and lavishly appointed. Munich’s tried-and-tested approach to model replacement also puts the X5 well ahead of the prevailing class standard on performance, fuel-efficiency and handling precision - right where you’d expect a new BMW to be.

It’s a relief to report as much just a couple of months after our road test of the X5 xDrive M50d. The headline 376bhp diesel seemed too highly strung for our tastes, falling a long way short of what we expect from a big 4x4 on rolling refinement and lacking consistency in its primary controls.

The xDrive 30d is like a different car entirely: much more proportionate of response, much easier to drive, and still sufficiently wieldy and poised to feel more athletic than the SUV norm.

It’s a difference that perfectly illustrates what has become an insoluble problem for anyone ordering a premium German car, and for BMW buyers more than most. Munich has broken new ground even by its own standards in complicating and confusing the ordering process of the X5.

The car comes with a passive coil suspension setup as standard, but there are no fewer than four ‘adaptive’ alternatives to that – Comfort, Dynamic, Professional and M-Sport – which introduce active dampers, a self-levelling air-sprung rear end, stiffened and shortened springs, active anti-roll bars and an active ‘Dynamic Performance Control’ rear differential into the mix in varying combinations. Depending on engine and equipment, you can also add an active variable-ratio power steering system, as well as a sport automatic transmission. And that’s before you have to choose between a barrage of 18-, 19- or 20in alloy wheels.

In the face of so much complication, we’ll probably never know for sure what the perfect rolling specification for a new X5 is. The only certainty, as the M50d demonstrated, is that there are myriad ways to get your order wrong.

Some reassurance comes with the fact that our test car (Sport transmission, adaptive comfort chassis, 19in rims) conducted itself well. Always quiet-riding, the car had gentle long-wave compliance in ‘Comfort’ mode, but it comes with some body roll and some deterioration in directional precision. Select ‘Sport’ mode and you get less roll and pitch and quicker steering response. The suspension does what it says on the tin, in other words. What it doesn’t have is an all-purpose ‘auto’ or ‘normal’ mode that expertly splits the difference between the two settings – so you spend many journeys flicking between them, wondering all the time whether you’re in the right one.

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It’s a minor flaw that takes nothing away from the polished smoothness of the X5’s powertrain, or the exceptional spaciousness and strong material quality of its cabin. 

Should I buy one?

A Range Rover Sport is more desirable, more pleasant to be in, and is the X5’s dynamic superior. A Porsche Cayenne Diesel would probably likewise out-shine the BMW. Tellingly though, neither the Range Rover nor the Porsche can match the X5 on performance or fuel efficiency. Which suggests that, even in an increasingly crowded segment, there’s still a place for the sporting SUV that started it all.

BMW X5 xDrive 30d SE

Price £47,895; 0-62mph 6.9sec; Top speed 142mph; Economy 45.6mpg; CO2 162g/km; Kerbweight 2070kg; Engine 6 cyls inline, 2993cc, turbodiesel; Installation Front, longitudinal, four-wheel drive; Power 255bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 413lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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JOHN T SHEA 13 December 2013


And there's the 4.4 litre V8 petrol X50i.
simonali 13 December 2013

Taken from the M50d road test

because you can't comment on full road tests... "BMW's engine range for the X5 primarily focuses on diesel units and comprises the 25d, 30d, 40d and 50d. All but the 50d, which displaces 3.0 litres, are 2.0-litre engines" The above would suggest that it should read thus: BMW's engine range for the X5 primarily focuses on diesel units and comprises the 25d, 30d, 40d and 50d. All but the 25d, which displaces 2.0 litres, are 3.0-litre engines.
Ski Kid 12 December 2013

4 X 4

My wife and I have got stuck several times in non suv vehicles due to ice , snow , snow drifts etc and whilst I agree winter tyres can be a good idea my sister had a problem that whilst her ordinary tyres were supposed to be stored over the winter some little s..t had sold them although the garage initially said they had been thrown away as illegal when my sister presented them with their invoice from them a few months earlier and the car had only done a minimal mileage they enede up replacing in full . So it highlights to me the nuisance that storing them is and the cost and time for changing them twice each year.The other point is that suv's are holding on to their value compared to an ordinayt run of the mill or executive car whether it be an estate or saloon.This is not always reflected in lease rates as the saloons tend to have a far greater discount or manufacturers support for the fleet market .I have seen a few month old e class, a4 and 5 series being advertised with about one third off.You would not get that deal on the respective suv of each company. I must say that I prefer the view of the road in an suv but appreciate it is a bit selfish to those in a sportscar I drive both so have extremes.