Launched in 1999, the X5 is BMW's flagship mid-size SUV, or as BMW calls it, an SAV-- for Sport Activity Vehicle. From the very beginning, BMW worked hard to make sure that sporty driving dynamics and an elevated level of responsiveness were programmed into the X5. This means the X5 features not only a great deal of utility, but with BMW's all-wheel drive system, a sure-footed nature in a variety of terrains. Add to that BMW's trademarked build quality and luxury and the X5 is a versatile vehicle that's well-placed at the top of its class. Five trims are available, starting with the rear-wheel-drive sDrive35i and topping out with the X5 M.
The 3.0L inline 6-cylinder turbocharged engine in the sDrive35i and all-wheel drive xDrive35i makes 300 horsepower. The xDrive50i is fitted with an all-aluminum twin-turbo 4.4L V8 with variable valve timing and direct injection. It features what BMW calls a "reverse flow" setup, with its twin turbochargers situated within the valley between the cylinders. It makes 445 horsepower and 450 foot-pounds of torque. Powering the xDrive35d is a 255-horsepower 3.0L inline-6 diesel engine. The Variable TwinPower turbocharged engine also produces 425 foot-pounds of torque and delivers an EPA-estimated 26 mpg on the highway.
The performance-oriented X5 M is in a class of its own with a twin-turbo 4.4L V8 that makes 567 hp and 553 lb-feet of torque.
All the X5 models use an 8-speed automatic transmission. Brake energy regeneration is also used with the gasoline engines, which uncouples the alternator from the accessory drive system, allowing the battery to only be charged during coasting or braking. This, BMW says, results in up to 2 percent fuel economy boost.
The standard safety features list includes driver and passenger front and side units as well as head airbags for the first- and second-row seats. BMW also offers Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Hill Descent Control and Dynamic Cruise Control. Active Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning systems are also available. There's also a rearview camera that can provide a 360-degree exterior view, a Heads-Up Display that projects onto the windshield in the driver's field of view and a Park Distance Control system that alerts the driver of obstacles behind the vehicle while parking.
Three distinct lines are available. The Luxury Line includes 19-inch alloy wheels, chrome window surrounds and a sport leather steering wheel. The xLine features stainless steel underbody cladding front/rear, silver matte kidney grille, rocker panels and front air intakes, roof rails in Satin Aluminum as well as window trim made of the same material, unique 19-inch wheels and Anthracite headliner as standard. The M Sport package includes an M Sport steering wheel, a sport automatic transmission, sport seats and M-badged foot rests and door sills.
The X5 M is equipped similarly to the xDrive50i, but gets 21-inch wheels, auto-leveling suspension, driver-selectable adaptive suspension, a limited-slip differential and powerful M compound brakes. Unique sport seats with deep bolsters as well as a unique interior color are also included.
Popping the accelerator while executing a hard left turn, the 2015 BMW X5 M adds a little rotation, actively kicking out its back end. The firm ride and adaptive suspension means no wallow as it comes around and the 567 horsepower engine feels like it wants to put all its power to the wheels.
And that's with all systems set to comfort.
The all new X5 M follows BMWs recent theme of programmable cars in its M performance line. Steering, shifting, throttle and suspension all offer multiple modes, from Efficient or Comfort to Sport Plus, with combinations of settings savable to the M1 or M2 buttons on the steering wheel. The X5 M is a truly remarkable SUV, proof of BMW engineering competence and a rubber-meets-the-road demonstration of performance technology.
The Good The 2015 BMW X5 M combines an extraordinarily capable suspension system with a powerful engine, leading to serious sports performance. A new detection system warns the driver of pedestrians and bicyclists on dark streets, and a surround-view camera system helps with parking lot maneuvers.
The Bad Fuel economy averages in the mid-teens. The firm ride can take a toll even with the suspension in Comfort mode.
The Bottom Line The 2015 BMW X5 M seems to defy physics with its performance technology, letting it take turns at tremendous speed, but the sports focus of this SUV takes away some of its practicality.
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