BMW has a reputation for offering dynamic handling, great engines, nice interiors, and complicated controls. These traits are all present in the X5, an updated SUV that faced off against the Mercedes-Benz ML350 in the June issue of Consumer Reports.
The X5 steps up the game by replacing its naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine with a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six mated to an eight-speed transmission. This new engine delivers smooth, powerful acceleration, but it drinks premium fuel at a modest rate of 18 mpg. You can also opt for a diesel that delivers 4 more mpg.
Sporty to drive, the X5 has quick and communicative, though heavy, steering. Excellent body control and low body lean instill confidence and make it fun to drive, belying the X5's weight and size. But an overly firm ride that feels choppy may limit its appeal to some drivers.
The interior is nicely finished, though the controls remain complicated. Even the shifter demands more attention than those in most vehicles. The front seats are very supportive. The second-row seat is roomy enough for three adults, but the optional third-row seat is tiny and best suited to small children. Equipping the X5 with the third-row seat means sacrificing a spare tire, and cargo space is extremely limited when it's in use. BMW doesn't recommend child seats be used in the third row, and we found that LATCH connectors can be difficult to access for the second row.
At $62,675, our X5 was pricey. While it delivers in many regards, there are better luxury SUVs available and for less money.
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