In our eyes, a mid-size luxury SUV is at its best when it so effortlessly blends on-road driving satisfaction with modern technology and a posh cabin—and the 2021 BMW X5 does just that. Three different powertrains are offered—including a plug-in hybrid model and a high-performance twin-turbo V-8—and the X5’s road manners are decidedly athletic. Its styling is attractive without being overly flashy, and the interior treats occupants with quality materials, comfortable seats, and a plethora of convenience and luxury features. It faces heady competition from the likes of the Audi Q7, the Porsche Cayenne, and the Mercedes-Benz GLE-class, but the X5 is a richly outfitted package well-equipped for the task at hand.
What’s New for 2021?
For 2021, the X5’s xDrive50i model has been replaced by the plug-in hybrid xDrive45e. The new plug-in hybrid powertrain consists of a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six and an electric motor for a total output of 389 horsepower. A 24.0-kWh battery pack is said to provide up to 30 miles of electric-only driving range. The regular 40i models also receive some light electrification in the form of a 48-volt hybrid system. Otherwise, the X5 receives only minimal changes, such as now coming standard with SiriusXM satellite radio; the racier M50i model gains remote start and ventilated front seats.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We love saving money almost as much as we love great performance, and that’s why we think the xDrive40i is the X5 to buy. With a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.8 seconds, it’s got sports-sedan acceleration, comes with all-wheel drive, and is a relative bargain in this price class. We’d recommend adding the Premium package for its head-up display, four-zone automatic climate control, remote engine-start capability, Harman/Kardon stereo system, wireless phone charging, and Wi-Fi hotspot.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
For 2021 there are now three distinct powertrains, each associated with a different X5 model. X5s wearing the sDrive40i or xDrive40i badge are powered by a 335-hp turbocharged inline-six. The plug-in hybrid xDrive45e comes with a turbocharged inline-six and an electric motor that combine for 389 horsepower. (We’ve tested the 40i—it managed a quick 4.8-second run to 60 mph.) Last but not least, the M50i’s 523-hp twin-turbo V-8 enables it to rush to 60 mph in less than four seconds. All three powertrains are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and none of them will leave drivers wanting for power in virtually any driving situation. The X5’s refined ride and stable handling are a big improvement compared with the previous-generation model, as is its steering, which feels more connected and direct but still not exactly what we’d consider sporting. The Q7 still has the X5 beat in this area, but it’s a close match. Pitch the X5 into a fast corner, and it holds on reliably and rewards the driver with a predictability that’s missing from the GLE-class. And if you need to tow, know that the X5’s maximum towing capacity is a stout 7200 pounds no matter which engine it has.
Range, Charging, and Battery Life
The xDrive45e model comes standard with a 24.0-kWh battery pack that BMW claims is good enough for up to 30 miles of electric-only driving. The X5 can use the battery to travel up to 84 mph without tapping the gasoline engine. The battery pack can be charged at home on 110-volt or 220-volt outlets or at public charging stations.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
With the inline-six, the X5 is as fuel-efficient as the four-cylinder-powered version of the GLE-class and a tad more fuel-stingy than the four-cylinder Q7, according to the EPA. With the V-8, its EPA ratings drop dramatically but still match the supercharged V-6 variant of the Land Rover Discovery. However, during our real-world highway fuel-economy testing, only the 40i model outperformed its highway rating with a 28 mpg result; the M50i recorded 20 mpg, 2 fewer mpg than expected. We haven’t had a chance to test the new xDrive45e model, but when we do we will update this story with results.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Interior space is generous for adults in both the first and second row, but the X5’s optional third row is for kids only. Once settled inside, occupants are treated to a cabin lined with high-quality materials, plenty of charging points for devices, and—depending on the options chosen—myriad luxury features. Power-adjustable front seats with memory for the driver are standard. All models come with a power-adjustable steering column, heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power rear liftgate, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and customizable ambient lighting. Massaging seats, remote start, soft-close doors, acoustic glass, a leather dashboard, and heated front armrests and steering wheel can make the X5 feel like a high-end luxury SUV but add a lot of dough to the bottom line. Speaking of expensive options, buyers can add a Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound audio system that features diamond-domed tweeters. The X5 offers plentiful cargo space. With the rear seats in use, we managed to fit 11 of our carry-on suitcases behind the second row of seats. With the rear seats folded—an operation that can be done from either the side or the rear of the SUV—we found room for 26 cases. The Mercedes GLE matched the X5’s result in this test, case for case, but its rear seats aren’t as easy to stow.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Twin 12.3-inch displays add a contemporary look to the otherwise restrained cockpit. One serves as a digital gauge display—a feature that’s becoming increasingly common among luxury automakers—and the other provides access to the infotainment system, which runs the latest version of BMW’s iDrive software. Users can control the system using a variety of methods, including gesture controls, which are less intuitive than just touching the screen or using the center-console-mounted rotary knob. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The BMW X5 earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) highest honor—Top Safety Pick+—but only received four stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). BMW offers basic driver-assistance features as standard, including automated emergency braking, but more advanced features such as a semi-autonomous driving mode are optional. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning
- Standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
BMW matches its main rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi with similar warranty coverage but offers three years or 36,000 miles worth of complimentary scheduled maintenance to sweeten the deal. Volvo buyers also get such a benefit, while the Buick Enclave offers longer powertrain coverage.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary scheduled maintenance is covered for 3 years or 36,000 miles
More Features and Specs