By on June 1, 2017

2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i in front of boats, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

High performance sport utilities are nothing new. Porsche’s Cayenne has been around for a while (15 years, in fact), and for the most part the diehard Zuffenhausen aficionados have at least accepted, if not embraced it. Jeep continues to make its ridiculous SRT variation of the Grand Cherokee, which has the ability to consume fuel and tires at an equally distressing rate. GMC is to blame for starting this foolishness in the early ‘90s with the Typhoon version of its otherwise lamentable S15 Jimmy.

BMW isn’t immune to the desire for a padded bottom line and has provided buyers with several variations of the South Carolina-built X5 mid-size SUV for 18 years now too, including M-branded versions with their own eyebrow-raising performance.

So while comparably priced and dynamically superior 5 Series wagons languished in showrooms, North American drivers climbed over themselves to grab a trendy SUV instead.

Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

Giving credit where it’s due, BMW has always done a great job with the X5, imbuing it with handling capabilities and performance pretty close to that of most proper sport wagons, as well as increased ground clearance to safely conquer slightly deeper snow. (Don’t bother asking about off-road capability, it’s not the point of this machine.)

Now four years into its lifecycle, the latest version of the X5 continues to impress.

It’s been a few years since I drove the X5 when I signed out our test machine from BMW Canada’s media fleet, and my recollection was a very positive one. I remembered being thoroughly impressed by the X5’s on-road capabilities and sublime front-seat comfort, causing me to forgive the fact that it’s actually an SUV and not one of the sport wagons the Europeans do so well.

2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i Profile, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

But time waits for no man (or machine) and the competition continues to march forward, bringing out new offerings, technology, and performance. The Range Rover Sport’s presence and off-road capability, and the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 with its lusty engine and updated infotainment system, made me all but forget about the X5.

Climbing into this X5, it didn’t take long to remember why BMW’s mid-size ‘ute I was so endearing to it, or the droves of North American buyers who continue to make the model one of the marque’s most popular sellers. The seats — BMW’s Comfort Seats — are nothing short than an ass-coddling triumph. With the backrest being divided into upper and lower hemispheres, it’s possible to find a comfortable seating position no matter how poor your posture. The upper and lower portions of the seat are also adaptable for width, enabling drivers of all carriages — from engorged to emaciated — to find contentment.

The dash layout is unlikely to win any artistic design awards, but it’s functional and will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time in pretty well any BMW from the last dozen years or so. The latest generation M Sport steering wheel feels great in-hand, with its chunky rim, paddle shifters and thin spokes featuring a reasonable number of redundant buttons.

2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i Interior, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

BMW’s iDrive — once the subject of disdain and ridicule — has evolved into what could arguably be the industry standard. Its layout and operation is intuitive, and its control — with both touchscreen and dial — is excellent. Plus, the wireless Apple CarPlay integration makes the celebrated interface even easier to use.

The standard Harman Kardon sound system provides solid audio performance with full, rich sound, which makes me wonder if most human ears can fully appreciate the available 1,200-watt, 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen system.

And both the rear seat (with its useful 40-20-40 split) and cargo hold offer competitive space for a mid-size SUV. A third row of seats is optional, but not fitted to our test machine.

2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i Trunk, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

Plus, this particular rig was optioned up to look like a seriously sporting ute, what with its M Sport Package (including adaptive suspension), M Power Kit, and ridiculously impractical carbon fiber bits from the front splitter to the side mirrors and back to the rear diffuser. The M Performance exhaust means it even sounds ferocious.

The trouble is 320 horsepower (the M Power Kit gives it a 20 hp boost over the standard fare) feels good, but not scintillating in a rig that weighs in at nearly 4,800 lbs, and with all those M’s on the spec sheet, it kind of seems like it should do 0-60 quicker than the claimed 6 seconds.

Of course, the TwinPower turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine powering this X5, is the base model engine. There’s a diesel with 413 lb-ft of torque, a 445 hp V8 and the obscene 567 hp X5 M, if more grunt is desired — and it should be for a performance machine. I say skip some of the frivolous style options and go for the V8 to really make the X5 feel special.

2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i Shifter and Controls, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

The transmission at least — that venerable 8-speed ZF automatic — is excellent. Shifts are almost imperceptible when just cruising along, but blazingly quick when Sport mode is selected or the paddles are used.

While the grunt of the V8 models would be welcome, it does come with a few hundred pounds of extra heft, mostly over the front end, which may diminish handling a bit. But even with our six-cylinder version and the suspension set to its firmest settings, it’s hard to forget this is still a tall, utility vehicle when pressed into corners. There’s considerable body roll. The steering lacks feel and feedback. Some of the sharpness might be lost in our tester’s squishy Pirelli Scorpion winter tires.

Despite grumbling about squirmy tires and a roly-poly nature, the BMW nevertheless is a capable handler, tackling corners and on-ramps without losing composure. And it should also be said that it still slots somewhere between a Cayenne’s performance and that of a Lexus RX at the softer end.

2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i door badge, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

In the auto industry, four years is a long time. As some of its competitors are younger, they feel more spry and modern than the X5. That said, BMW’s mid-size SUV remains a solid-feeling and luxurious machine. Its cabin technology and active safety features are all as current-feeling as any of its competitors, but then at over $80,000 USD (or over $90,000 in Canada), it darn-well better be.

The folks in Greer, South Carolina continue to build a good mid-size luxury SUV for BMW, but the competition is fierce and chasing profits in a sporty sport utility vehicle will only get more difficult with age.

Correction: As stated by one of the commenters below, it’s the GMC Typhoon and not the Syclone that provided drivers a high-po SUV in the ’90s. We’ve updated the article to reflect this.

[Images: © 2017 Jeff Wilson]

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45 Comments on “2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i Review – Luxury Mid-size Crisis...”


  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Great proportions. Too bad the BMW designers made it look like a Civic hatch, with those nasty fake grilles at the front. What’s the point?

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “X5 xDrive35i”

    that name should be taken behind the woodshed.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Beating a dead horse here: These are wonderful driving vehicles, but you do not want one out of warranty.

    Water pumps fail at around 65k miles. $1500 to replace.

    Battery replacement must be paired at dealer even when you install it yourself.

    Intermittent problems include the hatch not opening or closing, HVAC blower motor and resistor sometimes blowing hot air when AC is on but only on passenger side, wonky xDrive warnings appearing from time to time on the screen, parking sensors easily knocked out of alignment and on and on.

    Maintenance nightmare.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      That doesn’t sound scary enough. What about oil and coolant leaks?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        These are the definition of disposable automobiles.

        In recent memory my brother has worked on two different E70 body X5s, a 2009 and a 2011.

        The 2009 had about 50 stored fault codes, mostly malfunctioning electronics (where the only fix is replacement of many expensive dealer-only “black box” modules). The parking sensors, active headlights, and something on the interior were all malfunctioning by this point. It originally came in for a poor running condition traced to a failed MAF sensor which was not too unreasonably priced ($200 for an OEM VDO brand unit). It also had a horribly leaking valve cover gasket which was likewise not too bad of a fix. More worryingly, the car had some VANOS codes stored and the 3.0L six was making a few odd sounds. My brother just wanted to get the thing the hell out of the shop before something else went wrong. To its credit, this car had 150k miles on it or so.

        Second car was a diesel X5 with only 50k miles that the owner wanted to sell privately, but was dealing with a check engine light. Diagnosis turned up a faulty DEF tank fluid level sensor. Replacement only sold as a full assembly by BMW for $1700. Aftermarket rebuild kits cost about $500 plus the cost of installation (non trivial by my understanding).

        These cars are also known for all sorts of battery drain issues and will start to exhibit bizarre issues when the battery is not in tip-top shape.

        • 0 avatar
          Bazza

          BMW: Designed with unnecessary complexity, engineered to a bean-count in order to shave wear margins and ensure expensive dealer-only servicing, then underbuilt to those specs.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I owned an first gen X5 for almost 8 years and loved it, and I bought it 2 years old. Never had any issues beyond wear and tear items. It was reliable and a blast to drive.

      Not that interested in this one though. Would much rather go for a Cayenne, or even a Macan. Really into the F-pace supercharged.

    • 0 avatar
      tooloud10

      I owned an E70 4.8i for less than 30k miles and can vouch for every problem listed so far. Error messages galore and everything failing all the time, from the motorized glove box door (yes) to every single part of the HVAC (take the dash out for the evaporator replacement). I could have spent $25k and I still wouldn’t have gotten anything fixed. Finally dumped it for $11,500 with 94k miles on the odometer.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Rumor has it that the current F15/F85 X5 will see an abbreviated production run versus other Bimmers. Instead of getting an LCI (life-cycle impulse, or facelift in BMW-speak) after year four, it will be retired in favor of an all-new model, probably early next year as a MY2019.

    Meanwhile, I rather think they should focus their efforts on the X3, which is looking really stale these days and is also the oldest car in its class (2011 and onward) now that the XC60 (2010 and onward) is about to be redesigned.

    • 0 avatar
      JRobUSC

      “Meanwhile, I rather think they should focus their efforts on the X3, which is looking really stale these days and is also the oldest car in its class (2011 and onward) now that the XC60 (2010 and onward) is about to be redesigned.”

      There’s an all-new X3 about to come out, the existing X3 ends production in a couple of months.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Good. I never liked the current one.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          It’s the RAV4 of the luxury subcompact segment, at least in appearance. BMW needs to get its styling mojo back, they are completely lost.

          • 0 avatar
            kosmo

            And let’s hope the engineers take a short break from refining the wonderful I-6 turbo engine, and figure out how to get the rear seatbacks to actually fold FLAT — something Toyota figured out very elegantly eons ago in the Rav4.

    • 0 avatar
      dcto

      Volvo 4 cyl. is no competition for BMW turbo I6.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    You had me until 80k. No thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I mean, that’s a really-loaded-up example, though. That’s about as much as you can get a base-engined X5 to cost, and even then, I think the transaction price would be somewhat lower. In truth, you can get an X5 with the popular options (including AWD and the lauded Comfort / Multi-Contour seats) for around $66K.

    • 0 avatar
      Bazza

      Motor Trend’s recent review of a 4-banger 5-series sedan had it loaded up past $70K, with most options available as standard equipment elsewhere. $70K for a midsize “luxury” car with 4 cylinders…needless to say the comments were brutal.

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    A comparable Jaguar F-Pace S tops out at $77K and has 380HP and 0-60 in 5.1 seconds. It also has a 5 year/60,000 mile warranty that includes scheduled maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      JRobUSC

      it’s also the size of an X3, not an X5, and nowhere near as nice inside. Drives well, though.

      • 0 avatar
        IndySam

        I would have to disagree here. The F-Pace is much nicer on the inside. The BMW is a somber place to be, I wouldn’t call it luxurious. We have a X5 5.0 with the 8 cylinder. It’s quick, the infotainment is top notch, and my wife loves driving it, but the interior is nothing special. I think the F-Pace is a nicer interior.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “go for the V8”

    Give Jeff Wilson more reviews.

  • avatar
    benchslap

    “Syclone version of its otherwise lamentable S10 Blazer.”

    The Syclone was a pickup based on the S15 Sonoma. You mean the Typhoon version of the S15 Jimmy.

  • avatar
    jonnyanalog

    “GMC is to blame for starting this foolishness in the early ‘90s with the Syclone…”

    Incorrect. The TYPHOON was based on the S-10 Blazer. The Syclone was based off of the S-10 pick-up.

  • avatar
    Roadranger

    The use of the term ‘ute’ for what is clearly an SUV has me triggered.
    Triggered I say.

  • avatar
    badhobz

    had one before, not playing that stupid game again. I won a stupid prize of paying about 25k of out of warranty repairs within 2 years of CPO expiring.

    Water pump failed
    Adaptive headlights failed
    Vanos failed
    head gasket failed
    turbos failed
    TPS system failed
    Air blower failed
    Constant wrapped rotors due to inadequate brakes on a heavy 4500lb car.

    seats are nice, it drove nice… when i was able to drive it.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Dear lord…I am taking you at your word of 25k.

      I would have traded at the second 2k+ repair. You are/were truly dedicated to your X5.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Break My Wallet, indeed.

      Funny thing is some of that are serious engine components which should really not fail at any point prior to high mileage or old age. Water pump is considered a wear item though.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    They need to give this the “40” engine…. that thing moves the 4400lb 740i to 60 in under 5 seconds. At the end of the day though, this thing is trying to be too many things at once. If you really need a “sport” utility, get the X4 or a Macan.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Three years ago when I was in my late 20s, my wife and I considered one. We didn’t buy it. Now in my 30s, if I were in the market for something like this again, I’d buy a fully optioned Lexus RX and would never consider an X5.

    Unless you’re brand loyal, I don’t see the appeal of the X5. It’s frumpy looking, the interior looks dated and it’s not nearly as “BMW-ey” as it used to be.

    I don’t knock those who buy them, but what once seemed appealing to me now isn’t very appealing at all.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    My how spoiled we have become when 6 seconds to 60 is considered a bit slow.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Stingray, I was just sitting here thinking the same thing. My, how far we’ve come…

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve owned 2x X5’s. A 2008 X5 4.8i, and now a used 2011 X5 M. Really there isn’t a much better SUV to drive. I hate SUVs and these were the 1st I actually kind of like driving. Plus I really love the active multi-countour seats I have that have massaging seat bottoms. Its really great for a long drive and relaxing.

      Both cars have been pretty reliable for me with no major issues. The thing about these cars a lot of non-car people don’t realize is that BMW’s have a couple of problem areas that are trival to fix but can seem like the world is ending.

      Electronic issues, it always seems like someone says their having a christmas tree dash. Usually this is the battery is bad, they wear out and need to be replaced.

      Oil leaks, what car dosen’t leak oil as the miles pile up? However, BMW seems to be a bit worse becasue of the high temperature their engines run at which cause the elasticizers in the seals to evaporate more quickly. Just add a lower temp thermostat.

      That solves a large % of the problems people encounter. The others are generally easy to fix, the trick is to find someone with reasonable labor rates. My dealer charges a ridiculous $179 an hour for labor. Also used parts for these cars can be purchased for penny’s on the dollar for the high dollar items (ebay)

      Personally I have multiple BMWs and the forums are a great resource for how most problems can be fixed inexpensively. If you’re worried buy new and lease, if your willing to work a bit and research the issue they really aren’t that expensive to own.

      BTW my X5M has had 0 issues so far, but I did buy it used and with an extended warranty, mainly becasue its rare and uses a lot of sepcial specific parts and I thought it would be easier to warranty it. It is also my tow vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        Oil leaks, what car dosen’t leak oil as the miles pile up?

        Um, my Chevy 5.3 V8 with over 100k on the odo for starters.

        • 0 avatar

          your car is single data point the oil stains in my neighbors driveways would indicate chevy 5.3’s leak too. All engine seals fail over time, a quick google search pulls up tons of threads on common chevy 5.3 oil leaks.

          For what its worth my 2008 X5 4.8i didn’t leak oil at all with 100K miles and never had any seals replaced. None of my current BMWs have ever leaked oil, non have had cooling system failures nor electronic failures. Or a cracked dash, and leather like most chevy’s develop after a few years.

        • 0 avatar

          Good Question. My 95k TDi didn’t leak oil. My 334k 3 series…nope, no leaks (it did once, and I fixed that gasket). My 115k Caddy ? No leaks from the 3.6. My Acura with 153k ? No leaks there.

          I could always tell when my kid’s friends came to visit by the oil dots in the driveway.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      For what this costs, how much fuel it consumes, and what engine it has, it is slow. It should be in the mid 5s.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Wilson

      Ya gotta be quick to keep up with the Jonses these days.

  • avatar
    KM1959

    My wife took a Cayenne Turbo for a test drive while waiting for me to return from mine in a 911 Turbo S. That smile on her face told me that my Yukon would be gone soon. But at $130K-ish that just wasn’t going to happen. After trying the Maserati Levante which sounded fantastic but was kinda useless with cargo and passengers we went to BMW. She went straight to the Xdrive50i (pretty sure that’s it – who names these things?) and bought it on the spot. This 445 HP V8 will pin you in the seat wheen passing on the freeway – seriously! And what a sleeper too. My wife loves to nail it at stoplights, “Sport mode, on” whenever she gets the chance. It takes the mind numbing monotony out of SUV driving. Oh, and it’s very comfortable as well. You HAVE to getthe V8 though!


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