BMW X5 2024 long-term test

BMW X5 2024 long-term test



Conspicuous consumption with a conscience: is it really possible? It’s time to find out

*Why we ran it:* To find out if this revised plug-in hybrid luxury SUV could offer the best of both

-Month 1 - Month 2 - Month 3 - Final report - Specs-

-Life with a BMW X5: Final report-

Every time I see a jumbo jet take off I get a disconcerting sense that there is some kind of fault in the fabric of the universe. Something that big, that heavy, that lumbering on the ground should never be able to get airborne, let alone look so elegant once it gets there.

You get a similar sensation on a country lane in this X5. Laden with all its hybrid technology, the BMW weighs 5kg shy of two and a half tonnes before you've even sat in it, yet its willingness to go, stop and change direction comes as a shock every time, no matter how often you've already experienced it.

With Sport mode engaged, it sits lower on its air suspension, the petrol engine is awakened to run in parallel with the electric motor, and the performance is simply outrageous as a combined 483bhp punches it from rest to 62mph in less than 5sec, accompanied by an addictive growl as you flick through the eight speeds of the auto 'box with the wheel-mounted paddles.

Yet it's in the mid-range when it's really impressive, dispatching slower cars on short straights, then shedding speed with its massive brakes (uprated M Sport items with blue calipers on my car, part of the £2100 M Sport Pro Pack) and diving in to the next corner.

With vast grip, there's no understeer unless you pitch it in far too quickly, the steering is beautifully weighted (if a touch low-geared), and if you get on the power early on the way out, there is even a little twitch from the back end as the 516lb ft of torque reveals its rearward bias.

In short, the X5 drives like a proper BMW should, yet a cross-country hoon is only scratching the surface of this car's abilities.

Editor Tisshaw made the valid point that if long continental journeys are your stock-in-trade, then this plug-in hybrid drivetrain is not ideal, but if, like me, your life is a blend of short, slogging town commutes during the week and longer weekend trips, it makes a huge amount of sense - albeit perhaps not entirely justifying the hefty premium over the superb diesel.

BMW claims 58-69 miles of pure-electric range. I never managed to match even the lower figure, but 45-plus miles is easily achievable without trying to be frugal and that proved enough for most daily duties in the week, with an overnight charge. And with the uprated 50e, performance remains peppy even in pure EV mode, with up to 87mph possible before the straight-six engine chimes in - with a split second's delay if you call for it via the throttle pedal.

That makes it a more than competent BEV under commuting conditions, although the average shown in our test figures also includes coasting and maintaining motorway speeds: stick it in battery-only mode around town and that figure drops to a little over 2mpkWh, again largely due to the X5's heft. Which means if you are expecting it to be cheap to run, think again. Any saving at the pumps will be reflected in your electricity bill.

Opting for the hybrid drivetrain precludes a seven-seat option because of the batteries in the boot, but so long as you have only four passengers to carry, this is still a phenomenal family wagon particularly with my car's £4300 Comfort Plus Pack, which gives rear passengers heated seats, rear blinds and four-zone climate control (plus a cosseting set of massage chairs for those in the front). Few cars deliver you feeling quite so refreshed after a long drive, even if the always firm suspension majors on supple suppression of road imperfections rather than a floating waft.

At 500 litres, the boot doesn't sound huge, but in practice its square shape is superbly practical, the rear seats drop to give a vast 1720- litre capacity and touches such as the split tailgate and the ability to lower the rear suspension to ease access are really useful.

The only complaint here is that there are no releases for the rear backrests in the boot, something you expect to find on an SUV at this price point.

Other gripes include heated seats that don't automatically turn off to conserve power when the front and rear passenger seats are vacated, and the occasional, unexpected quality drop: a centre console that flexes to the touch is not ideal in a near-£100,000 car.

But I had to try quite hard to get annoyed with the X5, which is even genuinely handsome - surely one of the last modern-era BMWs to be able to make that claim. Add it all together and I'm not sure there is a better luxury SUV on sale.

There are more opulent ones, certainly - particularly if you are willing to pay double the price or more.

There are more comfortable ones too, and probably some that will be faster down a favourite B-road. But I can't think of any that offer the X5's breadth of talents, particularly with the addition of silent, electric-only running around town. There's nothing sweet about the sorrow of this parting.

*Second Opinion*

It’s easy to get lost in the world of German premium SUVs, given there are so many and generally the breed is not outstanding. Yet the X5 is an honourable exception, almost Range Rover-like in its seat comfort, driving position and easy-going nature.

*Mark Tisshaw*

*Back to the top*

*Love it:*

*Raw six appeal* The day the law kills off the BMW straight six will be a dark one. It’s sweet-revving, sonorous, torquey

*Practically perfect *As well as being luxurious and great to drive, it’s vastly spacious. Yes, I really did fit all of these crates in it.

*Putting the stoppers on *Brakes on hybrids often feel odd but the X5 balances the needs of energy harvest with excellent pedal feel.

*Loathe it:*

*One step at a time *The sequential indicators don’t time perfectly with their simulated sound, if such things matter to you.

*Seat of the pants *Cream leather looks wonderfully opulent, but unless you clean it regularly, it swiftly looks grubby.

*Final mileage: *5458

*Back to the top*

-Life with a BMW X5: Month 3-

*Clever tyres and great dealer service equal a very speedy puncture remedy - 27 March*

You can't buy a car costing near-as-dammit £100,000 and expect it to be cheap to run, and that point was brought home to me rather vividly recently.

After editor Tisshaw's epic European trip, on a chilly evening 1 was looking forward to returning to the comforting embrace of the X5's remarkable armchair and the warmth of it, the armrests and the wheel.

But when I hopped in the car late that evening and turned on the ignition, a tyre pressure warning light came on, accompanied by the inevitable bong.

BMW continues to persist with run-flat tyres, so you really can't tell how low they are from the outside, but fortunately one of the X5's many data screens will tell you exactly how much pressure there is at each corner.

The driver's side rear was down to 7psi, a long way off where it should have been - 35psi and too low to risk a run home, so I decided to find alternative transport and sort it out the following day. By the morning, it was down to 0.Opsi - dead as the proverbial dodo.

Needing to have the car back as soon as possible, - decided to book it in with my local dealer, Berry BMW of Thames Ditton, via its website. The job was easily done and I immediately received a confirmation of my booking.

Then within half an hour I got a call from senior service advisor Shirin Shah to talk through the issue. He initially recommended getting the X5 recovered to the dealership to avoid damaging the alloys by driving it there - until I pointed out that it was on the sixth floor of a multi-storey car park.

So he quickly made some enquiries and discovered that he wouldn't be able to get a new 315/35 R21 Pirelli P Zero for 48 hours - notideal when I was due to leave for a week away the following day.

When I explained that, he asked me to bear with him and five minutes later called back to say he had booked me in at the nearest Kwik Fit to the stranded car (less than a mile away) and that they would be able to get the correct tyre delivered by that afternoon. Fantastic service.

Fortunately, I had my trusty little Clarke rechargeable compressor with me, so I left that running on the affected tyre for 20 minutes to get it up to some semblance of pressure, then very gently drove down through the multi-storey and across to the tyre shop, trusting in the run-flat technology.

I'm relieved to say it got there with no damage at all to the lovely (and hugely costly) diamond-cut alloy, but there was a weird clonking sensation as if there was a piece of wood attached to the tyre via a nail or screw I did stop to check, but there was no sign of anything protruding from the wheel).

The source of that discomfort became clear as soon as the car was on the ramps and the tyre had been removed from the rim: a long, plastic-sheathed piece of metal - our best guess was the shaft of an insulated screwdriver - had impaled my Pirellis carcass, causing the deflation and the subsequent lumpy ride because it was tough enough to withstand the pressure of 2495kg of BMW SUV without deforming.

The fitter seemed entirely unperturbed, having seen it all before, and while I waited, he regaled me with extreme stories - such as one customer who had managed to puncture a tyre with their own car key.

I'm still trying to work out how that's even possible. The main trouble with run-flats, of course, is that once they've been punctured, they're usually scrap - and so it proved in this case.

This meant that I was soon £432.99 lighter (including VAT and fitting), but bearing in mind that it had been just a few hours between reporting the problem and driving the car out of the Kwik Fit workshop, I was finding it hard to complain.

*Love it*

*Back to front*

My kids adore the rear, with its heated seats, individual climate controls, blinds, cupholders, charging ports – and loads of room.

*Loathe it*

*Future shocker*

I get that it’s a plug-in hybrid, but when it’s running on petrol power, why can’t I just have proper instruments? I miss rev counters.

*Mileage: *4983

*Back to the top*

*Plug-in hybrid SUV is put to the test with 1361 European business miles in just five days - 13 March*

If any holiday destination is more than a five-hour drive from Calais, we catch a flight.

Yet I'm not long back from five days on the road in which I could have driven from my home in Berkshire down to Italy's Amalfi coast (where I have fond memories of arriving by plane and spending a week driving a Fiat 500C) and still had enough miles to drive back up to Naples (but perhaps not into the city itself, as that's the single scariest place I've ever driven).

All this driving wasn't for a cheery, sunny holiday, sadly, but pure business: 1361 miles in the depths of winter. It was a strange trip, uneventful and unglamorous.

The destinations appear quite random: from one side of Paris to another via northern France and then from the south-west of Paris to Manchester before finally heading home late on Thursday evening.

There was a mesmerising number of motorway miles, many trips to fuel stations and lots of coffees washing down different types of meat and cheese in often-stale bread.

There was plenty of time to play with the massaging seats and feel smug about finally working out how to play sports commentaries from back home through apps on Apple CarPlay. There was no fatigue and no boredom, thanks to the qualities of our BMW X5 long-termer.

To address the elephant in the room straight away: yes, we have the Drive50e plugin hybrid version of the X5. A worse type of powertrain for such a journey would be hard to find, given I was doing big miles at motorway speeds with no real opportunity to charge up the battery, the smaller petrol tank and all that extra needless weight. The final indicated figure was 26.1mpg, in case you were wondering.

All this made me recall those days of early Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV tax-busters being handed back at the end of their finance deals with their charging cables still in their plastic wrappers.

However, I won't focus too much on the drivetrain, because the journey instead allowed me a chance to really get to know the X5 itself- and trust me, with that many miles in such a short space of time, you really do get to know a car.

The pictures that accompany this report probably give you an indication of both the bleakness of large parts of the drive, dominated as they were by motorways, service stations and car parks, and indeed how specific some of the features of the X5 that I grew to like were.

It turns out that my new phone also allows me to finally take photos at night, too. Look at those pretty and not at all distracting interior lights (left) to put a bit of sparkle on the page...

A stop-off at Le Touquet en route provided a rare bit of respite for the adaptive cruise control - a must-have if you're driving long distances across France. I rarely ever use cruise control in the UK outside of average speed camera zones, because there's always some plonker sitting in the middle lane, making everyone do four lane changes to get around them, and the system then feels as frustrated by it as I am.

Not on the toll roads of France, though, where you really can let the system do the hard work. BMW's is a good one, as I had found in 2022 when I drove my iX on the continent. It's smart and reacts sensibly and in good time to traffic ahead. 

These toll roads do seem to have become awfully expensive (although not as expensive as fuel in France, which I rarely saw for less than two euros per litre). At least after 13 visits to toll booths designed for left-hand-drive cars, I finally mastered the art of putting the car in park, sliding over to the passenger seat and sorting out the ticket.Having safely negotiated the narrow lanes of the Eurotunnel train carriages, I managed to kerb an alloy at the first toll booth - and I'm still wincing at the feeling.

Sorry, regular keeper Alastair Clements. Sorry, BMW. Still, progress was otherwise serene and I never got held up on the toll roads - unlike the stinking greất queue at the M6 Toll booths on my way back down from Manchester.

Now, those features that I liked. First, the cupholders. Yeah, I told you they were specific... The X5's are both heated and cooled. I'm not sure why they need to be heated (does it really take anyone that long to finish a cup of coffee?), but cooled I'm all in on. Not only do they keep your can of Coke cold, but they can also cool a warm one down over a longer period of time if you can wait - which of course I could.

All that time also allowed me to ponder why the French don't offer lids for their takeaway coffees. And while I'm on this tangent, where did the myth come from that French motorway service station food is so good? It's not. Still, I would take the French service stations over those in Belgium, where there's always a quite extraordinary amount of 'adult literature' scattered among the fizzy drinks and chocolate bars.

Anyway, back to the X5's quiet brilliance. It really does give you a fabulous driving position. I tend to start fidgeting on longer journeys, but never here. You sit high and upright, and it's easy to relax your arms and pinch the wheels with your fingertips. Your legs and back are always at a comfortable angle and the adjustability of the seat is the equal of the Range Rover - my go-to reference for something in which you would like to spend a whole day on the motorway.

However, that seemingly infinite level of adjustability in the seat also included a thigh support at the front to extend out to your knees, revealing all the crumbs you swore you had brushed off into the carpet. in addition, the ivory-coloured leather used in our car has already started to discolour from jeans wiping on it when drivers hop in and out. Clearly black or brown would have been a wiser choice.

So much time in a car also makes you home in on all the things that you dislike about it, but at the end of this trip, my feelings towards the X5 were of deep respect and admiration. I'm not in a rush to do 1361 miles in five days again any time soon, but if I had to, an X5 would be high on my list of preferred cars - although it would be one with a diesel engine.

*Love it *

It’s a marvellous armchair in which to settle for longer journeys. The massaging functions are great, too

*Loathe it *

*PHEV economy*

You can also get the X5 with a six-cylinder diesel engine, which would be a much better choice for long drives. And £8000 cheaper…

*Mileage: *4699

*Back to the top*

-Life with a BMW X5: Month 2-

*Wireless charging is too hot to handle - 21 February*

A wireless charger is an increasingly common addition in cars, but it’s not a useful one when it fries your phone. Mine has overheated and shut down twice when being used to navigate while charging, and I’m not sure that the battery has fully recovered. One reader has even reported his local dealer willingly supplying a charging cable when he complained.

*Mileage:* 3435

*Back to the top*

*What eats miles and swallows loads but makes a meal of nothing? - 14 February*

There are many challenges to owning a dog who suffers with poor mental health, but an unexpected addition to that lengthy list was the need to buy a pair of large crates to prevent him from attacking my other spaniel whenever they are cooped up together in the back of a car.

The Drive50e might disappoint with its lack of a seven-seat option, but happily the hybrid gubbins doesn't eat too much into its fantastic load-carrying ability - with enough space to swallow the two crates with ease, along with my two kids and all of our gear for a long weekend away with extended family in Somerset.

And the split tailgate means that the lower section acts as a useful barrier to stop the dogs leaping out when all you want to do is open the top to rearrange the luggage.

The X5 really is a phenomenal mile-eater for that kind of journey too. It has the performance to shrug off being fully laden, the stability to brush aside awful weather conditions and the comfort to deliver you relaxed and refreshed as editor Tisshaw is about to find out, having swiped the keys to take the BMW on an extended European tour for the next two weeks.

On longer trips, I've found myself becoming borderline obsessed with the 'Adaptive content' readout on the central infotainment screen.

There's a dinky image of the car which delights my daughter by illuminating its various lights and turning its wheels to match what the real thing is doing - but of more interest is the way it tells me what's going on underneath.

Electric drive' is pretty self-explanatory, as is 'Charging battery', but 'Efficient coasting' is an intriguing one: it basically maximises the car's efficiency by disconnecting as much of the drivetrain as possible to allow the car to coast unhindered.

You can really feel it too. Likewise, the way you rarely have to touch the brakes on a twisty lane because the car will automatically start harvesting energy to slow you ahead of a bend, or on a dual carriageway if you are coming up behind another car.

And it works. There's no doubt that long, fast motorway journeys have an impact on the overall consumption, but it's still impressively efficient for such a large, heavy machine. And the self-charging works particularly well in Sport mode - so you can justify having a satisfying cross-country blast by watching your electric range creep up for when you return to urban areas.

I've been pleased to hear from several readers who are similarly lovestruck with their PHEV X5s, and most have echoed my thoughts. "I have done several university runs for kids to Bristol from Tunbridge Wells without needing any stops," wrote fellow Drive50e driver John Wynne, "and if I put the route into the sat-nav, the car optimises the hybrid powertrain for lowest consumption on the journey."

Subscriber Douglas Whiting has an Drive45e in the same Tanzanite Blue as my car. He's owned it since November 2020 and continues to be impressed: "Lockdowns inhibited the mileage I was able to do in the early part of my ownership, so the car has still only done about 25,000 a little over half of which has been battery-powered. It is beautifully made, comfortable, capable in electric mode, handles well and has a beautiful, smooth straight-six petrol engine, which completely removes any range anxiety."

Meanwhile, Richard Lindoe has recently swapped a 745Le for a car in a similar spec to mine. "I travel 600-800 miles per week, sometimes up to 1000, so having a comfortable and reliable car is vital," he says.

"The X5 is faster in acceleration than the 7, which is impressive, and initial driving comfort levels are equal to it." Frustratingly, however, Richard's car developed a transmission fault after 1400 miles and has been back at the dealer ever since.

I'm pleased to say I've had no such bad luck, and Richard has my sympathies because he's currently missing what John reckons "must be one of the best all-round cars in the world". So far, it's hard to disagree.

*Love it*

*Loving an elevator*

The ability to drop the air suspension, like a camel kneeling to accept a rider, is ideal when I’m on taxi duty for my elderly in-laws

*Loathe it*

*Colossal key *

No, it’s not that I’m pleased to see you: it’s because I’ve got a massive BMW key (in a leather sheath) in my pocket. Why so big?

*Mileage:* 3210

*Back to the top*

-Life with a BMW X5: Month 1-

*Welcoming the BMW X5 to the fleet - 24 January 2024*

While plenty of people have already embraced the electric vehicle revolution, for others it remains a technology that's hard to trust, let alone fall in love with.

And that seems to be particularly true at the higher end of the market, where internal combustion remains - for now - the preferred choice for travelling long distances in great opulence.

The easiest way to convert those buyers of traditionally powered, big, luxurious SUVs to the electric future - which is already here, of course, in the shape of the BMW iX and its rivals - is a 'gateway' model, like this BMW X5 Drive50e plug-in hybrid.

On shorter trips, it offers all of the benefits of an EV in terms of its instant torque and efficiency, but it also has the reassurance of a traditional (and BMW signature) 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine mustering 309bhp (up 26bhp on the pre-facelift Drive45e) for longer journeys.

The electric motor is mounted to the gearbox and makes 194bhp (up a whopping 83bhp on the Drive45ē) to give a combined 483bhp and a massive 516lb ft of torque.

That significant boost means that in EV driving mode the Drive50e feels, not unsurprisingly, a lot like the iX, albeit without that car's outrageous turn of pace when you really floor it.

The battery capacity has been increased over the Drive45e, too, by 3.4kWh to 25.7kWh, giving it up to 68 miles of electric-only range on the official lab test.

In reality, and in the current cold snap, I'm being offered estimates of between 43 and 52 miles from a full charge, but at least those appear to be pretty honest guesses.

With my commute being around 15 miles each way and in heavy traffic, this means that as long as I remember to plug the car into my home charger each night, I can expect to cover most weekday chores without troubling the petrol engine.

I'm certainly noticing it in my electricity bill, though. For some reason, it feels almost like free energy in a PHEV, whereas I tend to be far more conscious of how much I'm putting into an EV, because it takes so much longer to charge.

Standard kit on M Sport trim is pretty generous, as you would hope for not far shy of £80,000, but still it's hard to resist the temptation to dip a toe into the extensive options list, and in the end I dived straight in.

Metallic paint was a must, and I opted for discreet Tanzanite Blue II. Soft merino leather in Ivory white makes a very attractive (if slightly impractical) contrast, lifted still further by the addition of a panoramic glass roof.

The recent cold weather tempted me to choose the all-round heated seats and steering wheel that come as part of the Comfort Plus Pack, while the M Sport Pro Pack should make the most of the X5's already excellent driving experience as well as adding to its looks and the Technology Plus Pack adds a phenomenal Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo to the infotainment and a head-up display, among other treats.

And that's an appropriate choice of word, because there's no getting away from the fact that this BMW truly is a treat, for both the driver and passengers. It lacks the overt levels of ostentation of, say, a Range Rover or a range-topping Mercedes-Benz, but if discreet luxury and an overwhelming sense of wellbeing is your preference, it's hard to beat.

Short journeys still garner cooing from the family, while longer ones tend to result in silence, as its comfort, slick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox and authoritative yet supple ride gently rock them to sleep so I can sit back and enjoy the drive.

From without, the 2023 facelift of the X5 is fairly hard to spot, consisting mainly of a new grille and a reprofiled front bumper, but like every generation of this model, it's a very handsome thing-certainly far more so than the X7.

It looks particularly good in M Sport trim, with matt black detailing replacing chrome and a seriously stylish set of 21in alloys with blue-painted, M-branded calipers behind (courtesy of that pricey upgrade). Those are also a big help in slowing down 2.5 tonnes of car that can crack 62mph from rest in a remarkable 4.5sec.

Among the other changes in the most recent overhaul is a lightly upgraded interior, along with a new, iX-style digital display that stretches much of the way across the dashboard (but does appear a bit plonked on).

I'm still learning my way around it and sometimes yearn for a traditional instrument binnacle with a rev counter, rather than a bar telling me my power percentage use, but I can't argue with its clarity or its size: a generous 12.3in for the digital instruments, alongside a 14.9in touchscreen for the various infotainment functions (and some rather cheesy 'X5' graphics).

Some of the materials on the lower dashboard could feel more solid and room in the back could perhaps be a little more generous for such a massive car, while siting the battery for the PHEV system beneath the boot floor means that, unlike other models in the X5 range, the Drive50e can't offer the option of seven seats (and reduces the luggage capacity from 1870 to 1720 litres).

However, early impressions suggest that's pretty much where my complaints start and end. From where I'm sitting, I'm struggling to think of anywhere I'd rather be.

*Second Opinion*

Within five minutes, I was screaming at it. I really don’t get along with the automatic this and adaptive that in modern BMWs. The right settings reveal a car that’s dead impressive, however: beautifully made, comfortable, a capable EV in electric mode, but with a straight six. It even handles quite well for a big lump

*Illya Verpraet*

*Back to the top*

-BMW X5 xDrive50e M Sport specification-

*Specs: Price New* £78,360 *Price as tested* £98,905 *Options* Comfort Plus Pack £4300, Technology Plus Pack £4000, Sky Lounge panoramic roof £2650, M Sport Pro Pack £2100, Ivory and Black extended merino leather £1950, Tanzanite Blue II metallic paint £1890, towbar £1150, Travel and Comfort System £600, acoustic glass £550, sun protection glass £450

*Test Data: Engine* 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged petrol engine plus front-mounted electric motor and 25.7kWh battery *Power* 483bhp *Torque* 516lb ft *Kerb weight* 2,495kg *Top speed* 155mph *0-62mph* 4.8sec *Fuel economy* 261.35mpg (claimed) *CO2* 20-22g/km *Faults* None *Expenses* None

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