2021 BMW X5
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, which earned it an Editors’ Choice.
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For 2021, the X5’s xDrive50i model has been replaced by the plug-in hybrid xDrive45e.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.
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 is 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 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 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.
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 the 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, the case for case, but its rear seats aren’t as easy to stow.