2021 BMW X5
2021 BMW X5
The 2021 BMW X5 is a high-performance luxury crossover SUV that seats up to seven, and is exceptional even among BMWs. For 2021 it introduces an all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid called the xDrive45e, while the base 40i models get a new mild-hybrid system. Other 2021 upgrades include standard satellite radio and Android Auto compatibility.
The looks of the X5 are handsome and effective in presenting its image of both luxury and utility. Designers save the drama for the spacious cabin, which is buffed to a low-gloss sheen with panels of open-pore wood, metallic trim, and leather that ranges from basic black to blazing red. A third row of seats is available, but frankly we’d skip it and use the space for cargo instead of squeezing in more people. It’s very easy to load cargo thanks to the low floor and two-piece tailgate. Need to carry seven passengers? That’s what the BMW X7 is made for.
The X5 is 194.3 inches long and 78.9 inches wide, with a 117.1-inch wheelbase.
The base turbo-6 engine blasts the rear-wheel-drive sDrive40i, all-wheel-drive xDrive40i, and new plug-in hybrid xDrive45e from 0-60 mph in about 5.3 seconds, complemented by an unflappable 8-speed automatic transmission.
There is a booming V-8 in the M50i and explosive M Competition that brings up to a stunning 617 horsepower. Both M models are all-wheel drive, with very heavy steering and a very stiff ride.
The EPA rates the all-wheel-drive xDrive40i at 21 mpg city, 26 highway, 23 combined, which is just a whisker higher than the rear-wheel-drive sDrive 40i, at 21/25/23 mpg.
Their engines get better mileage than the plug-in hybrid xDrive45e, which gets 20 mpg without the batteries. But when the electric power is fully and exclusively used, the hybrid can go for 31 miles; combined with the turbo-6 engine, earns a 50-MPGe efficiency rating from the EPA.
Not surprisingly, the mileage with the V-8 in the M50i sinks to 16/22/18 mpg, and lower yet in the M, with 13/18/15 mpg.
The IIHS calls the X5 a Top Safety Pick+, but the NHTSA gives it four stars overall for crash safety. Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking, while optional equipment includes driver-assistance features, parking sensors, and a surround-view camera system.
Made In South Carolina, the X5 comes in five models: sDrive40i, xDrive40i, xDrive45e, M50i, and M. Every model is all-wheel drive except the sDrive40i.
The $60,395 sDrive40i comes with rear-wheel drive, satellite radio, heated power front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, navigation, a 12.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and 19-inch wheels.
The xDrive40i adds all-wheel drive and costs $1,700 more.
The plug-in hybrid xDrive45e costs $66,395 and is similarly equipped.
The X5 M50i runs $83,795, with remote start, a sport differential, better brakes, adaptive suspension, premium audio, multi-contour seats, wireless smartphone charging, and 20-inch wheels.
The X5 M begins at $106,095.
Every X5 comes with a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty with 3 years/36,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance.
With its massive air intakes, wide grille and LED headlights, the X5 is by no means shy. However it’s drawn conservatively, with an understated profile, including a roofline that’s unchanged over generations, a soft rise to its hips, and slight pinch over the rear wheels.
Just about every detail is neat. Some models get metallic trim and blacked-out wheel arches, while others get body-color bits and a deeper front spoiler.
The lovely cabin is well finished, with standard black synthetic leather and plenty of wood in front. But it’s the optional trims that raise the level of luxury, as well as the price, of course. Those trims include real leather upholstery in tasty colors such as coffee, cognac, truffle and orange. There are also options for big high-definition touchscreen displays, glass-tipped controls, metallic or high-gloss trim bits, and open-pore wood.
If we were rich, we’d go for the multi-adjustable and cooled front seats in real leather. The standard synthetic leather seats are heated and have enough adjustment to fit most people well, but the fancy buckets are more comfortable over long distances.
The rear seat has an upright seating position that still allows good head room, and more than 37 inches of leg room. It actually can hold three adults without squeezing the middle person. A third-row seat is optional, but it’s not very practical.
The cargo floor is flat and low, with 33.9 cubic feet of space; with the second row of seating folded, there’s 72.3 cubic feet. With the fold-down pop-up split tailgate, the X5 can turn into the ultimate cargo hauler.
Outward vision can be a challenge in the X5, as there are big blind spots over the driver’s shoulder. An optional surround-view camera system and parking sensors solve this. There’s also optional automatic parking, buried in BMW’s camera menus.
The X5 ranges from being quite quick to obscenely fast. The 3.0-liter turbo-6 in the 40i makes 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, and is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that shifts with snap. It accelerates from 0-60 mph time in 5.3 seconds, while delivering aural and mechanical pleasure that’s unmatched in other luxury SUVs.
The new xDrive45e teams the inline-6 with batteries and an electric motor, to get 31 miles of all-electric range with no loss in acceleration, according to BMW.
The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the M50i makes you forget it’s an SUV, as its 523 hp blasts it from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds, with the same effortless quick shifts from the 8-speed automatic.
BMW doesn’t leave it there, as the X5 M comes along with 600 hp and a 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds; the Competition Package for the M raises that to 617 hp. Both Ms have all-wheel drive that maintains grip in the face of that heroic output, and each comes with a sport differential that can split power across the rear wheels for even better grip and cornering response.
The independent suspension comes standard with adaptive dampers that provide a firm and well-controlled ride; we’ll pass on the optional M Sport suspension with its larger wheels. The best ride you can get with an X5 is the xDrive40i with optional air springs that soften things, without diminishing the sharp handling. The air springs also raise or lower the suspension for the situation, skimming the asphalt for aerodynamics and gas mileage, or raising the ride height to 8.7 inches when off the pavement.
For 2021, the off-road package has been eliminated, but the X5 can still tow up to 7,209 pounds.
The X5 M might be the ultimate sports crossover. It’s totally poised in corners, with little body lean thanks to active roll bars, but with adjustable dampers and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, it has a stiff and unforgiving ride that gets your unwanted attention over highway pockmarks, let alone small potholes. There are what feels like an infinite combination of drive-mode programs for shifting and throttle response, and on paper that sounds optimal, but chasing the perfect program turns driving the X5 M into work.
The 2021 BMW X5 chases dynamic perfection and family utility, all at once. It’s a difficult combination to achieve, but we think the simplest xDrive40i with no options does best at blending those two goals. For those who need more space and more lavish gear, there’s always the larger, more expensive X7.
—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection