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2011 BMW X5 Interior Review

Note: This interior review was created when the 2011 BMW X5 was new.


Interior: 7.9

With loads of high-tech and comfort features, the X5's cabin is indulgent and upscale. Nonetheless, several reviewers continue to complain about the complicated iDrive interface and cramped optional third row.

  • "Interior materials exhibit a nice blend of durability and luxury, and are assembled with care. Cabin color choice plays a major role in perception of materials quality. Monotone black cabin appears stark when compared to richer beige and brown trim." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Alterations or no, the interior looks fine in a vacuum and functions well. … After a few hours behind the wheel, we even shined up to the next-generation iDrive and the Rube Goldberg e-shifter lever. However, newer crossovers like the 2011 Lincoln MKX feature more innovative interior designs that will cause the arguably traditional and straightforward design of the X5 to look dated and behind the curve." -- Autoblog
  • "A luxurious cabin with top-notch materials and admirable build quality furthers the X5's desirability, as do exceptionally comfortable front seats." -- Edmunds


Most reviewers agree that the front and second-row seats of the BMW X5 are comfortable. However, the optional third row (a $1,700 option) is noticeably cramped for a midsize SUV. The third row isn’t available on the base xDrive35i. To get it, you have to upgrade to the xDrive35i Premium. For a more spacious third row, consider the Acura MDX, which costs about $4,400 less than the X5 and has a third row that is better-received by reviewers.

Leatherette upholstery and 10-way power-adjustable driver and passenger seats are standard on the base X5. A rare option is the active ventilated seat package, which adds front ventilated seats to help keep you cool in warmer months. The Cold Weather Package adds heated front and rear seats.

  • "The second-row seats are mounted a bit too low to the floor, even though headroom is plentiful. Longer-legged passengers will likely bemoan this seating position, as it forces knees upwards. The optional third row is even more cramped and is suitable only for children." -- Edmunds
  • "Ample legroom [in the front], though taller drivers might find headroom tight beneath the housing of the available sunroof. Standard seats are comfortable, aided by an adjustable thigh support. The optional seats might be too firm for some tastes, so try before you buy." -- Consumer Guide

Interior Features

The X5's standard interior features are luxurious by anyone's standards. Standard on the base model are automatic front climate control, dual-power outside mirrors, HD radio, and a panoramic moonroof. A rear DVD entertainment system and navigation system are optional.

For 2011, the X5 gets an updated version of iDrive, BMW's climate and entertainment control system. It’s supposed to be more intuitive, but some reviewers continue to find it difficult to learn and use -- especially when you’re trying to pay attention to the road.

  • "BMW has upgraded the X5 to the fourth-generation iDrive, which, as ever, promises greater user-friendliness, with more logical menu logic and dedicated buttons for more functions." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Frequently used audio and climate controls are thankfully separate from the iDrive system, but those adjustments governed by iDrive require a long look from the road. The optional navigation system demands frustrating interaction with complex controls and cryptic markings." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Specific nicks include the parking assist feature that insisted on warning us of things in front of the vehicle when we were in Reverse; an A/C system that seemed to struggle to keep the cabin comfortable in humid 80-degree weather, and the plain painted door sills." -- Autoblog


BMW has not yet released cargo dimensions for the 2011 X5. However, they are expected to be similar to last year’s model. The 2010 X5's cargo capacity is on the small side for its class. It provides only 7.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the optional third row. However, when the third row is folded down, it expands space to 18.5 cubic feet. When both the second- and third-row seats are folded, the X5 provides 61.8 cubic feet of space.

By contrast, the less expensive Acura MDX trounces the X5 by offering 83.5 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded down. The even more affordable Lexus RX 350 provides 80.3 cubic feet.

The X5's interior storage spaces are also a bit lacking. It comes with a velour-carpeted cargo area, retractable cargo cover and front-seat center console with armrest, storage compartment and auxiliary input. On the plus side, reviewers really like the split tailgate.

  • "There's plenty of space in the cargo area, and it was easy to get to with the power liftgate. There's a sleek-looking cargo-area cover to hide your latest purchases from prying eyes, as well as a hidden compartment under the cargo floor." -- Mother Proof
  • "With the 3rd-row seat up, there's enough room for a row of grocery bags; with it folded, space is good. … Interior storage is nothing special, and with the optional DVD system, a lowered screen prevents the ‘bomb bay’ console lid -- which some testers found inconvenient -- from being opened." -- Consumer Guide
  • "One of the X5's standout convenience features is its well-executed split tailgate. The top section opens upward as it normally does on any other SUV, but the bottom portion folds downward to create a flat loading floor and, in addition to making it easier to load large and heavy objects, protects the paint of the bumper from being damaged during loading and can double as a seat when convenient." -- Motor Trend

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