$11,606 - $13,686

2011 BMW X5 Performance Review

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


Performance: 8.4

The X5's excellent performance is its trump card. It handles like a sport sedan and has power to spare. Though fuel economy hasn’t traditionally been one of the X5's high points, it increases for 2011 and is now near the top of the class. The xDrive35d diesel model also continues to be a good option for those looking to save even more at the pump -- though it has quite a steep sticker price.

  • "The current X5 in general rides better than the first-generation vehicle, and its steering is pleasantly weighted. Although tall and heavy, it is nonetheless a sport-utility that doesn't ignore the ‘sport.’” --Automobile Magazine
  • "The X5 is one of the more planted vehicles you will drive. It's strong in corners, nimble in turning and passing and has stout brakes. We put those brakes to the test a few times on the heavily congested roads of Miami and they responded promptly." -- AutoWeek
  • "Behind-the-wheel, the 2011 X5 is much as it's always been, with responsive steering and a smooth, compliant ride -- even on rough pavement and rutted-up dirt roads. Though it arguably doesn't hustle quite as well when the going gets twisty as the X6, it's still more agile than most offerings in its segment. After all, it may be an SUV, but it's also a BMW." --Motor Trend
  • "Handling was Teutonically taut as we have come to enjoy in most Munich-based vehicles -- even if this one was built in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It cornered flatly and handled expressway on and off ramps equally well." --Left Lane News
  • "With the standard 18-inch tires, the ride is comfortable and controlled. Bump absorption is quite good, given the overall sporting intention of this SUV. "--Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

For 2011, the BMW X5 gets two new gasoline engines. The xDrive35i comes with a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that makes 300 horsepower. This engine is just as powerful as the previous model’s V8, and BMW says it can go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. The xDrive50i comes with the 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 already used in the smaller X6. The engine makes a whopping 400 horsepower, and BMW says it can sprint from 0 to 60 in 5.3 seconds. The xDrive35d continues to offer the same engine as last year’s model -- a 3.0-liter six-cylinder Advanced Diesel twin-turbocharged engine that makes 265 horsepower (less power than the conventional engine, but more torque).

Test drivers find that both gasoline engines provide more than enough power. They say the base six-cylinder should be fine for most drivers, so you should only upgrade to the V8 if you’re looking for thrills. The diesel engine also continues to get good reviews for its smooth, ample power.

All engines are paired with a brand new eight-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic control. Steptronic allows drivers to choose from three shifting programs: Drive, Drive Sport, and Manual. Test drivers say the transmission is especially smooth.

The EPA has not yet rated the 2011 X5. BMW estimates the xDrive35i will get 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway (compare that at 15/21 for the previous base model). They estimate the xDrive50i will get 14/20 city/highway. Since the xDrive 35d uses the same diesel engine as the 2010 X5, it’s expected to net the same mileage as before -- 19/26 mpg -- which makes it one of the more fuel-efficient SUVs in the class.

For even better fuel economy without shelling out for a diesel model, consider the Lexus RX 350. It has an18/25 mpg rating -- that’s only one mile per gallon more in the city, but you’ll save a whopping $9,000 compared to the cost of the X5.

  • "We found the turbo six adept at charging from 40 to 80 mph, easily dispensing with dawdlers on the two-lane highways on the outskirts of the Florida Everglades." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "We only tested the new I6 (which was all BMW had available for sampling) and it returns solid acceleration through the band. The 300 lb-ft of torque is present, even at lower rpm, and passing is a breeze. It's very enjoyable to floor it and stretch this big Bimmer's limits." -- AutoWeek
  • "The xDrive35d diesel enjoys direct throttle response. It feels as fast as many V8 engines, with great power at any speed. The transmission shifts smoothly with alert downshifts." -- Consumer Guide
  • "If there is one single defining characteristic of the six plus eight powertrain combo (the only one on hand for test drives), it's smoothness. Shifts are quick and relatively undetectable. The tach moves up or down as necessary and the engine makes more or less noise, but there is no physical indication a gear has been changed. It's quite amazing." -- Motor Trend
  • "Running north out of Miami in slow traffic, we had plenty of time to experience the legendary smoothness of BMW's inline-six working through its new gearbox. Thinking that eight gears might be one or two too many, your author was surprised at the transmission's smoothness in city driving." -- Autoblog

Handling and Braking

Handling is definitely the BMW X5’s strength, though its sporty feel can be a bit harsh for those unaccustomed to German driving dynamics. Power rack-and-pinion steering is standard and Active Steering is optional for 2011. That feature adapts the amount of steering angle to suit the driving situation (the lower the vehicle’s speed, the more precise the steering gets).

Another new feature for 2011 is the M Sport Package. Available on xDrive35i Premium models and higher trims, it adds 20-inch wheels with performance tires, BMW’s Adaptive Drive system, and an increased top speed limiter (150 mph).

  • "The steering has a satisfying weight to it, and allows the driver to pilot this hefty vehicle with ease. Tight turns and cornering are no problem. The suspension is comfortable over all surfaces, and families will like that. For a little more fun, drop it into sport mode with the flick of a button in the center console and the steering immediately gets heavier and more responsive." -- AutoWeek
  • "Outstanding balance and grip make the X5 feel more like a sedan than an SUV. There's minimal body lean in turns. Braking is strong, with good pedal feel. X5 M has sharper moves all around." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The optional Active Steering felt good nearly all the time, but occasionally felt strangely artificial and non-linear. At these moments we suspect the system was caught changing ratios and assist levels." -- Autoblog
  • "We were pleased that the new, regenerative brakes maintain a natural pedal feel, unlike the springy pedal action in the X6 ActiveHybrid. In our Active Drive-equipped test car, we were hard-pressed to discern any difference in ride or steering between Sport and standard mode on the straight, flat, and mostly smooth roads of South Florida." -- Automobile Magazine

All-Wheel Drive

The X5 comes standard with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Reviewers love the system and say it’s a big help in slippery conditions and even standing water. Most of the X5’s competitors -- with the exception of the Acura MDX -- only offer this type of system as an extra-cost option.

  • "We also went on a bit of a safari through the Florida Everglades, and we plodded with ease through water that reached about two-thirds up the fenders. The X5 does well off-road, and the all-wheel drive system is very confident. BMW added some electronic goodies, and the lane-departure warning was up to our tests." -- AutoWeek
  • “Looking at other components of the X5's drivetrain, the xDrive system remains largely unchanged. This is good news because it does an excellent job of reading the road, evaluating traction at the corners, and distributing the power thusly." -- Autoblog

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