2018 BMW X5 Diesel First Test: Efficient Twist

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The X5 was BMW’s first crossover, and it has since become one the automaker’s best-selling models. In its third generation, there’s an X5 for every taste, from traditional gas-powered models to a plug-in hybrid to the potent X5 M. We got our hands on the diesel-powered 2018 BMW X5 xDrive35d to see how it stacks up as an alternative to your run-of-the-mill, gas-burning luxury crossover.

See spy shots of the next-generation BMW X5 right here

Power for the 2018 BMW X5 xDrive35d comes via a 3.0-liter turbodiesel I-6 rated at 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. With an EPA estimate of 23/29 mpg city/highway, the diesel-powered X5 is the second-most efficient variant in the lineup, behind the X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid. After undergoing our own Real MPG fuel economy testing, we found that the diesel-powered X5 is more efficient than expected, yielding 26.0/33.2 mpg city/highway. With a 22.4-gallon tank, you have a luxury crossover that will do well over 600 miles before needing to refuel.

At the track, the diesel-powered crossover hit 60 mph in 6.0 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.6 seconds at 91.3 mph. Associate road test editor Erick Ayapana said the engine has noticeable turbo lag off the line but that the transmission keeps the engine right in the heart of its powerband in Sport mode. Stopping from 60 mph took 125 feet; however, the ABS pulsates aggressively during hard braking, and the crossover dives when you suddenly hit the brakes.

The X5 xDrive35d finished the figure-eight course in 27.0 seconds with an average of 0.64 g. It generated 0.84 g of lateral acceleration on the skid pad. Road test editor Chris Walton was impressed that the X5 “hustles around the figure eight as a BMW should” but noted that the standard all-season tires causes it to understeer. Walton also noted that the steering needs constant attention and that the body rolls a lot in corners.

On the road, the diesel-powered X5 is pleasant to drive, and there’s plenty of power for passing slower traffic or climbing up grades. The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic provides quick, smooth shifts and snappy responses. Combined with its responsive throttle and torquey engine, the X5 is easy to drive quickly. The mushy brake pedal doesn’t give the driver much confidence, though. It feels like there’s not enough stopping power even though there’s plenty. Other than a rough start/stop system, which you can turn off, it’s hard to tell that the refined powertrain is a diesel.

For its size, the X5 handles well; it’s no sports car, but for a large crossover, it’s well sorted. The X5’s steering doesn’t feel connected to the front wheels, and the imprecise system makes the crossover feel as large as it is, especially on narrow roads. Ride comfort is excellent, especially with BMW’s optional Dynamic Damper Control system. In Comfort mode, the X5 soaks up road imperfections well. Sport mode stiffens the dampers, but it’s still compliant on bad roads. The standard run-flat tires produce some road noise, though.

Inside, the cabin features high-quality materials with soft plastics on the dash and plenty of padding where your arms fall. Hard plastics are nowhere to be found in the X5’s cabin, and everything feels well put together. On the road, nothing rattles or creaks, even when you go over less-than-perfect pavement. Engine noise is minimal even at full throttle, but wind noise is noticeable, especially from the A-pillar on the driver’s side. Passenger space is excellent for front and second-row passengers. There’s a third row option, too, but think of that small area as an occasional-use-only space for two kids—if you want a full-size BMW three-row crossover, wait for the upcoming X7. Front-seat comfort could be better, as the seat backs are flat and don’t have much side support, making the optional multicontour front seats worth the extra cost.

For hauling, the X5 has a generous 35.8-cubic-foot cargo area behind the second row. BMW includes 40/20/40 split-folding second-row seats as standard for improved flexibility, allowing you to carry long items and four passengers at the same time. Behind the front seats there’s 76.7 cubic feet of cargo space, plenty for a Costco run or Ikea shopping spree. (Our tester didn’t have the third-row seat.)

BMW’s iDrive multimedia system has seen continuous improvement, and in the 2018 X5 xDrive35d, it’s more user-friendly. With the addition of a touchscreen, you don’t have to rely on the knob to navigate through the system, and its layout has been simplified with the addition of reconfigurable tiles. A touchpad on top of the knob has a hard time recognizing letters and numbers, which means when writing the letter “A,” it will sometimes think it’s a “4.” The standard audio offers good sound, but audiophiles should opt for the Harman Kardon system or the Bang & Olufsen surround sound systems, both of which offer superior in-car listening experiences. Apple CarPlay is the only smartphone integration app available, and it can be operated wirelessly.

Our tester came equipped with the Driving Assistance and Driving Assistance Plus packages. The former adds active blind-spot monitoring (a visual warning is followed by a vibrating steering wheel if you start to drift), a head-up display, and lane departure warning. The Plus package adds adaptive cruise control and the Active Driving Assistant, which bundles forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking. All of the active driver assistance features were mostly unobtrusive except for the lane departure system, which mistook the grooves on the road for lane lines, causing the steering wheel to vibrate because it thought the car veered off its intended path. Other features on our tester included LED headlights and a surround-view camera system.

As tested, our 2018 X5 xDrive35d checked in at $73,445 and was still many thousands of dollars away from being loaded. (The AWD-only diesel X5 is only $1,500 more than an X5 xDrive35i.) A Volvo XC90 T6 has a more elegant interior for about the same price as our tester, and the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 checks in just slightly above but comes with more features. A similarly priced Audi Q7 gets you more creature comforts, including massaging front seats, heated rear seats, and a 19-speaker Bose audio system, while a fully loaded Acura MDX will leave you with around $10,000 for a vacation.

Even though this generation of X5 has been on the market for years and comes with a hefty price tag, the diesel model remains a solid entry. You get a quiet, spacious cabin for five passengers with surprisingly good fuel efficiency for such a large vehicle. The X5 does its job as a family vehicle well, and when equipped with the diesel engine, it adds prodigious torque and good fuel efficiency for a big crossover—just make sure you keep an eye on the price when selecting options.

2018 BMW X5 xDrive35d
BASE PRICE $61,995
PRICE AS TESTED $73,445
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.0L/255-hp/413-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve I-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,935 lb (51/49%)
WHEELBASE 115.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 193.2 x 76.3 x 69.4 in
0-60 MPH 6.0 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.6 sec @ 91.3 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 125 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.84 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.0 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 26.0/33.2/28.8 mpg
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 23/29/25 mpg
ENERGY EMISSIONS, CITY/HWY 164/130 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.88 lb/mile



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