The 2021 BMW X5 remains a strong competitor in the luxury midsize crossover segment. Two model years into its newest generation, it still feels fresh in terms of style and technology, while offering a driving experience thatâ€™s comfortable and refined. As this segment demands, it can also be had with superlative levels of German performance in the X5 M50i and X5 M. For 2021, this latest generation of X5 also gets a plug-in hybrid variant known as the xDrive45e.
The 2021 X5 continues to come jam-packed with the latest technology. Drivers can enjoy a number of advanced assistance systems, including one that allows you to take your hands off the wheel in traffic jams. BMW continues to bring the best of its infotainment, and the list of convenience features and trick tech is a long one â€“ even if some is questionably useful (weâ€™re looking at you, gesture control). The X5 gives the segmentâ€™s high-tech frontrunner, the Mercedes-Benz GLE, a run for its money. All in, the X5 is absolutely not to be missed if youâ€™re shopping for a midsize luxury SUV.
The big news for 2021 is the addition of the xDrive45e plug-in hybrid (pictured above), which replaces the xDrive50i in the X5 lineup. The base 40i models also get a touch of electrification with a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system.
Satellite radio and wireless Android Auto now come as standard equipment in the X5, while the options list has been trimmed a bit (the rear-seat entertainment system, off-road package and full Merino leather interior are no more). There are some other options availability differences, but nothing major.
The X5’s cabin is less austere than has been typical from BMW, boasting a snazzy design with ritzy materials that de-emphasize buttons in favor of large swaths of wood, the huge iDrive display and more interestingly shaped center air vents. And as is typical for this lofty segment of luxury SUVs, you can outfit the X5 in a truly opulent manner with things like a leather-wrapped dash, heated just-about everything (front and rear seats, steering wheel, armrests and cupholders), a 20-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system, multiple choices of wood trim, metal weaves, and glass finishings on center console controls. With the latter, you can make the electronic shifter look like a sort of crystal talisman from a fantasy novel.
As for technology, make sure to set aside lots of time during a test drive (and delivery, if you buy one) to learn about the innumerable features and customization settings controlled by the latest version of BMW’s iDrive. This isn’t a car you just hop in and drive away. Everything from the way the gauges look to your preferred combination of powertrain and chassis settings can be programmed the way you like it. Opting for an X5 M only adds to the customizability of the driving experience. Plus, this latest iDrive can be controlled through a multitude of different means: the center console knob and surrounding capacitive menu “buttons,” the touchscreen, natural voice commands akin to Amazon Alexa, or the rather useless gesture control (wave your hands about to accomplish tasks). We found we liked to accomplish different tasks using different means of interface, which speaks to the value in such control redundancy.
The X5 is a midsize SUV that seats five people in two rows. That configuration, along with its general exterior dimensions, makes it consistent with a Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (it has the exact same length), Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q8. The Lexus RX 350 is also within spitting distance of this group, but costs much less. Inside, the specs would indicate that the X5 has less rear seat legroom than these competitors, especially the more passenger-focused Q8, and in person, we found it doesn’t exactly provide the sprawl out space you might expect from a high-dollar SUV. The seat back also doesn’t recline. Head room in the rear is abundant, however, and shoulder room is typical for the segment, meaning fitting three across shouldn’t be an issue.
Now, while rear passenger space is just OK, cargo space is among the best in the two-row segment. It grossly outpaces the Q8 and RX, which are compromised by raked rooflines, as well as BMW’s X6 “coupe” sibling. BMW also beats the Cayenne, but is pretty much equal to the Mercedes GLE. It also features a distinctive cargo opening: a power-operated liftgate and tailgate combination. This allows you to access things inside without fear of those things rolling out when you open the tailgate. It also creates a nice, clean place to sit. On the other hand, opening and closing is a two-step process.