2012 BMW X5 xDrive50i Review

Styling changes are subtle, but the new engine is not

2012 BMW X5 xDrive50i Review

If the phrase “a sophisticated SUV” still sounds like an oxymoron of mammoth-sized proportions, you absolutely must take a test drive in the 2012 BMW X5. Any concerns you may have that a fully-functional, off-road capable vehicle has the potential to challenge your sportiest intentions when paved roads turn twisty, is certain to disappear.


1. Updated in 2011 the X5 gains turbocharged engines and new badge designations, with the xDrive50i powered by a twin-turbo 4.4L V8 making 400-hp and 450 lb-ft of torque.

2. An 8-spped automatic transmission helps fuel economy improve one tick on the highway to 14/20-mpg.

3. X5 models start at $46,300 with the xDrive 50i from $58,900.

What separates the BMW X5 from other so called sporty SUVs is heritage, stance and power. Equipped with various superb engine choices, our current tester is in the xDrive50i. Getting completely comfortable behind the wheel doesn’t take long. Your only decision is whether to challenge the pavement or rock the dirt. Either way, it’s all good.  


Performance comes in the form of a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine. It produces an astounding 400 horsepower between 5600-6400 rpm and 450 lb-ft of torque from 1750-4500 rpm.

Matched to an 8-speed Sport Automatic with Adaptive Transmission Control (ATC), the BMW xDrive50i accelerates from 0-60 mph in a mere 5.3 seconds. This puts it on par with some real sports cars. Top speed is electronically limited at 150 mph. Fuel consumption estimates indicate 14/20 mpg city/highway, with fuel tank capacity at 22.5 gallons.

2012 BMW X5 xDrive50i Review

Yes despite all this on-road power, even rugged terrain is no match for BMW’s xDrive, intelligent all-wheel-drive. It features a rear-wheel bias that allows for maximum handling and superior drive characteristics. When slippage does occur, the system responds in milliseconds shifting torque to where it is needed most. The result is seamless control at all four corners in all driving conditions.


Ride quality is superb on the X5 xDrive50i as it features front double wishbone and a lightweight multi-link integral rear suspension. Engine-speed-sensitive power steering is light when traveling at low speeds, making parking lots and driveway maneuvers easy. As speed builds, steering becomes progressively more robust providing the excellent feel we have come to know as a signature of BMW.

2012 BMW X5 xDrive50i Review

Brakes are 4-wheel disc with ABS, Brake Fade Compensation, Dynamic Brake Control, Brake Drying and Brake Stand-by features. Wheel sizes are comparable at all four corners, 18-inch star spoke light alloy wrapped with 255/55 run-flat all-season tires.

Hill Descent Control employs sophisticated technology to manage the challenge of climbing back down the rugged mountain trail once you have reached the top. Xenon adaptive headlights automatically adjust for changes in topography. A fitted rear roof spoiler adds a touch of sportiness and aerodynamic efficiency and the rear wiper/washer provides intermittent capability. 


You expect a first rate interior with any BMW and the X5 xDrive50i delivers. Front seats provide 10-way power adjustment and heating plus 4-way lumbar fine-tuning. Nevada Leather is standard along with Dark Burl Walnut accents on the dash, door trim and accompanying touch points.

A 3-spoke tilt/telescope steering wheel directs your path down the road. It also allows for adjustment of the AM/FM stereo CD/MP3 player audio system with 10-speakers and thumb or finger phone activation when equipped with an appropriate phone and 3rd party service provider.  

2012 BMW X5 xDrive50i Review

A hard-drive based navigation system delivers clear voice commands and map images. Updates are available and we found our test vehicle to have the latest mapping changes as we encountered new roads and traffic jams enroute. The world outside is easily enjoyed thanks to a full-roof, double-pane panoramic roof. When it gets too hot, simply close the power sunshade and take a break.

Front and back seating areas feature dual cupholders and plenty of added storage. All seats are comfortable though a little on the stiff side as is common with BMW. Rear seats fold flat for added convenience. The rear storage area is fully carpeted and features a handy power opening/closing tailgate. In every way, this is a fine place to spend time while on the road.


The 2012 BMW X5 xDrive50i is not your typical back roads SUV. Renowned for building driving machines, the X5 and in particular the xDrive50i challenge you to take the road less traveled whether it is paved with asphalt or not. Whatever you have planned, a night on the town, or a moonlight crossing of the New Mexico desert, the X5 is your ticket to the stars.

Related Reading
2011 Porsche Cayenne S Review – First Drive
2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Review
2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport: First Drive
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review: First Drive
2009 Infiniti FX50 Review
2010 Lexus RX350 Review
2010 Acura MDX Review

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