2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i Review

A Fast and Fun Family Hauler

There’s definitely a place in this world for sporty SUVs, but sometimes they can be a bit excessive.

You know the ones: plenty of power and performance, but not a whole lot of practicality to match. This is where the 2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i comes in. It may not offer the same degree of dynamism as its maniacal sibling, the BMW X5 M, but it can be fast and fun when called upon.

A Base on Which to Build

As the base version of the X5, the 35i comes packing a decent punch right out of the box. Residing under the hood is a 3.0-liter straight six-cylinder that’s been fitted with a single turbocharger to make 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.

That power is routed to the wheels — all four of them in this case, hence the xDrive portion of the name — through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Put it all together and the powertrain provides a nice blend of sporty responsiveness and everyday sensibility that something like the X5 M simply can’t.

With the full serving of torque kicking in at an impressively low 1,300 rpm, there’s very little turbo lag to speak even when easing onto the throttle. While the six-cylinder-powered X5 has been accused in the past of being underpowered, including by AutoGuide.com’s own Sami Haj-Assaad, it never feels like it’s struggling to move its mass — in this case, all 4,736 lb (2,148 kg) of it.

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Adding a Little Excitement

Just to make sure there weren’t any issues, our tester was fitted with a few extra tricks that emphasize the X5’s performance. Providing what’s basically an ECU tune, the BMW Performance Power Kit adds 20 horsepower and 32 lb-ft for totals of 320 and 332, respectively. While that may not seem like much, it’s definitely welcome in this application.

A thump of the throttle pedal is all it takes for the hulking X5 to surge to life like a BMW should. With the transmission geared to match that excitability — not to mention the Sport mode that brings with it an extra punch of engine speed — the X5 can shed its civility at a moment’s notice.

It’s not like this is some sort of chassis-twisting monster, but the mildly tuned engine is more than enough to make the X5 fun to drive when you want it to be. Switch the drive mode selector into Sport or Sport+ and everything from the throttle response to the suspension tuning sharpens up for those looking to blow off a little steam.

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Get on the throttle and the X5 will hustle hard into corners, seemingly shrinking to feel smaller than it is. Also helping change the perception of both driver and passenger is the optional sport exhaust system, which adds a raspy snarl to the exhaust note. The optional adaptive dampers fitted to our tester are a little on the softer side no matter the drive mode, though they don’t leave much room for body roll.

Of little surprise is the lack of steering feedback on display, though turn-in response is phenomenal in spite of the X5’s size. Stretching 193 inches (4,908 millimeters) from bumper to bumper, it’s certainly not spritely but is phenomenally spry.

Putting it through its paces does, however, adversely affect the X5’s already less-than-stellar fuel economy. After covering close to 250 miles (400 kilometers) over the course of a week, the best our tester could muster was a paltry 16.5 mpg (14.2 L/100 km). That’s far worse than the X5’s advertised combined average of 20 mpg (11.5 L/100 km).

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Bringing it Back to Reality

Once you’re done having fun, simply switch the drive mode back to Comfort or Eco Pro and the X5 transforms back into a family-friendly sport utility — just one more thing it’s pretty good at. The X5 feels big and lumbering in either of those modes, though it’s well-rounded and, perhaps more importantly, well-mannered.

The ride is tremendously smooth and quiet, with plenty of damping and deadening killing almost all unwelcome intrusions of sound or feel. The suspension is far softer than the already soft Sport setup, though it doesn’t feel sloppy when confronted with uneven pavement. The X5 simply floats its way through unscathed, without much of anything seeming amiss from inside.

Step into the cabin and the X5 feels every bit as premium as any of its peers from Germany or elsewhere. Having been introduced in 2013, the X5 does come across as slightly dated when it comes to design but all of the materials are as pleasing as the latest and greatest in the segment.

BMW was also sure to keep the X5 fresh for 2017 with the addition of a touchscreen infotainment system, an underrated feature in a premium vehicle. That means all it takes is the tap of a finger to navigate the fairly user-friendly iDrive infotainment interface. The touchscreen is still supplemented by a touch-sensitive scroll wheel on the center console though it’s no longer the only way to work through the many layers of iDrive functionality.

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That newfound simplicity doesn’t include any generosity, however, and BMW is still pinching pennies elsewhere inside. Adding Apple CarPlay compatibility, for example, will set you back $300 (it’s part of the $750 Smartphone Connectivity Package in Canada), which is ridiculous considering it’s standard in so many mainstream vehicles these days.

The cabin of the X5 does make up for those shortcomings with an impressive amount of space inside. Its generous proportions outside mean cargo room is a respectable 35.8 cu-ft (1,018 liters) behind the second row of seats and 76.7 cu-ft (2,172 liters) with them folded. Both numbers put the X5’s cargo capacity in close proximity to the likes of the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class.

The same goes for passenger volume, with plenty on tap in the X5. Those riding in the front seats will find there’s plenty of room to get comfortable, while the second row is equally as generous. Legroom there stands at 36.6 inches (930 mm) while headroom ranges to the same 39.8 inches (1,011 mm) found in the front row.

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The Verdict: 2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i Review

As cool as something like the X5 M is — or any similarly sporty SUV for that matter — most folks don’t need that level of performance day in and day out. For those looking to have a little bit of fun with their family hauler, a mildly modified base X5 should do the trick.

It should also save a few bucks, too. A base X5 xDrive35i will set you back $57,800 ($67,000 in Canada) before destination charges, which is in line with the rest of the segment. Our tester had virtually every option box imaginable checked and was priced accordingly, coming in at almost $80,000 ($93,710 in Canada). However, that’s still far less expensive than an X5 M, which starts at a steep $98,800 ($108,900 in Canada).

Adding all that stuff to a base X5 may seem ridiculous, and it is — but in a good way. With a few thousand dollars in options, it’s got just enough performance chops to make it fun when it needs to be, but it’s just as civil as any other full-size sport utility when it doesn’t.

  • Engineer

    It’s inline 6, not V6.