Since its launch in 2007, the second-generation BMW X5 has defined its segment in the same way that its predecessor did.

BMW’s big luxury SUV may have been knocked off the top spot in our top five list in recent times by the likes of the second-generation Porsche Cayenne, but it’s hard not to continually refer back to the X5 when looking for a benchmark against which to judge other vehicles of this type, such is the breadth and depth of its abilities. 

Road test editor
High seating position and thin A-pillars give the X5 excellent forward visibility

Prior to the arrival of the current Cayenne, the X5 was generally regarded as the best car in its class dynamically, and even now there’s not a great deal between the two.

As well as riding and handling in a sophisticated and capable manner, the X5 is refined and comfortable, relatively economical, roomy inside and, unlike its predecessor (and the Cayenne), offers buyers the option of seven seats, so it’s easy to see why it has been such a popular choice with families looking for a big premium 4x4. 

The Mk2 X5 was given a subtle mid-life makeover in 2010, with some mild styling changes, minor chassis revisions, an extended list of options and an expanded range of engines, including a revolutionary triple-turbo diesel in the X5 M50d, a high-performance model that kicked off BMW’s new M Performance sub-brand in the UK (along with the X6 M50d with the same powerplant).

Although BMW doesn’t offer any frugal four-cylinder engines in the X5 (as Mercedes does in the M-class), the X5’s six-cylinder diesels are among the most efficient in the class, and all are linked to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox.

As well as the 381bhp tri-turbo powerplant in the M50d, two other 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbodiesels are offered in the X5: a 241bhp version in the xDrive30d and a 302bhp twin-turbo version in the xDrive40d.

Petrol versions are now restricted to a 402bhp twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 in the xDrive50i and a modified version of the same unit that produces 547bhp in the bonkers range-topping X5 M.

As always, there’s a choice of SE and M Sport trim levels on the xDrive30d, xDrive40d and xDrive50i, with the M Sport versions distinguished by a body kit that eliminates the black wheel arch surrounds, side sills and lower bumpers that come on SE variants. The M50d and X5 M get their own M-specific trim levels.