I’m willing to bet most new car shoppers could guess BMW's best seller in Canada (3 Series sedan), but I doubt many would know which Bimmer ranks second.
And up until very recently, I counted myself among the unaware.
Until I checked the numbers while preparing to write this story, I didn’t know the X5 sport ute finished a solid number two behind the venerable 3 Series on the BMW Canada sales chart in 2016.
I figured BMW’s roster of smaller SUVs – and there are a lot of them – the X1, X3 or X4 would’ve sold better in a land with a taste for small cars (and Ford F-150s), but there it is in black and white – the X5 finished only 510 units behind the 3 Series last year.
The reality is a bit surprising given the X5’s largesse – size, price tag and appetite for premium fuel – but it proves once again that while Canadians do buy a lot of small cars, they also buy a lot of SUVs.
While the X5 was only the 75th best-selling vehicle (6,942 sold) in Canada in 2016, it outsold several well-established (and less expensive) competitors, including the Acura MDX, the Mitsubishi Outlander and the Toyota 4Runner, to name a few.
So why are Canadians warming to the X5?
Well, after spending a week in one very well-optioned Space Grey Metallic xDrive35i tester, a few things occur to me.
One, the X5 inspires a great deal of on-road confidence, especially in bad weather. With 209 millimetres (8.2 inches) of ground clearance, standard xDrive all-wheel drive and winter tires, encountering a snowstorm on the way home from work (as I did last week) is nothing to fear.
The X5 tracked straight and true on slush and snow-covered Toronto-area roads with ease, with immediate traction from rest, controlled braking and confident handling. I encountered very little loss of traction and was especially impressed with the way the X5 hooked up immediately during uphill starts.
Sure, some credit goes to its winter tires, but kudos also to the X5’s AWD system and 3.0-litre TwinPower turbo inline six-cylnder engine, which delivers power in abundance.
With 300 horsepower and a very accessible 300 lb-ft. of torque (peak begins at just 1,200 rpm) on tap, the 3.0L can hustle the X5 along with impressive haste and has the ability to make short work of snow.
My tester is also equipped with the M Performance package, which includes an intake and exhaust upgrade that adds 20 horsepower and 32 lb-ft. of torque.
On dry roads, the X5 can really haul, especially in Sport and Sport + when the throttle mapping becomes more aggressive, the eight-speed automatic holds the revs before upshifting, and the traction control offers limited intervention.
Oh, and the bark emanating from the M exhaust gets pleasingly angrier when the accelerator is mashed. Few SUVs dare to be this sporting, and it’s a quality I really appreciate.
The next thing I am struck by is the level of comfort the X5 provides. The interior isn’t the most visually inviting – it’s a little too dark for me – but the look and feel of the controls, leather seating areas and trim materials are first rate.
BMW packs deep levels of functionality into all of its cars these days, so there is the potential for getting lost in the many menus one can scroll through with the iDrive controller on the centre console.
The good news is, like most automotive menu systems, iDrive does become easier to navigate with repeated use. And the 10.2-inch main infotainment / navigation screen provides a very detailed and high-contrast view of one’s surroundings, and is capable of rendering buildings in 3D. The head-up and 10.25-inch multifunction instrument displays are also useful, nice to look at and are customizable.
Because the X5 is an SUV, forward visibility is good and the driving position offers a great deal of seat and steering wheel adjustability. The seats in particular offer a great deal of articulation, including front cushions that extend, a nice feature for the long-legged. The M Sport Line package (see below for the full list) also includes a thick, heated M leather steering wheel.
Finally, the X5 has a lot of room and versatility with folding rear seats and a split power lift gate which makes loading and unloading a breeze. If you have a family and / or have lots of stuff, the X5 has 1,870 litres of maximum cargo space ready and willing to swallow about as much as you can cram into it.
As I alluded to earlier, however, there are a few negatives.
Firstly, things can get expensive really quickly, as the option list below reveals. Most who opt for the X5 are unlikely to tick as may boxes as BMW Canada did here, but even a moderately equipped model carries a big price tag. If this is the vehicle you want, be prepared to shell out.
Secondly, with a curb weight over 2,100 kg and a powerful turbo I6 engine under your right foot, the X5 will go through a lot of premium fuel. Even if one is able to resist the temptation to use Sport and Sport +, the X5 is pretty thirsty machine with an 11.5 L/100 km combined average consumption rating. If you’re looking to economize, this isn’t an ideal choice.
As is the case with a many large vehicles, rearward visibility in the X5 is a bit compromised by large c-pillars. Yes, there are several on-board cameras to guide you, but they can’t see everything and their perspectives can be a bit deceiving. Some care should be taken when backing up.
Finally, the X5 is a large vehicle, so if you have a small garage or a tight condo parking space, you’d best keep that in mind before you lay your money down.
With all that said, the X5 offers a lot of car for the money, with ample amounts of capability, performance and style.
SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i
BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $67,000 / $95,855 (incl. $2,145 destination)
ENGINE: 3.0L Turbocharged I6
HORSEPOWER: 300 hp @ 5,800 – 6,400 rpm
TORQUE: 300 lb-ft. @ 1,200 – 5,000 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 2,173 kg
CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 13 / 9.8 / 11.5
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000
ALTERNATIVES: Audi SQ5, Infiniti QX70, Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GLE 400
Photography by Lee Bailie
Premium Package Enhanced ($6,900)
- Universal Remote Control
- Comfort Access
- Soft Close Doors
- Manual Side Sunshades
- Lumbar Support
- Storage Compartment Package
- Heated Rear Seats
- Auto 4-Zone Climate Control
- Lights Package
- Active Blind Spot Detection
- Active Protection
- Surround View
- Park Assistant (incl. 508 PDC Front / Rear)
- Head-Up Display
- SiriusXM Satellite Radio Tuner
- harman / kardon Sound System
- BMW ConnectedDrive Services Package
- Speed Limit Info
M Performance Package II ($5,900)
- Carbon Fibre Front Splitter
- High-Gloss Black Kidney Grills
- Carbon Fibre Side Mirrors
- Carbon Fibre Rear Diffuser
- M Power Kit
- M Performance Exhaust (+20 hp / 32 lb-ft. torque, 0-100km/h time drops by 0.5 sec.)
M Sport Line ($2,000)
- 20-inch M Double-Spoke Lt. Alloy Wheels (469M), Mixed Tires
(20x10, 275/40R20 front, 20x11, 315/35R20 rear)
- Sport Auto Trans. w/Paddles
- Adaptive M Suspension
- M Sport Package
- Without Exterior Lines Designation
- High Gloss Black Roof Rails
- Comfort Seats (front)
- Brushed Aluminum Trim
- Ceramic Controls
- M Leather Steering Wheel
- M Aerodynamics Package
- High-Gloss Shadow Line
- Anthracite Roofliner
LED Lighting Package ($2,500)
- Active LED Headlights
- LED Fog Lights
- High-Beam Assistant
Smartphone Connectivity Package ($750)
- Apple CarPlay
- Wireless Charging w/Extended Bluetooth and USB
- WiFi Hotspot
Accessories and / or Stand Alone Options:
M Double Spoke Style 599, Cerium Grey / Polished Wheels w/ Pirelli P Zero Tires (P285/35R21 105Y RFT) – $6,660
Total – $26,710