2012 BMW X5 Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jan 7, 2011

Like this Review

2012 BMW X5 Buying Advice

The 2012 BMW X5 is the crossover for you if you want a premium-priced, seven-passenger midsize SUV that’s sportier than the norm and delivers performance that’s adequate to exhilarating, depending on the model.

The 2012 BMW X5 should continue without major changes following a midcycle refresh for model-year 2011 that featured new turbocharged inline-six and V-8 engines. It’ll also continue to offer a lively diesel variant. The 2012 X5 does justice to its linage as the first SUV to skew heavily toward sporty on-road performance and handling when it was originally introduced for model-year 2000. The 2012 X5 belongs to the second-generation of this design, which bowed for model-year 2007. A diesel-powered model was added for model-year 2009 and a high-performance X5 M debuted for model-year 2010. The 2012 X5 is built at BMW’s Spartanburg, South Carolina assembly plant. Competitors include the Infiniti FX, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and Porsche Cayenne.

Should you wait for the 2012 BMW X5 or buy the 2011 BMW X5? Buy the 2011 BMW X5? The 2012 X5 isn’t expected to get any substantive changes. Buying a 2011 allows you to avoid the inevitable price hike, and gives you an extra year to enjoy the X5 before its styling is rendered dated by the next full redesign, which is anticipated for model-year 2013 or 2014.

2012 BMW X5 Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 BMW X5 is expected to carry over cosmetically following a minor makeover for model-year 2011. That freshening centered on subtle styling revisions to the nose and tail, but overall appearance was little changed. The 2012 X5 continues to owe specific styling cues to BMW’s 3-Series and 5-Series cars. Its boxy overall shape is accentuated by BMW’s trademark dual-kidney grille and an aggressive-looking lower front fascia. Muscular wheel arches pump up the sides. And LED taillight clusters wrap neatly around and into the tailgate at the rear. A roof-mounted rear spoiler is included.

Inside, the 2012 BMW X5 should remain tasteful and handsome without being too dressy and offer a choice of leather treatments and wood or aluminum trim. A sweeping dashboard will again incorporate a large video display atop the center stack of controls that displays navigation, audio, and other system information.

The 2012 BMW X5 lineup should continue with two main branches: mainstream models and the high-performance 2012 BMW X5 M. The mainstream models are labled xDrive 35i, xDrive50i, and xDrive35d. The xDrive tag refers to BMW’s name for their standard all-wheel drive system while the numerals/letter suffix identifies the model’s engine type. The 2012 BMW X5 M also comes standard with xDrive but includes unique styling touches such as more aggressively shaped bumpers and lower-body side sills, plus flashy 20-inch wheels and tires vs. the other model’s standard 18s or extra-cost 19s and 20s.

The first-generation 2000-2006 X5 was strictly a five-passenger SUV. The mainstream versions of this second-generation model will again be available with an optional third-row seat; the 2012 X5 M should remain a five-seater. While the available third row adds flexibility, it’s strictly for kids. Fortunately, the second-row seats recline and adjust fore and aft, even when the third row is specified. This enables adults of all sizes to find their comfort zones.

BMW gave this second-generation X5 a jolt of utility the first-generation lacked, and the 2012 X5 will continue with good cargo volume, at 23.2 cubic feet behind the third-row seat, 35.8 cubic feet in five-passenger setup, and 75.2 with rear seats folded. That’s competitive with anything in the premium midsize-crossover class. 

If pure-sport styling and image in an X5-based package is your priority, check out the BMW X6 and X6 M. It shares the X5’s basic engineering and several of its powertrains, but clothed in a racier body with a fastback roofline. The X6 seats just four passengers, and has tighter rear-seat headroom and less cargo space than the X5. And it costs more.

Mechanical: The 2012 BMW X5 should be mechanically unchanged after model-year 2011 updates introduced revised gasoline engines and a new transmission.
The 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35i is likely to return in base, xDrive35i Premium, and xDrive35i Sport Activity versions. All should continue with a 3.0-liter turbocharged and direct fuel-injected inline six-cylinder engine. Expect it to repeat at 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. (Think of horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum and torque as the force that pushes you back into your seat during acceleration and is the prime factor in throttle response.)

Note that BMW’s six-cylinder engines align cylinders in a straight line and not in the more typical and more compact “V” configuration. BMW chooses this arrangement for its inherently smoother operation.

The 2012 BMW X5 xDrive50i should again pack a twin-turbocharged direct-injected 4.4-liter V-8 engine that will likely continue with 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque

The 2012 BMW X5 gasoline engines will continue with BMW’s Brake Energy Regeneration system in which the car’s battery is recharged primarily via energy recovered from braking and decelerating. This is similar to the self-charging systems used in hybrid-powered vehicles. By reducing the drag on the engine that would otherwise result from a belt-driven alternator BMW claims the technology can reduce fuel consumption by 1-2 percent.

Expect the 2012 X5 xDrive35i and xDrive50i to retain an eight-speed automatic transmission. This is among the leading transmissions in the class, not only for its number of speeds – many rivals have six or seven – but for its smart mix of close-ratio gearing that enhances lower-speed throttle response with two cruising gears at the top for relaxed highway driving. This transmission also allows the driver manual-type gear control and includes a “Drive Sport” mode for aggressive fully automatic operation.

The 2012 X5 xDrive35i Sports Activity model should again come with the optional M Sport package that includes 20-inch wheels with performance tires, the Adaptive Drive system, and specific cosmetic and aerodynamic trim items.

Diesel engines are mainstays of SUVs in overseas markets and the 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d will again represent that powertrain in the U.S. It should continue with a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six cylinder diesel. Like most diesels, its horsepower rating is relatively modest, 265 horsepower in this case. But diesels specialize in generating torque and the 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d won’t disappoint, with an impressive 425 pound-feet for strong, V-8-like acceleration.

Unlike diesels of the recent past, this low-emissions engine can be sold in all 50 states, though it relies upon a urea-based exhaust system treatment to flush out pollutants. The urea fluid must be replenished periodically, which BMW considers as part of the X5’s regularly scheduled maintenance routine. The 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d should continue with a six-speed automatic transmission; it’s two fewer speeds compared to the gas-engine X5s is testament to the diesel engine’s ability to furnish torque without relying upon the multiplication affect of particular gear ratios.

Almost certain to return atop the line is the 2012 BMW X5 xDrive M. Expect it to again use a high-performance twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 with 555 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is included here, as are assorted powertrain and suspension upgrades that ratchet the X5 M’s overall performance. In all, it should again require some suspension of disbelief to drive a large crossover SUV like a smaller and lighter sports sedan.

Assorted rivals such as the Infiniti FX and Mercedes-Benz M-Class are likely to continue available with rear-wheel drive, but BMW is expected to again fit every 2012 X5 with its sophisticated xDrive all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. There’s no low-range gearing because the X5 isn’t intended to go off road. Rather, xDrive is designed to automatically furnish infinitely adjustable front-to-rear power distribution for surefootedness on wet or snowy pavement and loosely packed dirt roads. It also enhances handling on in dry road conditions. Under normal circumstances, this xDrive system sends 60 percent of the engine’s power to the back wheels to help give the X5 a sporty, rear-wheel-drive feel.

A stout structure and sophisticated suspension should again to help give the 2012 BMW X5 lively handling characteristics, at least for a vehicle of its size and weight. Further enhancing the X5’s road manners is BMW’s optional Active Steering system, which provides additional steering boost during extreme maneuvers for quicker handling. An available Adaptive Drive system should return to blend BMW’s Active Roll Stabilization and Electronic Damping Control systems and, respectively, minimize body roll through turns and maintain a smooth and controlled ride at all times. Adaptive Drive includes driver-selectable modes that emphasize a softer ride or sharper handling.

The 2012 BMW X5 should continue with a long list of standard chassis control systems for added safety and stability. Among them, Hill Descent Control stabilizes speed on sharp downgrades, while the Dynamic Stability Control antiskid system adds another layer of safety by automatically adjusting throttle and/or brakes to help keep the X5 on course during extreme or emergency maneuvers. In keeping with the X5’s sporty nature, BMW tunes its Dynamic Traction Control system to allow a higher level of wheel slippage than is typical before intervening;  this promote more enthusiastic handling on dry surfaces and can even help make getting out of a snowbound parking space a little easier.

The 2012 BMW X5 should continue among the few SUVs to come with run-flat tires. As the term implies, run-flat tires can be driven fully or partially deflated at a reduced speed far enough to reach a service facility for repair or replacement. Run-flats preclude the need to carry a spare tire, which saves weight and frees up cargo space, though the X5 does offer a space-saver spare tire as an option.

Features: Befitting its premium-crossover status – and pricing -- the 2012 BMW X5 should continue well equipped, with standard features that include steering-linked xenon headlights that pivot slightly to light the way through curves, HD radio, automatic climate control, fog lights, cruise control, and an anti-theft alarm system.

Amenities such as a panoramic moonroof, power adjustable steering column, and an iPod / USB adapter interface will again be standard or optional, depending on model. Available at extra cost in packages and/or as standalone items will again be heated front and rear seats, a voice-activated navigation system with real-time traffic information, and a head-up display that projects vehicle speed and other information on the inside of the windshield in the driver’s line of sight.

Also returning will be an optional lane-departure warning system alerts the driver when the X5 is inadvertently crossing highway lane markers. Available exterior cameras will be offered to provide both a rear- and top-down view of the vehicle for easier and safer parking. The optional active cruise control system maintains a set speed and distance from the traffic ahead at highway speeds and also works in stop and go traffic.

The 2012 BMW X5 will again come standard with the automaker’s iDrive multimedia control system that uses a knob-shaped joystick and a menu-based interface displayed on an LCD monitor to operate various systems, including audio, navigation, and climate control. The latest generation works better than did past renditions, though it remains more troublesome to perform basic tasks – and potentially more dangerous if the driver has look from the road to operate it – than would be manipulating ordinary buttons and dials.

2012 BMW X5 Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 BMW X5 weren’t announced in time for this review but don’t expect them to deviate much from model-year 2011 levels. This suggests an estimated 2012 BMW X5 base-price range of $47,500-$87,000. (Base-price estimates in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; BMW’s fee for the 2011 X5 was $875.)

Expect the 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35i to be priced from around $47,500. Estimated base price is $53,500 for the 2012 X5 xDrive35i Premium and $56,000 for the 2012 xDrive35i Sport Activity version.

The diesel-powered X5 xDrive35d should start around $53,000, the turbo-V-8 xDrive50i around  $60,000, and the 2012 BMW X5 xDrive M around $87,000.

Among 2012 X5 options, expect heated rear seats to cost about $350 and the Cold Weather Package that bundles heated front seats and steering wheel with headlamp washers and a ski bag to cost around $900. The Technology Package, which includes the navigation system, park-distance proximity warnings, and the rear/top-view camera, should again command around $2,800. Front multi-contour leather seats with a massaging function for the driver should cost around $2,100. Expect the third-row seat (which includes rear climate control and a self-leveling suspension) to add about $1,700. Active steering should be priced around $1,500 with the Adaptive Drive system about $3,500.

2012 BMW X5 Fuel Economy back to top

EPA mileage figures for the 2012 BMW X5 weren’t issued in time for this review but they should remain at or near model-year 2011 ratings. That would keep the 2012 X5’s fuel economy numbers around the median for premium midsize crossovers, none of which impresses much for thriftiness at the pump.

The 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35i models should again be rated at 16/23 mpg city/highway. Expect the xDrive50i to repeat at 14/20 mpg and the X5 xDrive M at just 12/17. The diesel-powered 2012 BMW X5 xDrive 35d should again lead the line at 19/26 mpg.

Premium-octane fuel is required for all gasoline-powered X5 models.

2012 BMW X5 Release Date back to top

The 2012 BMW X5 should reach dealers’ showrooms by October 2011.

What's next for the 2012 BMW X5 back to top

The BMW X5 appears set for its next full redesign in model-year 2013 or 2014. Assuming BMW still believes there’s a pressing need to continue with a higher-performance X5 M, a revised version of that model would likely trail the rest of the line by a year or more.

While this crossover’s basic size, shape, and proportions aren’t likely to change dramatically, expect a slew of updates to help BMW meet stricter fuel economy and emissions standards being phased in here and in Europe. Some reports suggest the next X5 will ride on a lighter, but no less rigid, aluminum chassis and adopt other weight-saving measures; reducing a vehicle’s mass is the one of the simplest and easiest ways to boost its fuel economy.

Beyond that, expect BMW to wring additional miles per gallon out of its turbo-six engine and continue with the diesel-powered version, assuming there’s enough market demand in the U.S. to support it. The twin-turbo V-8 would probably need to become more fuel efficient if it’s to survive. In any event, expect to see the X5 include a fuel-saving “stop-start” function in which the engine shuts down under deceleration and at idle. Stop-start is comparatively widespread among cars in Europe and is just now beginning to find its way into U.S. models.

A gas-electric hybrid version of the third-generation X5 is a good bet. An ActiveHybrid X5 could well be in the works. It would likely share the powertrain of the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 sedan. That means a 3.0-liter six-cylinder gasoline engine teamed with an electric motor/generator and eight-speed automatic transmission for a net output of some 350 horsepower. This would be a “full” hybrid capable of running solely on electric power for short periods, on gasoline only, or a combination of the two power sources. The goal would be a boost in fuel economy of about 10 percent over a gas-only engine of roughly the same horsepower.

2012 BMW X5 Competition back to top

Infiniti FX: This sporty five-seater has curvaceous styling that, to some eyes, borders on the excessive. The FX does deliver lively handling and can actually feel a bit more agile than the slightly larger BMW X5, though Infiniti has no answer for the road-dominating X5 M model. The 2012 FX35 should again come with a 3.5-liter V-6 with some 303 horsepower and the FX50 should continue to pack a 5.0-liter V-8 with some 390 horsepower. Both should again use a seven-speed automatic transmission with the FX35 available with rear- or all-wheel drive and the FX50 AWD only. Infiniti is Nissan’s upscale division and its AWD system is rear-drive biased for a sporty feel. Myriad high-tech features will return for gadget lovers. Estimated base-prices range for the 2012 FX is $42,500-$57,500.

Mercedes-Benz M-Class: Strictly a five-seater but a natural X5 rival in size and concept. The 2012 M-Class will continue to skew more toward luxury than full sportiness but will nonetheless again deliver plenty of performance with the available 382-horsepower V-8 in the ML550 and especially with the X5 M-rivaling 503-horse ML63 AMG. The base 268-horsepower V-6 ML350 comes in rear- or all-wheel drive; other models are AWD and include a the diesel V-6 ML350 BlueTec with 400 pound-feet of torque and an 18/25-mpg rating. The M-Class already boasts a gas-electric model, the ML450 BlueHybrid that combines a V-6 with a battery-driven motor for 335 horsepower, 381 pound-feet of torque and a 20/24-mpg rating. Expected base-price range for the 2012 M-Class is $48,000-$95,000.

Porsche Cayenne: As befits the Porsche brand this is arguably the sportiest-performing crossover SUV on earth. Cayenne was redesigned for model-year 2011 and added a V-6 gas/electric-motor Cayenne S Hybrid model with 380 horsepower and a 21/25-mpg rating. Expect the base 20102 to return with a 300-horsepower V-6 and be one of the only SUVs in any class that can be ordered with a manual transmission in place of the otherwise standard eight-speed automatic. When equipped with the latter the six-cylinder includes an auto start-stop function that shuts it down at idle to save gas. Expect the 2012 Cayenne S to repeat with a 400-horsepower 4.8-liter V-8 and the Cayenne Turbo to continue with a 500-horsepower turbocharged V-8. Many chassis-control features and amenities are offered. Estimated 2012 Cayenne base-price range is $48,000-$106,000.

2012 BMW X5 Next Steps