The BMW X Series is BMW’s crossover 4x4 class of vehicles. BMW also refer to these as sports activity vehicles and sports activity coupes. Since the first BMW X Series model came to market, the manufacturer has earned itself a strong reputation for its uni-body car platforms, which deliver on-road abilities that have as much to do with the sports car as they do with the traditional 4x4. This was something of a major departure from the traditional 4x4, which was based on the body-on-frame format of a light truck.
The first BMW X Series model was introduced to the world in 1999. Billed as a sports activity vehicle (SAV) the BMW X5 blazed the trail for the rest of the models in the series. These include the X1 (the smallest in the range), the X3 (which came to market in 2003), the X6 (which joined the range in 2007 as its first coupe format SAV), and the X4 (which is said to be coming to market in 2014).
The BMW X Series of cars has been in production since the first X5 came to market in 1999. With several generations under its belt, and X1, X3 and X6 models in the mix to boot, it is fair to say that those looking for a used X Series vehicle will have plenty of formats, engines, trims, and extras to choose from.
The X1 is essentially a raised version of the 1 Series hatchback. Powered by a 2.0L diesel engine, the entry-level X1 delivers 105kW and 320Nm of torque, reaching 100 km/h in 9.6 seconds. There are two variants available, the sDrive, which denotes two-wheel (rear-wheel) drive and the xDrive, which denotes all-wheel drive. It comes with manual transmission and the option of 8-speed auto.
The X3 offers a number of options, including a 2.5L petrol giving 141kW and 245Nm of torque with a choice of 5-speed auto or 6-speed manual transmission, and a 3.0L 6-cylinder engine with 5-speed auto only, delivering a decent 170kW and 300Nm of torque. The newer models include a 2.0L turbo diesel delivering 135kW and 380Nm of torque. Fuel economy in all the X3 models rates highly against their competitors.
First-generation X5s came to market with a 3.0L engine base model, giving 170 kW and 300 Nm of torque and a 4.4L V8. Subsequent generations saw the addition of a 3.0L diesel giving 150kW and 480Nm of torque and some honing of the 4.4L V8 to deliver 235kW and 440Nm of torque and achieving 0-100 km/h in an impressive 7 seconds flat.
The X6 is the latest addition to the series, and it combines perfectly the performance of the X5 with the looks of the 6 Series coupe. All models are all-wheel drive, and engines range from a starter petrol V6 to a super-charged diesel V8.
Styling of the X Series has become less and less ‘utility’ focused in recent years. They now boast a sportier sedan look albeit with the extra clearance. This seems to be where the market is moving and BMW has read it well. These are not high-performance off-road vehicles – though they do indeed perform well off road – but they are also luxury family cruisers.
The equipment level in the X1, particularly in its newest incarnation, is greater than you would expect for a car of its calibre. The 40/20/40 folding rear seat split gives a generous amount of storage, and the cabin is plenty big enough for comfortable seating to front and back.
The X3 received some criticism for BMW’s lowering of the trim spec in order to retain a competitive price tag, but this has been rebalanced somewhat with the later versions. Expect to find lots of variation in equipment and options. Higher-spec models will include leather trim, power seat adjustment, chrome and aluminium exterior highlight package, and electric tailgate, while most will feature Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, USB audio, keyless start, electronic power steering, and 17- or 18-inch alloys.
As far as the X5 is concerned, expect plenty. Base models boast 18-inch alloys as standard along with leather trim, high-performance power steering, Bluetooth connectivity, and a whole host of automatic and power features. Those with a sport package have the addition of two alloy wheel designs, sports suspension, and anthracite roof lining. Up the spec still further for the X6, and you begin to understand the reasoning behind the price tag.
All the BMW X Series cars rank well for safety, with a five-star score. This is unsurprising when you consider features such as 10 airbags plus stability control, cornering brake control, dynamic brake control, automatic differential brake, and hill descent control, as featured in the X5.
It is hard to quantify the X Series competition, so broad is the range. While each model has its own personality, features, and price tag, it is not rare for more than one of the BMW X range models to feature on a hit list for a buyer looking for a good-looking, sporty 4x4 crossover. Most competition for the X1 comes from the Audi Q5 and A6 Allroad. The X3 also competes with the Q5 as well as the Lexus RX. For an X5 alternative, consider the Audi Q7, Mercedes ML, and Volkswagen Touareg, as well as full-on 4x4s, such as the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover Sport.
Those in the market for a used X5 might also consider brand-new alternatives with less badge appeal from manufacturers such as Volvo, Mitsubishi, and Toyota. Competition for the X6 comes directly from the Range Rover Sport, Mercedes CLS, and once again, that bastion of around-town 4x4 style, the Audi Q7.