Want an SUV that equally emphasizes the “S” and “U” parts of the acronym? BMW has you covered. Its X5 was an originator in the performance luxury SUV genre, combining upscale appointments and engaging dynamics with a utilitarian crossover body.
Thing is, even as the X5 was redesigned and grew larger, it still wasn’t large enough. In comparison to three-row luxury SUVs from rival automakers, the X5’s five-seat capacity paled.
BMW caught up with the reveal of the X7 in 2018. The brand’s biggest vehicle ever brought that sought-after third row, providing seating for six or seven passengers. Despite the differences between the X5 and X7, similarities remain which position the two against each other within BMW’s lineup. Follow along as we answer the question: What is the difference between the BMW X5 and X7?
Most important and most obvious is the difference in size. The X5 rides on a 117.1-inch wheelbase, and has a 194.3-inch overall length. The X7 has a 122.2-inch wheelbase, and is 203.3 inches long tip to tail. That difference between the BMW X5 and X7 was necessary to allow fitment of a third row in the larger vehicle. Height measures 68.7 inches on the X5 and 71.1 inches for the X7; this allows more headroom in all three rows of the X7. Width is identical between the two, at 87.3 inches measured at the side mirrors. Shoulder room is subsequently equal in the first and second row of the BMW X5 and X7.
Even in its newest generation, the X5 is unmistakable as BMW’s classic SUV. The front end’s sloping hood and angular nose provide an aggressive, accelerative appearance. From the side, short front and rear overhangs give the impression that it’s smaller than it is, with dimension added by a distinctive character line that kinks ahead of the rear wheel. Out back, the taillights are most notable, as they trade the L-shape design seen on earlier models for a sleeker shape.
Despite the X7’s reveal taking place only a few months after the X5’s, it’s more indicative of BMW’s future design direction. The X7’s magnitude makes it stand out, but its polarizing front end draws even more attention. That huge grille might be its most talked-about feature, with size accentuated by wide and slim headlights on either side. Viewed in profile, the X7 looks more squared-off and slab-sided. Still, the pronounced vent behind the front wheel gives a hint of its sporty intentions. Like the X5, the X7 features a split rear tailgate to access the cargo area.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, differences between the BMW X5 and X7 are few. Their dashboards are nearly identical, with trim, controls, and displays placed in effectively the same places. Both run the latest version of iDrive infotainment, and are available with similar upholstery and accessories.
In the second row, differences between the BMW X5 and X7 start to become clear. The X5 has a conventional three-seat bench, as does the X7 as standard. Optionally available in the X7, however, are captain’s chairs, which eschew the center seat for more comfortable, luxurious thrones on either side. They’re individually adjustable, come with leather headrest pillows, and have their own armrests. The X7 puts more emphasis on comfort for passengers in the second row than the X5.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the BMW X5 and X7 is the third row. The X7 has one; the X5 doesn’t—simple as that. This luxury SUV with a third row has space for up to seven passengers, as opposed to only five in the X5.
These being BMW SUVs, you’d expect them to perform—and they do. All use an eight-speed automatic transmission, and, besides the base-model rear-wheel drive X5 sDrive 40i, all-wheel drive. The primary drivetrain setup is a turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 with 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, dubbed xDrive 40i. Upgrading to xDrive 50i brings a twin-turbo 4.4 liter V-8 producing 456 hp and 479 lb-ft in regular specification, and 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque in M50i M Performance tune.
Acceleration is appreciably rapid. 0-60 mph takes 5.0 seconds for the X5 xDrive 40i, and drops to 4.5 seconds for the xDrive 50i. In the X7, that same sprint takes 5.7 seconds for the I-6 model, and 4.7 seconds for the regular V-8.
Handling is equally impressive for these tall, heavy SUVs. The X5 xDrive 40i lapped our figure-eight course in 25.8 seconds at 0.71 g, while the xDrive 50i version did it in the same time but at 0.75g. The I-6 X7 completed the course in 27.6 seconds at 0.66 g, just a bit behind its V-8 counterpart which did it in 27.0 seconds at 0.69 g.
Coming to a stop, the heavier X7 needs a few more feet than the X5. From 60-0 mph, both variants of the X5 stopped in 119 feet. Meanwhile, the X7 xDrive 40i stopped in 140 feet while the X7 xDrive 50i took 136 feet.
If these figures simply aren’t good enough, the BMW X5M Competition and rumored Alpina-tuned version of the X7 will sharpen performance in all measures.
The least expensive BMW X5 is the rear-wheel drive sDrive 40i model, which starts at $59,895. Adding all-wheel drive for the X5 xDrive 40i brings price to $62,195. The X5 xDrive 50i runs $77,154, while the X5 M50i commands $83,145.
BMW X7 prices start with the xDrive 40i, which runs $74,895. Choosing V-8 power brings the X7 xDrive 50i to $93,595, with the M-tuned X7 M50i costing $100,595.
Of course, these being BMWs, there’s a plethora of extra-cost options and accessories available.
Facts and figures only tell so much about the differences between the BMW X5 and X7. Driving them reveals a distinct character for each of these luxury SUVs.
Compared to the X7, the X5 feels (perhaps unsurprisingly) smaller and more agile. While steering doesn’t have much feel, it’s sharper and more responsive, allowing it to be confidently placed through corners. A firmer suspension setup that comes with the M Sport package helps with that, at the slight expense of ride comfort. Even though the X5’s roof is lower by only a few inches, it adds to more planted, hunkered-down performance.
In contrast, the X7 feels plusher and more luxurious than the X5. Its ride is softer and responses more muted to help coddle its occupants, and also to avoid upsetting this big, heavy beast. It feels more top-heavy and prone to leaning through corners—it’s not one to be hustled around. It may be among the best seven-seat luxury SUVs to drive, but comparing the BMW X7 to the X5 quickly reveals that the smaller vehicle is the sportier one.
Still, both share traits becoming of any BMW. Impressive performance, excellent build quality, cutting-edge technology, and lavish luxury make the BMW X5 and X7 enjoyable to drive. To pick which one is right for you, simply decide how many seats you need.
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