BMW made its bones with small, engaging coupes and sedans, thus crafting the “Ultimate Driving Machine” tagline. However, over the past couple of decades, the Bavarians have split their focus more and more, giving SUVs equal time. While that might upset a large portion of the enthusiast fanbase (and potentially for good reason), BMW is actually rather good at making SUVs. In fact, many of which have even been as engaging to drive as some of BMW’s sport sedans. So let’s take a look at some of the very best utility vehicles ever to come from Bavaria (or South Carolina).
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5. G05 BMW X5 M50d
It’s not often that you can get a genuine performance machine that can frighten sports cars at stop lights, take the kids to school in and return decent fuel economy. However, that’s exactly what you get in the BMW X5 M50d. For this new generation the X5 M50d is a monster of a machine, with its 3.0 liter quad-turbocharged inline-six diesel engine making 400 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to that tidal wave of power, the X5 M50d is capable of 0-60 mph in about five seconds.
Yet, it’s also an incredible luxury car, with a lovely interior and tons of cargo space. In terms of an all-around powerhouse SUV, the current X5 M50d is tough to beat.
4. BMW X7 xDrive50i
This new BMW X7 might seem a bit heretical at first, as it’s a massive, three-row monster from a brand who’s supposed to make small sports cars. Having said that, the brand’s first-ever seven-seat SUV is actually fantastic and one of its best SUVs to date, specifically in xDrive50i-trim. The BMW X7 xDrive50i hits a sweet spot between incredible luxury and shocking performance. It’s not quite as performance-oriented as the X7 M50i but it’s more luxurious and better off for it. Plus, its 4.4 liter twin-turbocharged V8 is still sweet.
What makes the BMW X7 so special is just how sweet it is to drive. It has surprisingly good steering that feels more delicate and precise than some sedans from BMW at the moment, which is genuinely bizarre. As bizarre as it may be though, the X7 is one of the very best driving luxury BMWs on the market right now and one of the very best SUVs the brand has ever made.
3. F48 BMW X1 xDrive28i
This might be the most unlikely, unexpected car on the list. The second-gen X1 not only comes with no performance variant or flashy figures but it’s also a front-wheel drive-based crossover. Despite that, the F48 X1 xDrive28i is one of the best little everyday Bimmers you can buy. It’s affordable, surprisingly practical, has a great interior and is shockingly good to drive. Most enthusiasts dismiss the F48 X1 simply for being front-wheel drive. Nonsense. The X1 is a great driving little car.
It’s also fuel efficient, comfortable and relatively well-equipped. Anyone who drives the current X1 and doesn’t like it is a snob. It’s one of the very best family cars BMW has ever made and it deserves recognition as such.
2. G01 BMW X3 M
Most BMW fans will tell you that they wish for a day when we finally see a BMW M3 Touring. However, we’d argue that the BMW X3 M might actually negate the need for such a car. While the X3 M obviously isn’t as low or as dynamic as an M3 will be, it’s pretty damn close and close enough that its added practicality makes it well worth considering instead. Drive the BMW X3 M even just for a bit and you’ll soon realize how special it is.
Poowering the first-ever M-powered X3 is a 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged S58 engine with 473 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, as standard. Bump up to Competition-spec and you’ll unlock the full 503 horsepower. Combine that with razor-sharp handling and a chassis that loves to play and you’ve got something special on your hands. Not only is the BMW X3 M one of the best M Division products in a long time, it’s likely the most special BMW SUV ever. Well, except for one.
1. E53 BMW X5 3.0i
Could there really be a different choice for number one? The original E53-gen BMW X5 was the very best SUV the brand has ever made for a few reasons. One is that it still looks great today, two decades later. Which is even more remarkable when you consider how quickly it was designed. Another reason is that it’s still fantastic to drive. The E53 came from an era when BMW engineers were absolute magicians when it came to the balance between road-hugging handling and ride comfort. No one did it better at that time and the E53 was a good example of that. Also, it launched BMW into the uber-profitable world of SUVs, which allowed the brand to make so many of the incredible cars we know and love today.
The BMW X5 3.0i was the best of them because of its near-perfect balance of all things. It was every bit as comfortable and luxurious as any other X5 model, while also handling the best thanks to its lighter front end. It also had a classic naturally-aspirated BMW straight-six engine. While there were faster and more luxurious model variants, it was the ’30i that hit the sweet spot.
E53 BMW X5 LM
While the BMW X5 LM never actually went into production, its very existence as a one-off monster warrants at least an honorable mention. For ‘LM’ (Le Mans) duty, BMW shoehorned a 6.0 liter naturally-aspirated V12 from a McLaren F1 Le Mans race car under the hood. It made 700 horsepower and was paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. How can we not mention that?