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The BMW X5 continues to be the sales champion of the German luxury automaker’s lineup in the U.S. market. That’s no surprise, given the model has long established itself as a leader in the popular midsize SUV category. Across other models of the segment, factors like design, safety, pragmaticism, and fuel economy are often leading factors for what buyers like most in their midsize SUVs. However, X5 owners feel its greatest appeal is the experience from behind the wheel.

BMW X5 owners rank its ‘driving feel’ and power as their favorite characteristics

J.D. Power’s annual APEAL Study asks owners of models to rank their favorite aspects of a car, truck, or SUV. The 10 categories include exterior styling, driving comfort, infotainment, fuel economy, the feeling of safety, and other factors. From this data, it’s clear the X5 strikes a chord among those who want “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” as the top appealing characteristics for owners are the SUV’s “driving feel” and “powertrain” from the 2023 study.

These factors ranked ahead of the X5’s exterior styling, feeling of safety, interior design, and driving comfort, underscoring that most buyers of the model put a premium on overall performance above all else. However, this is understandable given the X5’s performance foundations.

The X5 has remained a consistent leader for those desiring an engaging driving feel, solid agility, and outright performance with the practicality of an SUV. The X5 delivers well in these areas with a composed ride when pushed. Though BMWs of late have been criticized for their lackluster steering feel, the X5 is one of the better models in the lineup for communication between the steering wheel and the wheels at the front.

The X5’s powertrain also stands out, and though there are several options, all provide plenty of pep and power for the daily commute or when the mood to carve some corners comes.

The 2023 BMW X5 is available with three engines, and all mate with either rear- or all-wheel drive and a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic. The base model is motivated by a turbocharged inline-six developing 335 horsepower, while the M50i is fitted with a far more powerful, 523-hp twin-turbo V8. A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version, dubbed the xDrive45e, is also sprightly with 389 hp available from a hybridized turbo inline-six.

The X5’s driving appeal could grow with the latest model’s updates

The updates for the 2024 BMW X5 could help to grow its appeal among buyers seeking notable driving feel and competent powertrains. Both the standard inline-six and optional V8 powertrains are now fitted with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. The result is an additional 40 horsepower to the inline-six. Additionally, the PHEV model, which now wears the xDrive50e moniker, has been instilled with 94 more hp and an extra 10 miles of all-electric range.

The boost in power to the standard and PHEV models will likely increase the X5’s engagement among buyers, and additional updates could raise the SUV’s appeal in other areas. For instance, the 2024 X5 wears a new front fascia and wheel designs, while the M60i sports quad tailpipes and other visual updates. It’s no coincidence that the X5’s exterior styling was ranked third behind the driving feel and powertrain among buyers’ favorite model characteristics.

Additionally, the 2024 X5 is equipped with BMW’s latest iDrive infotainment system and a 14.9-inch touchscreen that replaces the previous 12.3-inch unit. The X5’s infotainment ranked ninth out of 10 categories, but the updated interface and larger screen could impact its appeal among buyers of the 2024 model year.