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Range Rover vs BMW X5: Which 4×4 is best?

In a fight to the death between the 1st and 2nd generation BMW X5 and the mighty Range Rover, the Bimmer would put up a good fight but ultimately lose. By no means was the Bimmer a bad car ─ it just wasn’t good enough to better the do-it-all Range Rover. Mind you, that didn’t stop the X5 from becoming the UK’s most stolen vehicle.

Then along came the new BMW X5, a prettier, lighter, more powerful, more efficient monster of a car. A car that, during our test drive, quickly made the Recombu Cars reviews team think it was more than a bit special. But is it special enough to knock the Range Rover off its perch, we wondered? Only a good battle to the death would give us the answer.

Design

By its very nature, the SUV is a glorified box on wheels. With that said, some boxes look better than others. The old BMW X5 shape, for instance, had presence. Initially we had some concerns over the new look, but over time the revised headlights and emphasised features have grown on us. It seems fresher and more modern, but still not what you would call stylish.

Many of the changes are there to improve aerodynamics, which in turn helps with efficiency and performance, so any upset caused by BMW’s designers is soon forgotten. A drag co-efficient of just 0.31cd makes it glide through the air better than many cars far smaller in size.

The Range Rover, meanwhile, manages a minimum of 0.34cd, meaning it’s really not far behind. Arguably, that slight difference is compensated by better looks. It’s more boxy, granted, but there’s something special about the Range, a weird cocktail of regal and rugged.

On the inside both cars feel like a premium car should. The BMW X5 looks more modern and sporty, but seems to favour plastic while the Range Rover is less cluttered, boxier and fixated on luxury. A touch of optional wood on the centre console helps give the impression of occasion.

Close call here, but we’ll give the point to the Range Rover for being easier on the eye.

Winner: Range Rover

Performance & Handling

In a straight up drag race the difference between the Range Rover V8 model and the xDrive50i is minimal, as the former can hit 0 to 62mph in 5.1 seconds and the latter in 5 seconds. This is thanks to some serious weight saving going on in both cases. Both cars go well above the national speed limit, too, and will get there quicker than the laws of physics should allow.

It gets less clear cut when you look at the diesel engines. The X5 X50d M Sport is fairly magical, offering the efficiency of the Range Rover TDV6, but 0-62mph performance not too far removed  from the much thirstier V8. The 3.0-litre 6-cylinder tri-turbo (yes, tri-turbo) develops 381bhp from 4,000rpm and 740Nm of torque, allowing it to hit 0 to 62mph in 5.3 seconds – 0.2 shy of the V8 – which is frankly absurd.

If we compare the diesel models, the BMW X5 makes the Range Rover TDV6’s 0 to 62mph time of 7.4 seconds, 254bhp, 600Nm of torque and top speed of 130mph look a bit limp. Only when you move down the range to the xDrive30d and xDrive25d does the gap once again close between the SDV6 turbo diesel Range.

In terms of handling both cars remain composed at speed and will soak up all but the worst potholes UK roads have to offer. Both cars are fun to drive, too, thanks to the effortlessly smooth gear changes and power on tap.

We must admit, the BMW X5 is lighter on its feet to the point where you forget it weighs 2,100kg. As we said in our review, this is a car that handles remarkably well and will make you forget it’s an SUV, partly thanks to the Adaptive M suspension.

The Range Rover is just as smooth and arguable more composed, but feels a lot less nimble. Even with the weight saving, we felt more afraid to chuck it into a corner compared with the X5.

Go off-road, however, and the X5 is to the Range Rover what Alan Titchmarsh is to Ray Mears. The BMW X5’s lower clearance means it’s already at a disadvantage when the terrain gets tough and there’s not as many sophisticated systems to get you home alive. In fairness, the BMW X5’s xDrive 4×4 system handled our damp forest test ground without breaking a sweat, but it’d probably wince at the sight of some of the terrain the Rangie could tackle.

Again it’s a close call. The Bimmer offers an impressive diesel that can nearly outmuscle the Range Rover V8, but it will have a bit more trouble when the roads give way to rocks. We’ll call it a draw because the winner depends on your requirements.

Winner: Draw

Economy & Environment

As we alluded to earlier, the X5 M50d is an efficient motor given its sheer size and weight. It can manage 42.2mpg with delicate footwork, while the CO2 emissions are 177g/km. That compares very favourably with the Range Rover TDV6, which returns 37.7mpg at best and 196g/km.

The X50d M Sport looks saintly compared to the V8. The V8 will manage 22.2mpg, but that’s only if you want to hold up traffic everywhere you go. Early to late teens is more likely, with 298g/km of CO2 emissions pumped into the atmosphere.

If we pit the xDrive50i against the brutish V8, which is fairer in terms of performance, the X5 emerges victorious again, with fuel economy of 27.2mpg and 242g/km. All diesel engines in the X5 range offer better efficiency, as well. Bit of a whitewash for the German manufacturer, here.

Winner: BMW X5

Price

A BMW X5 sDrive25d, the lowest model in the range, can be yours from £42,590, with the especially impressive X5 M50d costing from £63,715. Step up to the most expensive model, the xDrive50i petrol, and you can say goodbye to at least £63,920.

The Range Rover 3.0-litre TDV6 starts at £71,295, rising to £98,395 for the 5.0-litre supercharged V8, which makes the BMW X5 seem cheap given the minimal difference in on-road performance and economy advantage.

Granted, the equipment list on the Range Rover is more generous, but you could have a lot of juicy extras on your X5 before you start to hit the same asking price. If money is no object, however, the Range Rover offers ludicrous luxury, including seats that massage you and, in the case of the Autobiography Black Edition long-wheelbase, more legroom than you’ll know what to do with. But that costs upwards of £130,000. Yikes.

Winner: BMW X5

Verdict

Tally up the points and the BMW X5 is the winner. Few cars give you your cake and let you eat it, but somehow the X5 offers comfort, performance and plenty of space, yet drinks less fuel than some hatchbacks. It’s relatively affordable and drives incredibly well.

So why are we still here?

Because if money is no object, the Range Rover is the cooler option. We love the fact it’s made in Britain, designed in Britain and driven by people like the royal family. We also love the fact it can go anywhere an do anything. It’s a car that is just as comfortable hurtling around a race track as it is driving through rivers. 

Choosing between the two is a tough decision. The Range Rover is the car you the heart would go for. The Bimmer, with its lower running costs and asking price, the one your head would go for. For us, the X5 comes mighty close to victory but at the £50,000+ price point you may as well go the whole hog, or succumb to your sensible side and buy an estate instead. Which is why we crown the Range Rover as king. Again.

Winner: Range Rover

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