Debuting in 1999 as the first ever BMW SUV, the X5 was BMW’s best-selling SUV in the U.S. all the way up until 2018. However, in 2018 the newest third-generation X3 overtook the X5 to become the best-selling BMW SUV, and also beat out the likes of the 3 series to become the best-selling BMW in North America.
The X3 is a compact luxury crossover SUV whereas the X5 is a midsize luxury SUV, meaning the X3 is smaller. Although that’s the main gist of it, let’s take a closer look at exactly what separates the two models.
The BMW X5 is a midsize SUV that’s more powerful, more spacious and more expensive than the X3, which is BMW’s compact SUV offering.
The X3 is the cheaper of the two and starts at $41,000 for the sDrive30i base model. To get the AWD xDrive30i, you’ll need to spend at least $43,000.
The X5 starts at $60,700 for the base xDrive40i.
The smaller of the two, the BMW X3 measures 185.9 inches from front to back. By comparison, the X5 is almost 10 inches longer at 194.3 inches. The X5 is also around 3 inches taller and 4 inches wider than the X3.
The bigger X5 makes for a roomier interior but also makes it slightly less nimble and troublesome to park.
Both cars can seat 5 passengers, but the X5 can optionally be fitted with a third row to give it a maximum seating capacity of 7 passengers.
While passengers will be comfortable in either model, the X5 offers slightly more generous shoulder room in both the front and back rows and more legroom in the back row.
The X3 has a maximum cargo capacity of 62.7 cubic feet. The X5 has a maximum cargo capacity of 72.3 cubic feet.
To put that into perspective, the extra 10 cubic feet of space means the X5 can fit 1 additional large suitcase and 1 additional small suitcase.
The BMW X3 30i is powered by a 2.0L I-4 engine that produces 248 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque. The larger X5 40i boasts a more powerful 3.0L V6 engine that produces 330 ft-lbs of torque. The X5 is naturally more hungry for petrol, getting just 20/26 mpg (city/hwy) vs the X3’s 23/30 mpg.
The base model X3, the sDrive30i is rear-wheel drive. However, the more popular X3 model is the slightly more expensive xDrive30i which is an all-wheel drive version of the sDrive30i.
The BMW X5 is currently only available with xDrive AWD. However, BMW do have plans to add a cheaper sDrive model to the X5 lineup in 2020.
Both models feature an extensive list of standard features for comfort and convenience:
- Voice activated navigation
- Bluetooth® connectivity
- Leatherette seat trim
- Steering wheel mounted audio controls
- HD Radio™
- Apple CarPlay Compatibility
- Available advanced real-time traffic information
- Available head-up display
However, the base X5 model offers some additional standard amenities which are optioned extras for the X3:
- Heated front seats
- Panoramic Moonroof
- Active Blind Spot Detection
The BMW X3 competes with the likes of the Audi Q5, Lexus NX, Lincoln Corsair and Range Rover Velar in the compact luxury crossover SUV segment
On the other hand, the X5 competes in the midsize luxury SUV segment against the likes of the Audi Q7, Mercedes GLE and Lexus RX.
Most buyers should now have a good idea about which BMW SUV suits their needs better. The X5 is more spacious but costs significantly more and is less nimble than the X3 which is more convenient for inner-city driving. For those still undecided, booking a test drive at your local BMW dealership is the best way to get a feel for each SUV in person.