BMW X3 vs X5: Performance, Reliability, Driving

BMW X sports activity vehicles (SAV) are available in many sizes and engine options now. Models start with the X1, X2, and run all the way up to the largest model - the BMW X7. However, the BMW X3 and X5 are two of the original X models dating back to the early 2000's. They're both also a good middle ground when it comes to SAV/SUV sizes. These factors and many others make the BMW X3 vs X5 an interesting comparison.

Which year or model X best fits your budget? What are the differences in size, performance, reliability, and driving? There's a lot to consider when it comes to picking the right SUV. Worry not, though. In this article, we discuss BMW X3 vs X5 years, price, engines, problems, reliability, and everything in between.

BMW X3 vs X5Pin

BMW X3 vs X5 - The Basics

There's a lot to cover in this article. You may be looking to purchase a brand new or close to new X model. However, the X5 dates back to 1999 and the X3 to 2003. This leaves a big market for X3 and X5 buyers. Older cars can be found under the $10,000 price point while new models start around $46,000 for the X3 and $59,000 for the X5. Due to the nearly limitless options it's important to provide a quick breakdown.

The BMW X3 is found in the following years and chassis:

  • E83 X3 (2003-2010)
  • F25 X3 (2010-2017)
  • G01 X3 (2017-present)

X5 models are in the following years and chassis:

  • E53 X5 (1999-2006)
  • E70 X5 (2007-2013)
  • F15 X5 (2014-2018) / F85 X5M (2015-2018)
  • G05 X5 (2019+)

Hopefully this helps readers understand what models they may be in the market for depending on budget. We'll provide some pricing info shortly to tie all of this together. There are a lot of topics to cover when it comes to specific years, engines, sizes, etc. We will cover as much of this as possible throughout this article. However, below are some helpful articles specific to the X3 and X5.

BMW X3 Guide

X5 Reliability, Problems, Driving & More

X3 vs X5 Price

Price of BMW X3 vs X5 models is a topic we're going to discuss again in the next section. It will also be a topic of discussion throughout other parts of this article. However, there are a few topics we wanted to discuss to tie into the above years for X3 & X5 models.

A few notes about the below budgets and models before we jump into the discussion. These are general price points for the X3 and X5. Specific variants like the X5M, X3M, X3 M40i, etc can be much more expensive. We're writing this article as of September 2021, so prices will of course fluctuate with the car market and as this post ages.

Anyways, based on budget the following is what your options will likely look like:

Under $15,000 Budget

For less than $15,000 your options will mostly be 2013 or older including these BMW models:

  • E83 X3
  • F25 X3 (early years like 2010-2014)
  • E53 X5
  • E70 X5

All of these models can be had for less than $15,000. Generally, the older you go like the E53 or E83 the cheaper prices. You should be able to find all years of the E53 & E70 X5 and E83 X3 for less than $15k. The F25 X3 ran through 2017, but as of now it's mostly 2010-2014 models that come in under $15,000.

X3/X5 Up to $25,000

Outside of all the previous models you'll be able to find these SUV's in the sub $25,000 price range:

  • F25 X3 (2014-2017)
  • F15 X5 (up to ~2016 or 2017)

Stretching the budget to $25,000 allows you the same F25 models, but on the newer end of the spectrum. You'll find some base model 2017 X3's with low mileage. Otherwise, higher-end models may be a bit older or higher mileage. As far as the BMW X5 goes you can get into an F15. You probably won't want 2017 models as of now since they're higher mileage under $25,000. The best options are going to be 2016 base models or 2014-2015 higher-end models, like the xDrive 50i.

*You can also find the E70 X5M for less than $25,000.

BMW X Models Up to $40,000

Going up to $40,000 unlocks the following choices:

  • G01 X3 (2017-2020)
  • F15 X5 (all years)

Most X3 models are an option for a $40,000 budget, but it's not quite enough to swing brand-new. You could go up to 2020 for the X3 30i and 2021 models should drop under this price soon enough. If you want the M40i then you'll be looking at 2018 models. Otherwise, you have options for 2014-2018 X5 models. Sticking with the trend the upscale models will be on the older end of the range.

Over $40,000 Budget

We won't do a bullet list since it greatly depends how far over $40,000 you're willing to go. 2022 base model X3's start at $43,700. They can go up to nearly $70,000 for something like an X3M, though. Meanwhile, new X5 models start at $59,400 and can exceed $100,000. To get a similarly priced X5 you'll have to go a few years older than an X3 (or a low-end X5 model versus a high-end X3 model).

General X3 & X5 Topics

In this section we're simply covering some general topics. This is information that's generally true of all year and model BMW X3 vs X5 differences. For example, the X5 is the larger SUV. However, both the X models continue getting larger with each new generation. If you look back to the original E53 X5 it's 183.7" long and 73.7" wide. Compare that to the newest 2017+ G01 X3 at 185.4" long and 74.4" wide and the X3 is actually the larger SAV.

Point is - these generalities aren't always perfect when comparing vastly different years. Chances are most aren't comparing an old $8,000 X5 model to a newer $30,000+ X3, though. In the coming sections we'll dive into the specifics. For now, let's examine some general rules and info when comparing the BMW X3 vs X5.

BMW X3 vs X5 Size

Size for the X3 and X5 is something we just touched on briefly, so we'll keep this fairly quick. Again, the BMW X5 is the larger SAV. When looking at similar years the X5 is about 5-10" longer, 2-4" wider, and a couple inches taller. Although, these BMW's continue growing with each new generation.

If you compare the 1st generation X5 to the latest X3 then the X3 actually has the advantage. However, the E70 X5 from 2007-2013 is larger than any X3 - even the newest G01 chassis. Anyways, if you value space and size above all else then the X5 is the clear choice. You may even consider moving up to the larger X7, but the first model year wasn't until 2019 and even used models are still $65,000+.

Summary: The BMW X5 is the larger SUV.

X Model Features

Standard features on the X3 and X5 can vary quite a bit based on years. In general, the X5 has the edge when it comes to standard features. The difference in MSRP isn't just because it's a larger car with larger engine options. It's also due to the fact the X5 is a higher-end vehicle. You'll find more features standard and certain things like seats, infotainment, etc. are usually higher-end.

The X3 isn't lacking by any means and there are still tons of upgrades and options available. Both are also available with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive systems. For the respective time period of different years they both offer great features. The larger, more expensive X5's do have the edge, though.

Summary: X5 models offer more standard features, high-end features, and more options.

BMW X3 & X5 Performance

Things get a bit more interesting when it comes to BMW X3 vs X5 performance. There are simply too many models, engines, and more factors to list all 0-60 times, 1/4 mile times, etc. However, in general the X5 offers better power and performance. X3 models often feature inline-4 or inline-6 engines. X5 base models start with the inline-6 and move up to V8 options. That said, a performance X3 model will handily beat base model X5's at a similar price point. Let's just use one quick example:

  • 2022 X3 M40i - $57,800 MSRP
    • 382 horsepower, 4.4 seconds 0-60
  • 2022 X5 sDrive40i - $59,400 MSRP
    • 335 horsepower, 5.3 seconds 0-60

Both models are powered by the B58 3.0L inline-6 turbo engine. However, the X3 M40i receives a better tune for more power along with all of the other BMW M upgrades. It's going to be the better performance SAV for a slightly lower MSRP than a base model X5. Of course, the X5 gains the advantage if you compare model to model with the X5 M50i delivering 523 horsepower from its 4.4L twin turbo V8. That will set you back a cool $82,800+, though.

Point is - performance can vary quite a bit and one model isn't always better than the other. If you compare base model to base model, M40i to M50i, or the X3M to X5M then the X5 is generally the better, more powerful model. However, that doesn't factor budgets into the equation and you can find cheaper or similarly priced X3 models that deliver better performance than the X5.

Summary: Model for model the X5 is generally faster, more powerful, and the better overall performance SUV. Although, when you factor in the price of the cars an X3 can deliver better performance at a similar price point.

X3 vs X5 Handling

We will be a little quicker on this topic since it's much the same as power and performance. Handling varies a lot depending on year, chassis, and the specific model. Models like the X3 M40i, X5 M50i, X3M, and X5M are going to deliver the best overall handling and performance. Lower-end models are still sporty and handle well for their size and weight.

Overall, it's likely a wash between the handling of BMW X3 vs X5 models. In terms of actual handling feel you'll probably notice a slightly sportier feel from the X3. Weight depends on tons of factors like options, RWD or AWD, etc. All equal, the X3 is going to clock in roughly 200-500 pounds lighter than the X5. On paper, similar models will favor the X5 when it comes to handling. For example:

  • 2018 G01 X3 M40i - 0.85g skidpad
  • 2020 G05 X5 M50i - 0.90g skidpad

The price difference of these models is a consideration, though. Remember, the X3 M40i has a lower starting price than a base model X5. The M40i model will outpace the base model.

Summary: Handling is much like the performance discussion above. Model for model the X5 has an edge, but at a similar price point the X3 can deliver better results. The X3 is also lighter which makes it feel a bit more nimble despite results on paper favoring the X5.

X Model Reliability

BMW X3 vs X5 reliability is a very challenging topic to cover, but we're up to the task. These SAV's feature so many various engines over the years. Diesel options exist. Then there's everything from the M54 2.5L inline-6 and N62 4.8L V8 all the way up to the S63 twin turbo 4.4L V8 delivering 600+ horsepower. Again, we'll link the X3 and X5 guides below. Within those articles there is a ton of specific info as well as links to even more specific engine problem articles.

X3 Reliability & Engine Problems Guide

X5 Reliability & Engine Problems Guide

Keep in mind - both of these models date back to the early 2000's. Reliability can be a concern on older models as all aging cars are prone to their fair share of problems. Of course, they're likely less reliable than a brand-new car with a 4+ year warranty - at least in the shorter-term.

Then there are actual electronics and other chassis related issues outside of the engine. Again, this section is all about generalities. The X5 is the larger car that offers more features, higher-end features and finishes, etc. That can bring about a greater possibility for problems. The same can be said for newer models as they continue to receive more and more electronics and technology.

Summary: BMW X3 vs X5 reliability varies widely depending on the specific year and engine. The X3 generally has the edge due to its use of smaller engines and less technology and electronics.

BMW X Pricing

Price is another topic we already examined, but we'll add a bit more analysis here. Looking at brand new 2022 models the X3 starts at $43,700 and runs up to $69,900 for the X3M. On the other hand, the X5 starts at $59,400 up to a whopping $105,900 for the X5M. As such, the BMW X3 vs X5 price difference lands somewhere in the $16,000 ballpark for base models. Want higher end models? The price difference grows even more.

However, when looking in the used car market the price gap closes. Generally, the less you're looking to spend and the older the SUV the closer the prices become. For example, looking at 2004 X3 vs 2004 X5 models they're both about $6,000 to $10,000. With similar mileage and condition the X5's are only about $1,000 more expensive.

Summary: The newer the model the larger the price difference for the X3 vs X5. As you get into older BMW SAV's the price gap becomes a lot closer.

X3 vs X5 - Why the X5 is Better

If it wasn't clear from the above topics the BMW X5 has the edge in just about every aspect. To be fair, we didn't get into fuel economy but the X3 does hold a slight 1-3 MPG advantage in that area. Otherwise, the X5 has the following benefits vs the X3 models:

  • Larger, more spacious
  • More tech, features, & higher-end finishes
  • Larger, more powerful engines
  • Better handling

Reliability has too many factors to declare a definitive winner, but we think the X3 holds the edge. That's simply part of the trade-off in a higher-end performance SUV, though. The extra technology and features leave more room for electronic or other problems. Larger, higher-performance engines may be more problematic and cost more in maintenance.

When it comes to the nicer SAV most will probably find the X5 a better overall option (model for model). It's more spacious, luxurious, powerful, faster, and handles better than the X3. Reliability and fuel economy are where the X3 likely holds a small edge, but the X5 has more total benefits that many people value.

However, the X3 vs X5 comparison becomes more interesting when you factor in price differences. Some may argue it makes the BMW X3 the better choice.

Is the X5 Worth the Extra Cost?

This is a challenging question that varies for many depending on budget, wants, and needs. If you're looking at older cars under $15,000 then there aren't major price differences between the BMW X3 vs X5. You'll find the X5 will be a little more expensive when all else is equal, but it's pretty negligible. In this case many will see the benefits of the X5.

As you get into new G01 X3 vs G05 X5 models the price difference becomes pretty large. It can vary around $5,000 to $25,000 more expensive for similar models in the used market. Brand new and you're looking at the X5 being roughly $16,000 to $35,000 more expensive. If you have the budget to swing the more expensive X5 it's still a tough decision. You can get into a higher-end performance model like the X3 M40i for less than a base model X5.

That wipes away a lot of the factors that make the X5 better. Sure, it still holds the benefits of size and luxury. However, an X3 M40i should easily out-perform and handle a base model X5 for about $2,000 less. You could move to the X5 M50i for more performance, but that's $13,000 more than the epic X3M. You see where we're going with this.

Point is - it all depends on what each person values the most and their budget. We're big into performance and would choose the X3 M40i or X3M vs a similarly priced X5. Those who value size and luxury would likely opt for the X5.

BMW X3 vs X5 Summary

The X3 vs X5 discussion is compelling for many reasons. Both SAV's have a lot to offer and date back about 20 years. That means there's an X3 or X5 for just about any budget. We went into a quick breakdown on budgets and what years and chassis are affordable at each price point.

X5 models do have an advantage in many categories like performance, size, luxury, and handling. They're simply higher-end BMW's with larger engine options, more luxury, and a larger SUV in general. On the other hand, the X3 likely has the win when it comes to fuel economy and reliability. When looking at a similarly priced BMW X3 vs X5 then the cheaper X3 can actually be the better performance car.

Both the X3 and X5 share many things in common. They're both right in the middle of BMW SUV sizing. The X3 vs X5 are both available with all-wheel drive. The list could go on and on. Ultimately, we believe the BMW X3 and X5 are great SUV's for those needing a balance of size, performance, towing, fuel economy, and more. There isn't always a perfect answer as to which is better, though. It all comes down to budget and what you value the most in an SUV.

Do you have a BMW X3 or X5? Are you considering one and if so which are you leaning towards?

Leave a comment and let us know!

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