The BMW X5 and X6 occupy an important place in the BMW lineup. Both sit at the forefront of the BMW larger-than-sedan segment and defend their position within the space in different ways. The X5 is unquestionably civilian. The BMW X5 has been around for over 20 years in four distinct generations. Over that period, the X5 dug its tires into the luxury SUV fanbase that craved a well-handling family-hauler, which the X5 did well.
Enter the X6 in 2008. When BMW released the X6 sports activity coupe (SAC), it split the BMW fanbase and left many wondering, what is the point of that thing? With the sloped roofline and compromised rear storage area, the X6 seemed like a neutered SUV in comparison to the X5. But, alas, after repeated years of strong sales, BMW seemed to have stumbled upon a niche that even they probably didn’t think was very populated.
Despite their surface-level differences, the X5 vs X6 are very nearly twins on the inside. They share the same chassis, drivetrain, powertrain options, and similar suspension components. In fact, most of their differences can be seen immediately when looking at both, side by side. However, those external differences feed into the interior as well.
While we will touch on the previous generations of X5 and X6, this article is centered around the newest generation G05 and G06 X5 and X6.
BMW X5 vs X6 Basics
Before we go any further, let's first cover a bit of BMW-specific nomenclature. Using the knowledge that we have gathered from pretty much every other manufacturer under the sun, we’d be drawn to label both the X5 vs X6 as SUVs. In the BMW sphere, however, we’d be wrong. BMW labels the X5 as a Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV), essentially highlighting its better-than-average large-vehicle handling. The X6, on the other hand, received the title “Sports Activity Coupe,” once again making things overly complicated. The SAC moniker is meant to connote that the X6 should be thought of as a vehicle that bridges the coupe and SUV segments.
While the X6 isn’t a new kid on the block anymore, it certainly doesn’t have the same pedigree as the X5. The X5 was BMW’s first foray into the SAV market, which was then successful enough to warrant a few follow-ups. The X3, X4, and X6 are all inspired by the X5’s initial success.
BMW X5 and X6 Chassis History
So, as we have already established, the X5 has been around significantly longer than the X6. As a result, the X6 has one fewer generation than the X5 which was around as early as 1999. The generations of X5 vs X6 are generally separated by around 5-7 years, with a complete redesign taking place for each generation. We’ll break down the generations, starting with the X5 first:
- 1999-2006 BMW X5 (E53)
- 2006-2014 BMW X5 (E70)
- 2014-2019 BMW X5 (F15)
- 2019-Present BMW X5 (G05)
The X5 has been around for quite a while at this point. What started as an experiment by BMW to test the waters in the SUV market rapidly grew to become one of the best-selling models that they offer. The E53 X5 was BMWs first SUV that came standard with all-wheel-drive. The E70, which followed the E53 generation, was released 7 years later and featured notable improvements including the implementation of iDrive and third-row seating. The F15 generation to follow featured significant aesthetic and performance improvements despite being built on the same chassis as the E70.
The current G05 platform is all new for the X5 as of 2019. It is based on BMW’s Cluster Architecture which is a modular platform that makes use of multiple materials including steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber. The G05 also introduced a new few new engines to the X5 platform.
BMW X6 Chassis History
Despite being released nearly a decade after the X5, the X6 only has one fewer generation than the X5. BMW’s intention with the X6 was to introduce a larger vehicle with a more modern and stylish design to the BMW SAV/SAC lineup for those that were more interested in aesthetics than cargo space. Despite that sentiment, the X6 is still a capable vehicle with all-weather and light off-road abilities.
- 2008-2015 BMW X6 (E71)
- 2015-2019 BMW X6 (F16)
- 2020-Present BMW X6 (G06)
The release of the first generation E72 X6 came a couple of years after the release of the E70 X5. The E71 was built on the same chassis as the E70 and shared many of the same components, much like the G06 X6 today. It did have a couple of standout features over the E70, with the standout being the inclusion of Dynamic Performance Control, an updated and improved traction control system. The F16 X6 generation shared many components with the F15 X5, including the new powertrain options that were offered for both.
The G06 X6 has grown from the previous F16 generation. In comparison, the G06 is an inch longer and over half an inch wider, with a slightly larger rear cargo area as well. As you will come to find out in the sections to follow, the G05 X5 and G06 X6 are similar in nearly every way. The sloped roofline that has become the X6’s signature styling feature is the main difference between the two.
BMW X5 vs X6 Handling
Owing to the fact that the X5 and X6 are built on the same chassis and utilize many of the same suspension components, they handle very similarly to one another. That’s hardly a surprise. With that being said, the X6 provides a marginal amount more performance due to its lower center of gravity.
Outside of the chassis similarities, the G05 X5 and G06 X6 both share identical suspension options, which come in a variety of flavors. In total, the X5 and X6 have seven, yes, seven, different suspension arrangements to choose from, with a few overlapping packages. BMW’s mission in providing such a breadth of suspension options is inclusivity due to the ambiguous SAV/SAC title that the X5 and X6 have inherited.
Some of the suspension packages are comfort-oriented, prime amongst them is the two-axle air suspension package. Others are performance-oriented, like the Adaptive M suspension package which features on-the-fly adjustable suspension characteristics and dampening. There’s even an offroad option for xDrive-equipped vehicles, featuring an electronically controlled rear differential and ground clearance adjustability.
One of the coolest handling-related improvements to the G05 X5 and G06 X6 is the introduction of Integral Active Steering, which truly is a shocking feature if you’ve never encountered it before. With active steering, the rear wheels either work with or against the fronts to either provide pinpoint maneuvering at low speeds or increased stability at high speeds. While it isn’t standard, Active Steering is a worthwhile upgrade in the handling department.
Overall, the optional handling packages that both the G05 X5 and G06 X6 share serve both chassis in the same way. The differences between the X5 and X6 are marginal in the handling department. SO much so that you’d have a hard time telling the difference between the two if you were sitting in one or the other.
BMW X5 vs X6 - Price
Funny enough, one of the most significant differences between the G05 X5 vs X6 is the base MSRP. Despite their similarities in many regards, the X6 is significantly more expensive than the X5 in base trim. A lot of that price difference can be attributed to BMW’s decision to discontinue the base 2WD sDrive trim from the X6 lineup. While it was removed as an option for the X6, it remains for the X5.
As the X5 lineup still offers the sDrive 40i trim with 2WD, the base MSRP is $60,600. While that is still a pretty penny, it is significantly more reasonable than the 2022 X6 base price of $67,350. While some argue that the xDrive AWD system is certainly worth the extra $7,000, especially if you live in an area where poor weather is a guarantee in the winter months, it makes a little less sense compared side by side with the base X5 in xDrive 40i trim. The X5 xDrive 40i is equipped with the same AWD system and powertrain as the base X6, yet costs $5,650 less at $61,700.
The same story can be said for the rest of the X5 vs X6 lineup with the more premium models also differing in price by a substantial amount. The M50i 4.4L twin power-turbo V8 models of the X5 vs X6 are separated in price by $4,000, with the X5 being the cheaper option. The same can be said for the monstrous full-M variants, with the X6M out-pricing the X5M by $5,000. So, where does all of that extra dough go?
That is honestly a fantastic question. In comparable trims, the 2022 X5 vs X6 are nearly identical in terms of interior technology, features, drivetrain, powertrain, interior styling, and overall performance. The two also offer the same comfort and driver-oriented optional packages for similar additional prices, including M-Sport, Premium, and Executive packages among many more. Essentially, the price difference is really in the aesthetics. Some people very much prefer the coupe-esque styling of the X6 and are willing to pay a premium for it.
BMW X5 vs X6 Size
One of the main reasons that people opt for an SUV over a coupe or sedan is the added space. That concerns both storage space and interior space for both yourself and your passengers. Prior to the release of the X6 and X7, the X5 was the only SAV that provided adequate leg room and storage capacity to truly compete with the competition on that front. The X3 and X4 are a bit too small to truly be considered for a true SUV role with true SUV capabilities. While both the X5 and X6 provide more cargo and legroom than the smaller models in the BMW X range, the X5 certainly has the edge due to the X6’s sloped roof interfering.
Looking at the G05 X5 first, it has significantly larger cargo storage space than the previous generation F15-chassis X5. The xDrive 40i G05 X5 has a storage capacity of 33.9 cu/ft with the rear seats in an upright position and an impressive 72.3 cu/ft of storage capacity with the rear seats folded down. In comparison with the 2013-2018 BMW X5, storage capacity has grown by 10.9 cu/ft with seats in their natural position and 6.3 cu/ft with the seats in a lowered position.
The G06 X6 has also cleared out additional storage space over the previous 2015-2019 F16 X6. The new G06 X6 has a storage capacity of 27.4 cu/ft with the rear seats in standard position and 59.6 cu/ft with the seats in a downward position. Comparing those figures to the F16 X6, with a standard 20.5 cu/ft and 53.9 cu/ft in folded form, the G06 is certainly a step up in terms of extracurricular practicality.
Despite both the X5 vs X6 garnering more space than their respective previous generation, it is evident that the X5 is still the clear winner in the practicality department. The main thing holding the X6 back is its sloped roofline which decreases overall storage space, legroom, and headroom.
BMW X5 vs X6 Engine Options
Like many other similar aspects of the X5 vs X6 comparison, the two models have nearly identical powertrain options available. However, BMW released the X5 45e with the G05 chassis, adding an additional hybrid engine configuration to the X5 line that is missing from the X6.
2023 X5 vs X6 40i Engine - 3.0L B58 TwinScroll Turbo Straight-6
Horsepower: 335 hp
Torque: 369 lb-ft
The base 40i configuration for both the G05 X5 and G06 X6 - including both the sDrive and xDrive X5 models - come standard with the B58 3.0L turbocharged straight-6 producing 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The B58 is a tried and true engine that has been put to use previously in the F30 3-Series, G30 5-Series, F32 4-Series, and numerous other models since 2015. It is unanimously agreed that the B58 is a fantastic engine with plenty of grunt, when lugging around the extra weight of the G05 and G06.
2023 X5 45e Engine - B58 TwinScroll Turbo I6 w/ 82 kW Electric Motor
As we mentioned, the X5 features an additional hybrid engine configuration that adds an additional trim to the X5 lineup. While the X5 45e also uses a B58 3.0L straight-6, it also features an 82 kW electric motor, giving it a bit more pep. The B58 is detuned on the 45e, producing only 286 horsepower without the electric motor. In unison, the 45e’s overall horsepower figure is 396 horsepower. That positions the X5 45e between the base 40i model and the M-tuned X5 M50i model in terms of power. It’ll also go 31 miles on full-electric power.
2023 X5 vs X6 M50i Engine - N63 Twin-Turbo 4.4L V8
Horsepower: 523 hp
Torque: 553 lb-ft
Stepping up to a higher echelon, we reach the X5 vs X6 M50i models which are both powered by the 4.4L twin-scroll turbocharged N63 engine producing 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. Prior to the 2019 model year, the X5 vs X6 M50i lacked the M preceding the number. Both the X5 50i and X6 50i were rebranded for the 2020 model year to slot in with the rest of the M-performance vehicles like the M240i and M340i. With the rebranding came a more powerful tuned version of the N63, gaining 70 horsepower over the N63 found in the pre-2020 X5 50i and X6 50i.
2023 X5M vs X6M Engine - S63 TwinScroll-Turbo 4.4L V8
Horsepower: 600 hp standard / 617 hp in Competition form
Torque: 553 lb-ft
Finally, we get to the behemoths, the highest trim X5M and X6M which both share the high-performance 4.4L twin-turbo S63 V8. The F95 X5M and F96 X6M both come in either standard or Competition trim. In regular form, both the X5M and X6M produce 600 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. The Competition versions of both see an increase in horsepower to 617 horsepower. Regardless, the horsepower figures of both are astronomical and both can get off the line like a bat out of hell.
BMW X5 vs X6 - So, Which One Is Better?
With as many similarities as there are between the G05 X5 and G06 X6, it is hard to say that one is necessarily better than the other. The X5 vs X6 exist for different reasons despite sharing so many components under the surface. The decision really boils down to priorities. If extra interior space, cargo space, and headroom are a priority, the X5 unquestionably takes the cake. However, if you can go without the practical edge and are more swayed by the aesthetic appeal of the X6, then that might be the correct route.
Beyond the differences in overall practicality, the X5 offers a few more trim options that might be appealing depending on your lifestyle and geographical location. The X5 sDrive 40i is the cheapest way to get into a BMW SAV, which might be right for the budget conscious. If you aren’t in dire need of an all-wheel-drive vehicle, the sDrive might be a way to get into a very capable BMW for significantly less than you’d spend on a base X6 xDrive 40i. Additionally, the X5 45e is a solid choice for those looking to get into a modern hybrid without sacrificing any of the benefits of a traditional gas-powered BMW.
At the end of the day, it really does distill into an argument about form versus function. The X5 is less expensive, more capable, more practical, and has a more tried-and-true pedigree. The only thing that the X6 really has going for it is its styling. While it might not be for some people, others really love the coupe-like styling of the X6 and are willing to sacrifice the benefits of the X5 for the added hint of elegance.