2.2 Million. That is the amazing number of BMW X5s that BMW has sold in the last 19 years across the globe.
BMW is one of the pioneers in the luxury-orientated SUV space, having joined other European and Japanese luxury nameplates in creating the space when they noticed that many of their North American car customers also had four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicles from the Big Three American manufacturers in their garages.
They jumped into the SUV segment head first, seeing the potential of a previously untapped market and never looked back. These days, buyers continue to be enticed by the blend of upscale car-like amenities, high-riding comfort, and four season usability of luxury SUVs.
The X5’s ensuing success has resulted in an ever expanding line of different-sized crossovers as part of BMW’s fleet – the X1, X2, X3, X4, X6 – and the soon to be launched flagship X7. But BMW isn’t just making these crossovers bigger or smaller, it is also adding performance upgrades to the models. M Performance or full-blown M treatments are being applied to these all-round family haulers. Something that would’ve been unfathomable 19 years ago.
In fact, we know already from the spy shots that the BMW X3M and X4M are imminent and will join the X5M and X6M. It is truly a buyer’s market as there are over 19 different models from competing luxury brands that are vying for the hearts, minds, and purses (or wallets) of the buying public.
New from the ground up
The X5 has always been commercially successful and competent right from the first generation vehicle in early 2000’s. Now in its fourth generation, the Bavarians are happy to showcase the fact that the latest X5 is simply slightly larger, more luxurious, more technically advanced, and more capable than the outgoing model.
Unlike the revered progenitors of BMW sports sedans, with the X5, the company doesn’t need to prove itself to BMW enthusiasts. As such, consumers will get exactly what they want. The BMW brand’s most accomplished SUV…ahem SAV (Sport Activity Vehicle) yet.
The big news with this latest X5 is that it moves over to the corporate CLAR architecture for better ride quality and more technology. Incidentally, the flagship 7 Series sedan is also built on the CLAR platform, as is the latest X3, X4, and the upcoming X6 and X7 models.
With a wheelbase that is 42 mm longer than its predecessor’s, a 36mm increase in vehicle length, a whopping 66mm of extra width and 19 mm increase in height, the X5’s designers and engineers have really focused on a more generous level of space for passengers and their luggage. These moves were necessary as the latest generation X3 has grown in-size, and BMW sandwiches the new X5 distinctly between the X3 and the upcoming X7.
The X5’s new design language exudes confidence and authority, retaining the hallmark proportions of BMW’s Sport Activity Vehicle while still looking new and fresh. The short front overhang, slightly hexagonal wheel arches, and the dynamic sweep of the roofline help to exemplify a sport yet rugged character.
One of the most striking features is the even larger BMW kidney grille with single piece surrounds. But just wait. If you think this is large, the X7’s kidney grilles are even larger. The X5 now comes standard with the long awaited Adaptive LED headlamps, but now also available as an option are BMW’s Laserlights.
Vehicles with this option features cool looking blue X-shaped elements inside the headlamp housings, splitting up the hexagonal light sources inside BMW’s familiar twin headlight design. It’s a distinctive visual element that will earn owners some bragging rights.
At launch, North America gets a new xDrive40i model with a newly upgraded 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six cylinder engine with 335 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque. This was the engine fitted to my very well-equipped test vehicle.
Upgrade to the xDrive50i, and once again there is a 456hp 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 with 479 lb-ft of torque. For Europe and the rest of the world, there will also be a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel inline-six with 265 hp or so and a flagship 400 hp xDrive50d diesel model. All models are allied with BMW’s familiar and excellent eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
Sometime in calendar year 2020, a plug-in hybrid version, with a clumsy name – “xDrive 45e iPerformance”, will be added with a battery pack under the seats so as to avoid impinging on cargo space as the previous generation plug-in hybrid X5 does.
This hybrid model will likely have a twin-turbo inline-six cylinder engine and an electric motor combining together for roughly 80 kilometres of all-electric range and a total system output of 389 hp and 442 lbs-ft of torque.
But if you’re looking forward to a true M version of the X5, the all-new X5M is still a few years away. In the meantime though, for those wanting an even more special X5, building on BMW’s M performance line-up of vehicles, the X5 M50i has started arriving at dealerships, bringing even more power and appearance upgrades to the line-up.
The choices are honestly more plentiful than the drink customizations on the Starbucks app.
Ride and Drive
The 2019 X5’s chassis has a double-A-arm front axle and five-link rear. Base and sport suspensions are steel and there will be an optional air suspension (on both axles now), with automatic self-leveling. Dynamic Damper Control is standard, and there are two performance settings: one for comfort ride and one for a sportier drive.
As before, there is an optional M Sport package with an M Sport suspension with active roll stabilization. Interestingly, BMW has also chosen to improve the X5’s offroadability with an optional off-road pack with added underbody protection and a robust rear limited-slip differential (also paired with the M Sport package).
It isn’t enough to worry any Land Rover Discovery owner, but this option does add different driving modes (Sand, Rock, Gravel, Snow) that help in adverse situations off the beaten path.
This fourth-gen X5 pulls off BMW’s knack for combining sharpened directional response and cornering balance in a rounded and refined overall package. Although it doesn’t dominate every rival in the road-holding category as its predecessors once did, it is still poised, comfortable, and something you can live with day in and out whether you have your adult friends in the back, or a couple of screaming kids.
Despite its large 21 inch wheels and run-flat low profile tires, the adaptive air suspension does an amazing job of enabling the X5 to cruise along with a cushioned sense of rolling refinement, particularly when set to “Comfort” mode.
This would have been something BMW’s engineers would’ve only dreamt about a decade ago. In Sport or Sport Plus mode, there is significantly more of a taut road feel, but it’s never uncomfortable. I found the steering wheel a bit too artificially weighted in Sport mode, but thankfully the Individual setting allows one to mix and match body, powertrain, and steering responsiveness to one’s heart’s content.
Sport mode also bring the X5’s underbelly 20mm closer to the tarmac, allowing its centre of gravity positioned even more optimally for tight corners.
A new “Adaptive” drive mode is said to automatically find the compromise between Comfort and Sport modes, but I found it to be not particularly noticeable. Regardless of drive modes, the abundant grip generated by the X5’s fat tires and xDrive all-wheel-drive system produces a high level of confidence. There is certainly more than enough of a dynamic edge to appeal to the more enthusiastic driver.
Interior and technology
As a former X5 owner, I was struck with how the spacious new cabin has an undeniable 7-Series feel to it, laden with features and technology. It is not just a jump but a huge leap especially in the technology front.
Right in front of the driver is what BMW calls their “Live Cockpit Professional” system. It is made up of two high resolution 12.3-inch LCD screens, one in front of the driver, and another as a centre mounted infotainment system.
The latest iDrive, now in version 7.0, helps the driver and front passenger to manage up to 10 pages of well laid out, real-time content. The layout is similar to a smartphone, with up to four configurable tiles on each page.
I’ve always found the latest iDrive to be a lot more intuitive than systems from Audi or Mercedes-Benz, and iDrive 7.0 just takes it another step further. BMW’s latest heads-up display also sets an industry benchmark by clearly projecting a huge 7.0 by 3.5 inches of viewing space.
Yes, owners can tick the checkboxes on the options list for massaging, heated, and ventilated seats as before, and there is a four-zone climate control system with an optional “Ambient Air” scent system, identical to what you can get on the 5 Series and 7 Series sedans. The ambient lighting system offers enough of a selection to make nightclub DJs envious.
But what is truly impressive is the optional “Sky Lounge” panoramic moonroof, now 30 per cent larger than before.15,000 multi-coloured LED graphic patterns can be created in the glass for some stunning nighttime viewing.
There are also optional front cupholders that can heat or cool drinks. Crystal glass controls for the gear shift lever, iDrive controller, engine start/stop button? Check, Check, Check!
One of the coolest new systems has also got to be the Back-Up Assistant. The system stores your steering adjustments during 50 metres of forward progress to let the X5 automatically steer itself out of the exact path you took coming in.
Perfect for when you’ve nosed your way down a dark and narrow country path or a dark alley. Even after you’ve parked the X5 for the night, you can return in the morning and the X5 will follow the digital breadcrumbs to mimic the course you took coming in. All the driver needs to do is to control the throttle and brake pedals.
The 2019 BMW X5 is now more well-rounded and tech laden than before. The market place is packed with talent, but yet BMW manages to stand above the rest with this latest iteration built in Spartenburg, South Carolina, USA.
However, with a new Mercedes-Benz GLE on the way, and the well-received Volvo XC90 already in market, BMW had better not rest on its laurels as there is not really a short straw anywhere amongst the class these days.