BMW’s top SUV tested Behind the wheel of the brilliant new X5. BMW’s fourth-generation X5 has eclipsed its predecessor with a heady mix of luxury and technology, as Shane O’ Donoghue explains Photos: Uwe. Fischer and Barry Hayden.
ON THE ROAD Xceeding Xpectations
The percentage of SUV buyers in the world that actually use their vehicles for anything a normal car couldn’t achieve, must be diminishing rapidly; directly proportional to the growth of the body style. In fairness, when BMW launched its first X5 (and its very first X-model, incidentally), it had the good sense to refer to it not as an SUV, but as an SAV – Sports Activity Vehicle.
The G05 is a brand-new vehicle, and it’s larger in every direction than the model it replaces
In short, BMW never envisioned a life of utility for its X5. But one does wonder, could it have imagined just what a success the model would be? After all, the first three generations found more than 2.2 million homes around the globe.
Fast-forward nearly two decades and I’m at the launch of the fourth generation of the X5, codenamed G05. It faces many more rivals than it did back at the turn of the millennium, and those adversaries are getting better and better with every iteration. But, without wanting to spoil the surprise, it looks like BMW has it covered.
Naturally, the new X5 doesn’t look radically different to the old one, BMW choosing to evolve the X image rather than radically rethink it every time a new model is launched. Nonetheless, the G05 is a brand-new vehicle, and it’s larger in every direction than the model it replaces. So, there’s 42mm more in the wheelbase and the overall length is 36mm more than before (meaning slightly shorter overhangs); the X5 is also 66mm wider and 19mm higher. Sitting in the American sunshine, it undoubtedly looks large and has real presence, though that’s not all from its increased dimensions.
A muscular bonnet butts up against the enlarged kidney grille, which now has a single surround. The characteristic ‘X’ motif is retained thanks to the extra air intakes being pushed out to the edges of the front bumper, and it’s all complemented by a set of slim, LED headlights as standard. The test cars all featured BMW Laserlight with Adaptive LED Headlights, denoted by a little blue, X-shaped detail within the lamp units, and providing incredible illumination in the dark.
TWO TRIM LEVELS
In the USA, the trim levels will simply be xLine and M Sport (the M50d gets its own visual treatment and equipment offering, but is based on the M Sport), and are differentiated by either matt aluminum or high-gloss black for various exterior bits. The M Sport car also has a body-colored styling kit and 20in alloy wheels, whereas the xLine model makes do with 19s and more utilitarian black for the wheelarch covers and the like.
Apparently, some 80% of buyers will opt for the M Sport version, which indicates why BMW offers even sportier looking enhancements, including the M Sport Plus Package – and the option of 22in alloys for the first time.
Open the boot (it’s an automatic split-tailgate affair as standard) and get the tape measure out and you’ll discover that it’s no more capacious than before, swallowing up to 650 litres of stuff with all five seats in place. The seat backs of the second row split and fold 40:20:40, to free up a rather more substantial 1,860 litres, but that’s not the only practical aspect of the X5.
That luggage space is protected by a cover that, depending on options, will electrically retract into the boot floor, which itself can be replaced by one featuring rubber luggage holders that inflate when the car is running, holding your things in place.
Finally, the X5 can still be specified with a third row of seating. As ever, they’re best-suited to children or for adults over short journeys, but even if you think you might only use them a few times a year, they’re worth the extra. Obviously, they fold out of the way when not in use. It’s possible to order electric adjustment of the middle row of seats in conjunction with the back row, to ease entry.
But of course, as comfortable as the second-row seats are, the best place to be in the X5 is up front. The G05 has taken a leap forward in terms of luxury and perceived quality, starting with the standard Vernasca leather upholstery that swathes the heated (and electrically adjusted) sports seats. The optional Merino leather is even nicer, and you can add massage and ventilation functions.
Heating and cooling modes can be added to the large cup-holders up front, though what grabbed my attention first and foremost in the US test cars is what appeared to be a crystal glass gear selector. It’s optional (thankfully, as I’m not a fan) and it comes with a similarly glitzy finish for the engine start-stop button, the volume control knob and the iDrive controller.
That brings me neatly to the BMW Live Cockpit Professional system, incorporating iDrive 7 that I first experienced at the wheel of the BMW X7 pre-production prototype earlier this year. The X5 is the first model to market using this highly impressive, standard feature. The central touchscreen measures 12.3 inches and is notably fast in its reaction to touch. The graphics and menu structure have been redesigned and it looks sharp. Gesture control is included as standard, but I personally find this pointless when the steering wheel buttons are simpler to use for the most common functions. The iDrive rotary controller is better than ever, and there’s a decent voice recognition system, too.
The second half of the Live Cockpit Professional is another sharp-looking 12.3-inch screen, this time replacing the traditional instrumentation in front of the driver. It can display a vast amount of information and looks good, though why not offer drivers more layout options and customization? Rival systems do… Nonetheless, that’s a fairly minor gripe with what is otherwise an exceptional cabin.
Buyers can enhance the interior ambience further depending on how deep their pockets are. Ambient lighting is standard (and works wonderfully at night), but the Sky Lounge panoramic glass roof is worth considering for extra wow factor – thanks to LEDs embedded throughout the glass, it can apparently depict more than 15,000 different patterns, including a starlit sky feature.
More importantly than choosing how to customise your new X5, you need to have a think about what goes under the bonnet. At launch, there will be three distinct models offered. Topping the range, for now, is the X5 M50d, an M Performance model powered by a quad-turbo version of the company’s venerable 3.0-litre straight-six diesel. Power output is a mighty 400hp and that’s backed up by an even mightier 560lb ft of torque. You pay for all that grunt, though, as the starting price is £70,690. What’s more, while it’s without question impressively fast (0-62mph takes just 5.2 seconds), it doesn’t completely overshadow the lesser models in the line-up, and the engine is louder – and not in a nice way.
Unsurprisingly, given the anti-diesel rhetoric that’s circulating, BMW will offer US buyers a petrol option, too, in the form of the X5 xDrive40i, propelled by a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six that puts out up to 340hp and 332lb ft of torque. This is the X5 at its lightest, so even though it trails the two diesels on torque output, it’s really close to the pace of the M50d off the line, with a 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds, at a much lower starting price of £58,100. Naturally, it uses more fuel, with a combined economy figure of 33.2mpg. This engine has a particulate filter to help it pass the latest emissions legislation.
The X5 xDrive30d represents the entry-point to the range, from £56,710 on-the- road. It’s powered by the straight-six 3.0-litre turbodiesel unit (utilizing a single turbo, using variable inlet geometry), producing maximums of 265hp and 457lb ft of torque. BMW quotes a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds and 47.1mpg combined economy. It turns out to be my favourite engine of the three tested, as BMW has found a way to make it much quieter and more cultured than in the previous X5, while retaining its endless mid-range torque and palatable running costs. Both diesels feature a wealth of pollution-reducing technology, including a particulate filter, an oxidation catalyst, a NOx adsorption catalyst and an SCR catalyst with AdBlue injection to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.
In some markets (not the USA), there’s an xDrive50i version featuring a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine, while the X5 xDrive45e plug-in hybrid comes on stream in the second quarter of 2019. All X5s feature a newly-developed version of BMW’s excellent eight-speed automatic transmission, sending power to all four wheels via BMW’s redeveloped xDrive system, which can now distribute all power to the rear wheels to reduce friction (and hence fuel consumption) at times when extra traction is not required. The characteristics of this can be enhanced, from a driver’s point of view, by going for the xOffroad Package, which includes (along with various off-road driving modes) an electronically-controlled rear differential lock. This helps with loose surfaces, but also allows the X5 to have a little fun when you take it by the scruff of the neck and fling it down a twisty road.
Saying that, the new X5 has taken a noticeable step closer to the luxury side of the automotive spectrum, away from dynamism and sportiness. That’s evidenced by the standard fitment of two-axle air suspension, which results in superb comfort at speed and on the motorway, though a tendency to shudder into low-speed sharp ridges and potholes. It’s paired with adaptive damping and, as you’d expect, the driver can alter the characteristics of all of this using the usual drive mode selector.
The test cars featured the optional Adaptive M suspension Professional, including Integral Active Steering and active roll stabilization. The latter measure is fiendishly clever, employing electric swivel motors to compensate for body roll in a turn, allowing higher cornering speeds and better traction. However, I found that it gave the X5 an artificial feel, where I’m used to the sense of body lean to help gauge where the limits are. I’d do without, even if it can theoretically make the X5 faster. A two-tonne SUV really doesn’t need to be faster through the bends than a standard X5 already is.
Of more use to far more buyers will be Integral Active Steering, BMW’s four-wheel- steering system that turns the rear wheels by electromechanical means, either in the same direction as the front wheels at high speeds to enhance stability, or in the opposite direction to reduce the turning circle and enhance the feeling of agility at lower speeds. I’m guessing a large percentage of buyers of this SUV could benefit from that.
Left: The G05 X5 is the first model to market using the highly impressive BMW Live Cockpit Professional system, incorporating
iDrive 7 and a pair of 12.3in screens. Middle: Heated and cooled cup holders are also available on the new X5. Right: The
interior is comfortable and can provide something of a tech overload if you go mad with the options list.
The initial range-topper in the new X5 line-up will be the X5 M50d, powered by a quad-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six diesel producing a mighty 400hp.
In most cases, the G05 X5’s natural habitat will be fast, main roads.
It seems unlikely that few UK X5 owners will ever tackle this sort of journey in their shiny new £60,000 SAV.
The new X5 doesn’t look radically different to the old one, BMW choosing to evolve the X image rather than radically rethink it.
|Model:||2019 BMW xDrive30d G05||2019 BMW xDrive40i G05||2019 BMW M50d G05|
|Torque (lb ft):||457||331||560|
|Top speed (mph):||143||151||155|