Bigger, bolder, more space and a whole new iDrive system – the new BMW X5 brings more luxury to the X-car party
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
BMW’s X5 was one of the first luxury sport utility vehicles (SUVs) to hit the market, offering not just luxury car features and toys, but also luxury car dynamics that paid little heed to proper rough-n-tough stuff.
Since then, the X5 lineage has taken on the traditional BMW flavour, each new generation a clear but gradual progression from its predecessor.
With each generation outselling the last (by now 2.2 million X5s have found homes), this is clearly one boat that shouldn’t be rocked, but with every luxury car brand now also vying for a slice of the growing SUV pie, the fourth-generation X5 is one of the brand’s most crucial offerings.
“In terms of image the X5 is the most important X car because it started the family,” says Christophe Koenig, media relations manager for BMW X models. ”These days it’s a major brand shaper for BMW, in terms of image and technology.”
It’s not quite as brash as the good ol’ U S of A, but the X5’s face now certainly looks bolder than before.
Perhaps a bit too much (the kidney grilles are as large as my head) but hey, looks are subjective, and from what we can tell about crossovers, the less we like it, the more the general public does.
The rest of the styling’s less divisive. There’s a distinctive shoulder crease running down the side that kinks up at the rear door, and the new tail lights emphasise the car’s width.
The dimensions have grown all round – it’s 4,922mm long (+36mm), 2,004mm wide (+66mm), and is 2,975mm between the axles (+42mm), but the X5 visually disguises its bulk well.
Or perhaps that’s just down to the environment we’re in; after all, some full-size American trucks are practically as big as a HDB flat.
Step inside the car and you get an idea of how important the X5 is to the brand. BMW has chosen this to be the launch vessel for the next generation of its iDrive system (version 7.0 to be precise), which we first encountered in the Z4 and 8 Series at BMW World last month.
That’s manifested in the twin 12.3-inch screens (standard on all X5s) for the instrument display and infotainment, which have been configured to present more information more intuitively.
For example, iDrive 7.0 now groups the shortcuts for the main functions in a little taskbar on the side, similar to those at the bottom of your phone screen.
That frees up space for various information widgets that you can customise and configure, to view your most-used functions on one home screen.
The instrument cluster has also gone fully digital, with the speedo and tachometer dials reshaped into oblongs along the circumference of the screen.
According to Armin Distler, Project Manager BMW OS 7.0, this was done so they could have a larger area for the in-screen navigation display, and generally fit more information into the instrument cluster.
The X5 sets itself apart from its smaller brethren by more obvious luxury notes – see the open-pore wood in the center console and dashboard, the knurled iDrive knobs and liberal use of gloss black around the shifter and control section.
It’s a definite step up from before, which is not surprising given the X5 is the last of the X family to be ushered into the new-generation like its siblings.
What’s also up to expectations is the way the X5 makes you feel behind the wheel. In terms of ergonomics, there’s plenty of adjustability to find a comfortable driving position.
The seats are properly supportive too, and I still felt fresh after an uninterrupted three-hour stint behind the wheel across winding back roads, freeways, and getting stuck in Atlanta’s rush hour traffic.
In terms of driving dynamics though, we had a less than optimal window to peek into the X5’s abilities. It rained heavily during the test drive, so pushing the car hard wasn’t an option, but overall the X5 delivered what we expect of a big BMW in the conditions. Stability was good and the car wasn’t difficult to accurately place on the road.
The 21-inch wheels and run-flat tyres did call to attention the worst that the I-75 and I-85’s concrete surface had to offer, but the adaptive air suspension on our test car rounded off the edges after the initial impact.
It should do fine back home, given that Singapore-bound cars will have 20-inch rims as standard instead.
So far, only one drivetrain option, the xDrive40i, is Singapore-bound. Apart from some minor revisions for slightly more efficiency, it’s the same 3.0-litre turbo straight six as found in BMW’s other 40i models, which is to say, it’s a peach, as we’ve seen in the X3 M40i.
With 340hp and 450Nm of torque, it covers pretty much all the bases. It’s not startlingly brisk, but floor the throttle and it hauls the two-tonne X5 with conviction, while singing a zingy tune at high rpms. The exhaust even pops and crackles quite cheekily (for a large luxury car anyway) on full-bore upshifts, a bit like the rambunctious Mini John Cooper Works.
If you like what you’ve just read, the good news is that you won’t have to wait too long if you plan on getting one. According to BMW Group Asia, the new X5 is expected to reach our shores in Q1 of 2019, at an estimated price of $350,000.
Standard features will include a self-parking system with a surround-view camera, quad-zone climate control, air suspension, wireless phone charging, and the usual host of active safety warning assists.
Also available as options will be a Sky Lounge panoramic roof (basically a glass roof that lights up with colourful LEDs, above), massage front seats, laser headlights (below), a night vision system and even more advanced safety tech, with the ability to intervene with the steering.
In other words, the X5 will be able to ape a 7 Series when it comes to technology and comfort, if you have the ability to spec it that way.
Looking forward, a plug-in hybrid version, as well as seven-seat option will be introduced, although as of press time there were no details regarding local availability.
It’s an overused phrase, but when it comes to BMW, evolution really does seem preferable to revolution. The new X5 continues that tradition but it’s none the worse for it, offering a well-rounded package which suggests that in the automotive world, perhaps ‘X’ really does mark the spot.
BMW X5 xDrive40i
|Engine||2,998cc, inline 6|
|Power||340hp at 5500rpm|
|Torque||450Nm at 1500rpm|
|Fuel Efficiency||8.5 L/100km (estimate)|
|VES Band / CO2||TBC / 193g/km (est.)|