Is the original still the best?
The BMW X5 was one of the first luxury SUVs when it was first released back in 1999. It was also one of the first SUVs that actually drove well and helped inaugurate the class of sporty crossovers that are now all the rage.
Now in its fourth generation, the new 2019 BMW X5 is more of an evolution of the form than any kind of radical change. In fact, you’d be forgiven for not being able to easily tell it apart from the previous model, as changes to the exterior are subtle. The trademark kidney grill has grown even more pronounced, and the tailpipes are lower down on the rear bumper, but otherwise, it’s very much an X5.
Punchy performance, but it still handles like a crossover
Under the hood, not much has changed either. A sweet 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six is still the base engine. The new B58 engine produces 335 hp and 330 lb-ft torque, up 35 hp and 30 lb-ft from the previous model. While that may not seem too impressive on the surface, acceleration is even brisker than these numbers would suggest. Motor Trend recently clocked one doing 0-60 in 5 seconds flat, a figure that seems about right. This sets up the BMW X5 as one of the faster luxury crossovers on the road, especially one with only six cylinders under the hood.
The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic definitely helps make the X5 such an overachiever. Shifts are smooth, quick, and perfectly timed. If every automatic transmission was this good, car enthusiasts might finally stop griping about the disappearance of the stick.
While acceleration is sports sedan quick, the X5 sadly features the sort of handling that reminds you it’s a crossover. The suspension is well-tuned, and there is commendable grip from large 20-inch wheels and tires. However, the higher center-of-gravity combined with numb steering and an almost 5,000-pound curb weight make for a less than perfect back-road companion. Keep it well under the limits, though, and the X5 is plenty sporty for the occasional jaunt down twisty back roads.
Our test car did feature optional M Sport brakes, which are impressively strong and haul the X5 down with authority. Unfortunately, they are also a bit grabby, which makes stopping in a smooth fashion in everyday driving more tricky than it needs to be.
Understated luxury, with all the trimmings
Most owners are unlikely to treat the 2019 BMW X5 as a performance car. To that end, BMW has upped the luxury quotient to meet this reality. While continuing its trend of relatively conservative design, the interior jumps out as one of the best at this price point. Quality materials and excellent workmanship permeate the cabin. Our test car featured sumptuous brown leather seats and a matching leather dashboard, as well as real wood trim.
There is also an impressive array of available technology, including all the usual safety features. The 12.3-inch touchscreen display and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster almost seem small in our current era of bigger is better, but the user interface is well executed. The latest version of iDrive does a skillful job of managing all the various screens and settings.
The only penalty for all of these features is an over-ambitious price tag. While the X5 xDrive40i starts a tad over $60,000. Our well-equipped test car added $14,000 in options. For that amount of money, you do get four optional packages and a list of other features, but almost 75 grand is a lot of money for what is still only a mid-sized crossover with two rows of seats.
The 2019 BMW X5 has come a long way in 20 years, yet still retains a distinctive and familiar identity. Buyers looking for a luxury crossover that also offers above average performance should be very satisfied with the X5. The fact that the new 4th generation doesn’t stand out as much as perhaps it once did is more a reflection of the market — and it’s insatiable appetite for crossovers — than anything different or wrong with the X5.
If BMW’s engineering and Euro-style don’t excite you, there are plenty of appealing alternatives. The 2019 Audi Q7 is fun to drive, packed full of high tech features, and scored high in safety and reliability ratings. Redesigned and ready to rock is the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class. At the top of its game, the new GLE delivers a balance of performance, luxury, and technology. Of course, the Porsche Cayenne and Lexus RX cannot be left off the list. Still, you can’t ignore the X5 – a well rounded SUV that devours any terrain, while coddling its passengers in plush refinement.
2019 BMW X5 xDrive40i Specifications:
|Price as tested||$73,980|
|Engine||3.0L turbocharged inline 6-cylinder|
|Power||335 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Torque||330 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm|
|0 – 60 mph||5.3 seconds|
|Top Speed||130 mph|
|Curb weight||4,813 lbs|
|Towing Capacity||6,603 lbs|
|Fuel Economy (EPA)||20 / 26 / 23 (city/hwy/combined)|
|Ground Clearance||8.7 inches|
|Length x Width x Height||194.3 x 78.9 x 69.0 inches|
|Cargo Volume behind 2nd row||33.9 cubic feet|
|Max Cargo Volume||72.3 cubic feet|
|Warranty||4 year/50,000 mile basic warranty|
Photo credit (except where noted): Derek Mau