BMW’s fourth-generation X5 gets grilled

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(June 13, 2018) As hard as it may be to believe, BMW’s X5 is 20 years old and about to enter its fourth generation. Built exclusively in BMW’s Spartanburg, S.C., assembly plant, more than 2.2 million units of the sport utility have been sold globally in that period, with more than 720,000 of those sales in the U.S. It was BMW’s first SUV, and has since been joined in Spartanburg by the X3, X5, and X6. A range-topping X7 will join the party soon.

The 2019 X5’s front fascia is dominated by an enormous, slightly tilted, one-size-fits-Montana grille just ahead of a sculpted hood that highlights the short overhang. Adaptive LED headlamps are standard, but BMW’s Laserlights are available as an option. They have blue x-shaped elements that are said to provide “a distinctive visual statement.”

While retaining some of the spare, Bauhaus design cues of the original, the 2019 model follows current convention by making the X5 look larger, bulkier and more menacing. It is 1.1 in. longer, 2.6 in. wider, 1.0 in. taller, and sits on a 1.6-in. longer wheelbase than its immediate predecessor. Nineteen-inch wheels are standard, and the M Sport variants have twin-spoke 20-in. alloys. If that’s not enough, you can degrade the ride even further with a choice of optional 21- and 22-in. wheels.

The interior, however, is just dripping with luxury and pretension. All of the metal trim elements are electroplated, and combine with the horizontal design motif to emphasize the interior’s width. Instrumentation is digital, while the infotainment unit is located at the same level so the driver doesn’t have to look down to read it.

The center console features the iDrive controller, a newly designed transmission selector, the pushbutton ignition switch, drive mode selector, and — if equipped — buttons to activate the air suspension settings and off-road modes. You can even specify heated and cooled cupholders

Standard equipment includes electrically adjustable heated sport seats for the front seat occupants, with the option of heated and cooled multifunction seats with massage function. There’s also a new Vernasca leather trim option that, like the BMW Individual extended Merino leather trim, is available in five colors, but with a shorter name. The Welcome Light Carpet (a.k.a. puddle lamps) illuminates the entry area when the doors are unlocked or opened, and the Dynamic Interior Light pulses the interior lighting in response to predefined situations. For example, if a door is opened while the engine is running, the lighting in that door flashes, and the console lighting pulses when there’s an incoming phone call.

Buyers will have to wait until at least December before they can get their hands on the rear seat Professional entertainment system or Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound unit. The former adds a pair of 10.2-in. HD touchscreen displays, a Blu-ray-compatible DVD unit, a pair of USB ports, two headphone jacks, and a HDMI socket. Rear seat passengers will be able to access the entertainment functions, as well as BMW ConnectedDrive services, and the navigation map through these screens. The sound system, on the other hand, has 20 speakers (three less than the optional Bang & Olufsen unit in the new Audi Q8), and an output of 1,500 watts.

The tailgate is split to ease loading and unloading, but you have to order the Comfort Access option to add power open/close to each half. Tick another box, and the optional Luggage Compartment Package allows users to electrically lower the cargo cover into the load floor. A third row of seats is available as an option, but come standard with electric fore-aft adjustment, as well as a cargo area control panel that can be used to slide both the second- and third-row seats forward or backward, and fold them flat.

Under the hood there are two gasoline engine choices, both turbocharged. First up is the 3.0-liter inline six that produces 335 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque. It wears the 40i badge. It is joined by a 4.4-liter V8 with 456 horsepower, 479 lb.-ft. of torque, and the 50i badge. The only transmission offered is an eight-speed automatic. All-wheel drive (xDrive) is standard, and a diesel model reportedly will be added in 2020.

Suspension is by double wishbones in front, and a five-link independent unit in back. Electronically controlled dampers are standard, and there are two performance settings from which the driver can choose. The Adaptive M Suspension Professional with active roll stabilization (yes, that’s the name) uses electric swivel motors to connect and disconnect the front and rear anti-roll bars as needed.

The optional Integral Active Steering uses another electric motor to steer the rear wheels, and front and rear air suspension with self leveling is also available as an option. There’s even an Off-Road Package that has special instrument panel graphics, front and rear skid plates, air suspension, an electronic rear differential lock, and an extra button in the center console to select from the four drive modes.

Active Driving Assistant is standard and includes Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Collision Warning, Frontal Collision Warning and Pedestrian Warning with City Collision Mitigation (which includes cyclist detection), Cross Traffic Alert Rear, and Speed Limit Information. Move up to the Driving Assistant Professional package to add Traffic Jam Assist with extended hands-off time, Emergency Stop Assistant, and Lane Keeping Assistant with active side collision protection. This also includes Automatic Lane Change, which can be used on highways when the Lane Keeping Assistant is active.

Holding the direction indicator in the desired direction initiates a lane change as long as the sensors detect there is sufficient space in the adjacent lane, and no vehicle is approaching at speed. This system also adds steering assist to help the driver steer around a vehicle or pedestrian that suddenly appears in the X5’s path.

Emergency Stop Assistant, a new offering that is part of the Driving Assistant Professional package, is activated by pulling the electric parking brake switch, and is designed for situations in which the driver is incapacitated. In the right conditions it is capable of activating the four-way flashers, alerting the BMW Assist call center of an emergency situation through its Intelligent Emergency Call function, and stopping the X5 in its lane, at the edge of the road, or on the hard shoulder.

Production of the 2019 X5 begins this August at BMW’s Spartanburg assembly facility, and it should be ready for sale by late October. Pricing has yet to be set, and will depend on how standard equipment levels compare to the current model.

It starts at just over $60,000 for the all-wheel drive version, but does not offer the level of options available on the fourth-generation car. You can expect fully loaded models to reach eye-watering heights.

The Virtual Driver