The updated X5 proves likable if you demonstrate restraint.
There are two trends we often see in the vehicles that roll through the Motor1.com offices each week. Said cars, whether they’re econoboxes or six-figure super sedans, are either loaded down with every option in the catalog or they’re what we affectionately refer to as “strippers” – vehicles that approach options the same way a teetotaler approaches alcohol. It’s somewhat rare for a vehicle to arrive not only with a final price that the average consumer would accept but bearing the equipment they’d most likely grab.
Other Takes On The X5:
Friends, the subject of today’s review is just such a unicorn. This is the 2019 BMW X5 xDrive40i, and with an as-tested price that jumps only $12,000 over its $60,700 starting price, it features a configuration we could easily imagine a customer driving off the lot. This setup has all the most popular options but avoids some of the bleeding-edge tech that we complained about following the X5’s global launch in September of last year. If you want a new BMW X5, read on to see why this is the one to get.
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Prices for the 2019 X5 starts at $60,700 for an all-wheel-drive example with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six. BMW sold a rear-drive X5 – wearing the sDrive badge – in the past, but it’s unclear if that setup will carry on into this new generation. BMW also offers a twin-turbocharged V8-powered M50i model for $75,570, and a plug-in-hybrid xDrive45e is on the way, as well.
Usually, we’d dive into a big breakdown of pricing on our tester, but that would mean navigating BMW’s disastrous packaging structure. Ordering an X5 requires customers choose from one of two styling packages (one free, one carrying a $5,850 premium), three nested option tiers (so the second tier requires the first tier and the third tier needs both of the first two), a number of traditional option packages, followed by an array of a la carte options. It’s an utter mess. Instead of decoding it, we’re simply going to list the options on our tester’s monroney, with the prices shown there. Some of these numbers will not correlate to what’s shown on BMW’s consumer page.
To get our xDrive40i, plan on spending $550 for the Mineral White paint and $1,450 for the Coffee Vernasca leather. It has all three option tiers: the $1,150 Convenience package (proximity entry, four-zone climate control, and satellite radio); the $2,050 Premium Tier (head-up display, gesture controls, wireless charging, and “Enhanced USB and Bluetooth,” BMW’s language for a smartphone cradle and the ability to stream audio over Bluetooth); and the $2,050 Executive Tier (remote start, soft-close doors, heated/cooled cupholders, LED laser headlights, and rear window sunshades). One of those packages includes a credit for the leather upholstery, although it’s not clear which. Our tester also carries the $1,700 Driving Assistance Plus package, which is where you’ll find all the active safety nannies.
A la carte options include the $600 20-inch wheels, the $650 M Sport brakes, the $1,000 air suspension, $400 running boards, and an $875 Harmon Kardon surround-sound audio system. Aside from the brakes and running boards, both of which are pointless but for different reasons, we’d have all of this stuff if we were ordering a 2019 X5.
Muddying the waters for BMW shoppers is the pure variety of vehicles and price points in this class. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Volvo all offer vehicles with lower starting prices ($56,200 for the GLE 350, $53,500 for the Q7, and $47,700 for the XC90), but when optioned up each are competitive with our X5’s as-tested price. Cadillac and Lincoln are coming in with competitors, as well, while Acura and Infiniti offer a more affordable approach to the segment; Land Rover and Porsche a more enthusiast-focused one. While we don’t have the room to break down competitive pricing here, the best advice we can offer is to shop around and consider more than just one or two vehicles. The X5 plays in a cutthroat segment that rewards owners that do their homework and drive a hard bargain.
While its grille isn’t as offensive as the new X7, the X5’s look is certainly in your face, with its vast and more vertical kidney grilles and the latest take on BMW’s traditional angel eye running lights. A lot is going on in the fascia, and before we can even take it all in, the hood and its strong character lines assert themselves. BMW’s latest X5 is clearly evolutionary, but that doesn’t mean the things that have changed aren’t made more aggressive as part of the redesign.
The profile sees the least change. The exit point for the air curtain – that vent behind front wheel arch – has a dedicated applique now, and the silver trim around the greenhouse is a smidge different, but the overall shape of things hasn’t changed much for 2019. That’s not true of the tail, though, where the new X5’s taillights morphed into something Kia-like. Really, the LED units remind us of a Sorento (no bad thing for Kia, but not an association BMW was hoping for). This is a far more derivative transformation than what the 3- or 5-Series received with their recent redesigns.
The X5’s cabin sees a more extensive evolution. BMW revised the center infotainment display, slotted in a standard digital instrument cluster, and updated the controls around the electronic gear lever. But the overall layout will be immediately familiar to owners of the last-generation X5.
Overall material quality gets a noticeable step up, with attractive leather on the dash (we dig the Coffee-colored Vernasca leather on our tester, even if it’s better described as Coffee With One Cream), more real metal accents, and a new range of matte wood trims. Optional glass controls replace BMW’s old ceramic setup, although our tester isn’t carrying the flashy trim. That said, at $650, the price is roughly the same as ceramic controls – it’s one of the few options not present that we wouldn’t hesitate to order.
Well, it’s a big German crossover. Was there ever any question the X5 would score so highly? This is an impressively comfortable crossover, although the best spot is unquestionably up front. The standard 16-way chairs and tilt/telescoping steering column provide a wide enough range of adjustments for even the pickiest driver to get comfortable. The front chairs have three-stage heating as standard, although BMW packages the ventilation and massage functions together in the $1,600 Luxury Seating package, while heated armrests and a heated steering wheel are a mere $250 option. The overall balance between long-haul comfort and twisty road balance is right where it should be for a premium German crossover, even in these base chairs.
The second-row bench isn’t a bad place to hang out either. At 37.4 inches of legroom, there’s enough space for a pair of adults on a road trip, even if the X5 falls short of the Mercedes GLE-Class (40.9 inches) and the Audi Q7 (38.8 inches). Our tester is missing the option, but it’s a meager $350 to add heating to the outboard seats in the second row.
The two-row X5 has a significant advantage in cargo capacity over the three-rowers from Volvo and Audi, but its lead over its biggest rival, the GLE, is much smaller. With the second row in place, there are 33.9 cubic feet of space. Fold the second-row down, and that figure expands to 72.3 cubic feet. The GLE counters with slightly more total space (72.6 cubes) while coming up short with its second row up (29.1). And unlike any of its rivals, the X5 features a nifty split tailgate that doubles as a bench.
We first sampled the redesigned X5 on the smooth roads outside Atlanta, Georgia. Surprisingly, it’s nearly as comfortable on Detroit’s pockmarked pavement. Credit the X5’s optional two-axle air suspension, a useful $1,000 option that does a fine job of isolating the cabin from bumps and imperfections. There’s minimal suspension movement due to potholes, although we suspect our tester’s 20-inch wheels (a $600 option) helped. The X5 offers standard 19-inch wheels on our no-cost xLine design and optional 21s, while the M Sport offers 20s as standard and then moves up to 21- and 22-inch designs. Avoid the bigger wheel sizes if you value ride comfort.
The X5 does an excellent job of quelling unpleasant noises. Wind noise is remarkably well controlled, and just as the air suspension keeps vibrations from entering the cabin, it also does a solid job of restricting suspension noises from getting into the cabin. Tire roar is minimal, again, thanks to the reasonable wheel size.
On the surface, the X5 seems to tick all our preferred technology boxes. It’s impressively well-equipped from the start, with features like standard heated seats, a digital instrument cluster, LED headlights, heated side mirrors, wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity (that’s right, BMW isn’t charging extra for CarPlay), navigation, a panoramic sunroof, and a power rear tailgate all included in the base X5. That’s a lot of very desirable standard equipment.
The optional extras are impressive, too. We’ve already covered a few, but some other standouts include the expansive active safety systems, an available night-vision camera system, stylish glass controls, a killer Bowers and Wilkins audio system, and an automatic parking suite. Even among this impressive set, though, there are standouts.
BMW’s Laserlight headlights are chief among them. Like Audi’s Matrix LED headlights, Laserlight takes automatic high beams a step further, individually adjusting the beams to account for on-coming traffic. So-called dazzle-free lighting would grant broader, brighter illumination for drivers without blinding other road users. The tech is built into our X5’s headlights, but can't be enabled until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gets off its ass and updates Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108, which governs headlight tech. This particular option is packaged as part of the $2,050 Executive package.
Our X5 also features a wireless phone charging pad, an impressive head-up display, the mostly useless gesture controls, and heated and cooled cupholders. But it’s not all sunshine and buttercups.
For the first time in years, your author can’t recommend BMW’s iDrive infotainment system. What used to be one of the easiest, most intuitive setups on the market has grown increasingly complicated in a bid to be all things to all users. There are too many menus and too many instances where the individual buttons that surround the dial don’t do anything. While we had our Apple iPhone Xs hooked up to CarPlay wirelessly, we couldn’t figure out how to switch between the standard iDrive OS and Apple’s setup until a few days into our loan. At least our X5 isn’t hampered by BMW’s new virtual assistant.
We also remain skeptical of BMW’s new digital cockpit. A week behind the wheel revealed that it’s easy to read, but there’s a huge amount of wasted space. This is a 12.3-inch display, but it’s frustratingly short on ways to reconfigure it while leaving plenty of unused space. We strongly recommend BMW look to its German compatriots in Ingolstadt and Stuttgart for an example of a digital instrument cluster done right.
While the twin-turbocharged V8-powered xDrive50i will earn the bulk of the X5’s performance accolades (until the inevitable arrival of an X5M), the reality is that it will represent a modest number of X5 sales. This, the six-cylinder-powered xDrive40i, is the volume model and it’s all you’ll ever need. This is as good as the V8, but with none of its excess.
Power from the single-turbo engine – one of BMW’s ubiquitous force-induced 3.0-liters – is ample, at 335 horsepower, while the torque spread is impressive and linear. A total of 330 pound-feet doesn’t sound like a lot for a 4,800-pound SUV, but the X5 and its standard eight-speed automatic exploit what’s available well, taking a reasonable 5.3 seconds to hit 60 miles per hour. Low and mid-range torque is particularly impressive, and while the X5 doesn’t feel all that happy at high engine speeds, it at least sounds happy.
If you’re surprised that BMW has built yet another sweet-sounding straight-six, we have some oceanfront property in Arizona for you. The sonorous six is all too willing to sing under heavy throttle, but it mostly shuts up in everyday conditions. Like road and wind noise, the X5 doesn’t allow the 3.0-liter’s song to get into the cabin unless its driver is really on the throttle.
During our first test of the X5 in Atlanta last year, we had no shortage of criticism for the X5’s four-wheel-steering setup. Called Integral Active Steering, it turned what should be a smooth, confident, and relaxing SUV into a twitchy, aloof mess that couldn’t enter a corner without carrying too much speed.
While we’d have liked to spend time with IAS in Detroit, just to see if we could learn to love it, its absence on this tester is all the proof we need that the system should be avoided. With just the front axle handling the steering, the X5 feels infinitely more competent, composed, and communicative. The weighting is precise, and the SUV responds predictably to our inputs, rather than nervously as it had in Georgia.
And you know what, with one less layer of technology in the way, the X5 is kind of fun to toss around. It’s not as plainly agile as a Porsche Cayenne, but BMW’s poise and handling polish are on full display in the X5. Roll is predictable and controlled, and there’s even some useful feedback through the chassis. The two-rower feels balanced too, and willing to rotate if you push it. All of this is to say that we’re excited by the handling potential of this SUV once the minds at BMW M get their hands on it.
We’d very much like to tell you it’s okay to pass on the $650 M Sport brakes, but the reality is that we haven’t driven an X5 that didn’t have them. That said, we’ve driven plenty of other BMWs both with and without M Sport stoppers, and in none of those vehicles did the optional brakes feel worth the expense. Spend that money on gas or the nifty glass controls.
BMW’s $1,700 Driving Assistance Plus package is a no-brainer. The package adds Active Driving Assistant Pro, a camera-and-radar-based semi-autonomous system that blends steering and traffic-jam assistance with automatic emergency braking, and full-speed adaptive cruise control to reduce the strain of highway travel on the driver.
In practice, these systems work extremely well, keeping the X5 squarely in the middle of the lane without much unnecessary tugging from the steering wheel. Like Volvo’s Pilot Assist, the X5’s system is easy to forget about. The adaptive cruise control system, in particular, excels. Even set on the shortest distance to the car in front, it responds quickly but smoothly to slower traffic, without the aggressive braking common in lesser systems.
As such a new model, it’s no surprise that neither of the big safety testers in the U.S has gotten around to crashing the new X5. The last-generation model did well, though, with top marks across the board except for the headlights and child seat anchors. Considering the presence of standard LED headlights and optional Laserlight headlights, it seems likely the new X5 will improve on at least one of those testing metrics.
The 2019 X5 nets an EPA-estimated 20 miles per gallon city, 26 highway, and 22 combined with the inline-six-cylinder engine. Opt for the V8-powered xDrive50i, and those figures drop to 17 city, 22 highway, and 19 combined. Both engines require Premium fuel. Customers that need better fuel economy can look forward to the arrival of a plug-in hybrid model that should promise suitable electric range and improved fuel economy when relying on its gas engine.