Although BMW had experience with all-wheel drive (AWD) systems as there were some models with AWD even in the 1980s. Their badges had the suffix ‘x’ on them but they were sold only in a few countries where road conditions became exceptionally slippery in winter. Unlike Audi, which made AWD a performance feature, BMW didn’t use AWD for that purpose then.
When the SUV explosion began in the 1990s, BMW held back like other premium carmakers – until Lexus came out with the RX300 and then the SUV trend moved upmarket.
Mercedes-Benz came out with their M-Class in 1997 and BMW came out with the X5 two years later. The AWD technology the company had from earlier years was not advanced enough and besides developing new technology, it also drew on the systems developed by Land Rover, which is had acquired in the mid-1990s.
To BMW engineers, the inherent driving dynamics of a SUV just did not seem right for a BMW which had to have sportiness, agility and of course high performance. So they aimed to develop something that was in line with BMW’s philosophy. They used the 5-Series platform as a starting point and understanding that 99% of SUV owners never really go off-road or drive in really rough terrain, they focussed on a chassis design that was robust, provided comfort and yet offered driving dynamics superior to a SUV. For this reason, BMW calls its SUV models Sports Activity Vehicles or SAVs, emphasising the difference.
Three generations, totalling more than 2.2 million units, have since passed and now comes the fourth generation (G05) of the original X model that started the line. It is a significantly larger vehicle than its predecessor – 36 mm longer to 4922 mm; 66 mm wider to 2004 mm; and 19 mm taller to 1745 mm. The wheelbase has been extended by 42 mm to reach almost 3 metres between the front and rear wheels.
The new exterior introduces a design language that is new to the X range with the large kidney grille having a one-piece surround. The new X5 comes as standard with LED headlights and Laserlight with Adaptive LED Headlights as options. Blue x-shaped elements, which split up the hexagonal light sources inside the familiar BMW twin headlights, make a distinctive visual statement. This system employs a BMW Laserlight spotlight with Selective Beam to optimise the high beam function, and as a result the range of the non-dazzling high beam has been increased to around 500 metres.
The car’s powerful shoulders feed into the rear lights, which extend well into the flanks. All the lights feature LED technology and the 3-dimensional design of their glass covers lends them a sculpted, technical edge. Diagonal accent lines give the rear a compact and brawny appearance.
This is the first BMW model to be available with 22-inch light-alloy wheels (optional). M light-alloy wheels in twin-spoke design and BMW Individual light-alloy wheels available from launch in this size.
The interior continues with the same premium ambience, thanks to sophisticated materials and harmonious design. Differentiation is provided with the xLine and M Sport lines while further personalisation is available from BMW Individual.
The Panorama glass roof Sky Lounge generates a very special and exclusive aura when darkness falls, with LED light spreading evenly across the glass surface to illuminate more than 15,000 graphic patterns and generate a display reminiscent of a starlit sky. The colour scheme of this atmospheric light show can be adapted as desired.
The X5 also sees the debut appearance of the BMW Live Cockpit Professional display and control concept (fitted as standard). There’s been further development of the iDrive operating system to include a fully digital instrument cluster and 12.3-inch Control Display. The driver now has increased ease of use through multimodal use of the touchscreen display, Controller, voice control and gesture control.
Like other similar vehicles, the rear backrests can fold flat to extend and expand cargo space which ranges from 645 litres to 1,860 litres. A third row of two seats can be added if required. There’s a two-section tailgate for ease of loading and both sections can be opened and closed automatically without using the hands. Additionally, the boot cover lowers electrically into the load compartment floor.
Customers will be able to choose from up to 4 engine variants (depending on the market) – a newly developed V8 petrol engine (462 hp/650 Nm); inline 6-cylinder petrol engine (340 hp/450 Nm); and two inline 6-cylinder turbodiesel engines (400 hp/760 Nm and 265 hp/620 Nm). All powertrains will have an 8-speed Steptronic transmission fitted as standard.
The xDrive AWD system has gone through evolutionary improvements over the past 20 years and now has a more efficient control system with rear-wheel bias as standard. The differential lock at rear axle is said to provide noticeably enhanced agility, traction and directional stability when accelerating out of corners and in other dynamic driving situations.
With this new generation, BMW introduces an optional Off-Road package for the first time to the X range. Two-axle air suspension, underguard at the front and rear, plus specific displays in the instrument cluster and Control Display are part of the package. There’s a choice of 4 driving modes, available at the touch of a button, to give an optimum set-up for driving on a variety of surfaces. With the air suspension, the ride height adjustment is up to 80 mm.
Since the first X5, production has been done at BMW’s factory in America and this generation will likewise be built there, alongside the X3, X4, X6 and in future, the X7. First deliveries will begin towards the end of this year and we should see it in Malaysian showrooms sometime in the first half of 2019.