The project leader for the new BMW X5, Johann Kistler, insists the new fourth-generation model has advanced sufficiently to be able to book a place at the very top of its class, against tough competition from the likes of the Audi Q7, Jaguar F-Pace, Porsche Cayenne and Mercedes-Benz GLE.
Set for Australian launch early next year following a planned public debut at the Paris motor show in September, the new luxury class SUV has been comprehensively re-engineered for what will be the X5’s twentieth year of production in 2019.
It adopts a new platform shared with the upcoming X7 as well as a larger external and internal dimensions, updated powertrains and the very latest in the German car maker’s digital cockpit and infotainment functions within a more versatile and luxurious cabin.
Kistler claims the new platform, which shares key elements with the CLAR architecture used by the BMW 5- and 7-series, elevates the overall capabilities of the X5, codenamed G05 and revealed here in production guise for the first time, to a whole new level, with its long-established reputation for performance and handling enhanced by what he describes as “new found comfort and refinement”.
"We’ve built on the X5’s dynamic qualities with the inclusion of developments such as Integral Active Steering (BMW speak for rear wheel steer) and the latest version of Dynamic Drive Active Roll Stabilization (electrically operated anti-roll bars), but we’ve also added an extra layer of luxury and comfort that we think will provide the new model with more appeal than ever,“ says Kistler, who also headed the development team responsible for the latest 5-series.
Key among the chassis developments brought to the new SUV is an optional air suspension featuring air springs both front and rear, as on the latest 7-series. Available as part of an off-road package that also brings off-road driving modes (X Sand, X Rock, X Snow and X Gravel) and differential lock, it replaces the set-up of the outgoing third-generation model, which used air springs only at the rear, in combination with a chassis boasting double wishbones up front and a five-link arrangement at the rear.
A stiffer body shell with added aluminium is also said to offer a near to 33 per cent increase in torsional stiffness in a move that helps better isolate road shock and secondary vibration.
The new platform and chassis will also be used by the third-generation X6 set for launch in mid-2019.
Viewed by Driver in an engineering workshop at BMW’s Spartanburg factory in the US, where the new model will once again be exclusively produced alongside the X3, X4, X6 and upcoming X7, the new X5 is larger than its predecessor in every vital dimension.
Length stretches by 35mm at 4921mm, width increases by 32mm at 1970mm and height is up by 11mm at 1737mm. The wheelbase has also increased by 42mm at 2975mm in a move that provides the new BMW with slightly shorter overhangs as well as larger door apertures both front and rear for greater ease of entry to the interior.
Despite the increase in size, the new BMW offers the same boot capacity as the outgoing third-generation X5 at 645 litres (rising to 1860 litres when the 60:40 split rear seat is folded away). In a move aimed at easing loading, the new model can be ordered with optional electronic control for both the upper and lower sections of the two-piece tailgate. It also receives an electric luggage blind cover that can be stowed automatically within the boot floor at the press of a button.
Predictably, the styling is evolutionary in nature, with the exterior taking on a slightly tauter look and new detailing. The front is dominated by a large and angular kidney-shaped grille that, in keeping with BMW’s more recent models, is joined in the middle to help give it greater prominence and receives active air flaps in a move that helps the new X5 achieve a drag co-efficient of 0.31 in xDrive30d guise.
The headlamp assemblies are also more angular in appearance and come with the Laser light option that is also available on the 7-series and claimed to increase high beam penetration by over 200 metres compared to the standard LED headlamps.
Apart from a fake air breather duct mounted behind the front wheel arches, the flanks of the new X5 go largely unadorned; there’s a feature line that runs from the trailing edge of front wheel arch underneath the front door handles and kicks up halfway along the rear doors as well as a second feature line within the lower part of the section of the doors, but they’re both very subtle. The side window graphic, meanwhile, continues with the same basic shape as that established by the first-generation X5 launched back in 1999.
This leaves the biggest changes for the rear, which continues with a split tailgate but receives a more prominent spoiler as well as wider and more heavily structured tail lamps that instantly set the new model apart from earlier X5 models.
As with the larger X7, the new X5 will offer the choice of five different sized wheel and tyre combinations, ranging from 18- up to 22-inch in diameter. In Germany, it comes in two lines: X-Line and M-Sport Package - the latter featuring reduced ride height and blackened detailing within the exterior.
Inside, there’s a larger cabin with newly designed seats offering incremental increases in leg-, head- and shoulder room. Up front, a newly designed and higher quality dashboard shares its design with the unit set to feature in larger X7, with a new multi-function steering wheel and switchgear. Highlights include a standard 12.3-inch high definition instrument display together with a similar sized Infotainment monitor - both featuring BMW’s new ID7 operating system.
At the rear, an optional third seat row, offering two added seats, is also claimed to provide added leg and headroom compared with that of the old X5.
Buyers will also be able to option the new SUV with a third-generation head up display unit with a larger display and greater information than that available on the outgoing X5, a Bowers and Wilkens Diamond Plus 3D Surround Sound system featuring 20 speakers and a 1500 Watt subwoofer, conversational speech recognition control, gesture control, a touch control rear seat entertainment system and a cup holder unit offering both heating and cooling functions.
The engine line-up for the new X5 at the start of production includes two petrol and two diesel units. Included among the petrol engines BMW’s familiar turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder with 250kW and 500Nm in the xDrive40i as well as the turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 with 340kW and 650Nm in the xDrive50i.
The diesels are underpinned by a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder touting xDrive30d, which offers 195kW and 620Nm. Positioned at the top-of-the initial line-up will be the M50d M Performance, whose quad-turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder diesel engine delivers 294kW and 760Nm of torque.
Further engines will follow, including a more powerful version of BMW’s turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder diesel with 235kW and 680Nm in the xDrive40d and a plug-in hybrid powertrain which runs a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in combination with a gearbox mounted electric motor offering a combined 240kW and 900Nm of torque in a successor model to today’s xDrive40e.
As with today’s X5, all models come as standard with an eight-speed torque converter equipped automatic gearbox and BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive system.