BMW X5 Review 2019
Paul Horrell’s 2019 BMW X5 Review with Practicality, Infotainment, Performance, Ride and Handling, Safety, Verdict and Score.
IN A NUTSHELL The X5 is BMW’s stereotype crossover. Fourth generation maintains the on-road athleticism and adds better lux and off-road smarts. A very versatile and complete bundle.
2019 BMW X5 Specifications (US/European spec)
Price N/A Warranty 3 years/100,000km Engines 3.0 petrol turbo six-cylinder (40i), 3.0 diesel turbo six-cylinder (30d), 3.0 diesel quad-turbo six-cylinder (M50d) Power 250kW at 5500-6500rpm (40i), 195kW at 4000 (30d), 294kW at 4400 (M50d) Torque 450Nm at 1500-5200rpm (40i), 620Nm at 2000-2500 (30d), 760Nm at 2000-3000 (M50d) Transmission 8-speed auto Drive four-wheel drive Body 4922mm (l); 2004mm (w exc mirrors); 2218 (w inc mirrors); 1745mm (h) Towing weight 2700kg (braked) 750kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 2060-2350kg Seats 5 or 7 Fuel tank 80 litres Spare space-saver Thirst 8.6l/100km (40i) 6.4l/100km (30d) 7.0l/100km (M50d)
No-one much buys the 7-Series limo, so the X5 sits at the head of BMW’s realistic range. More than the Range Rover, it defined the modern crossover, because it sacrificed off-road ability for what more people wanted: decent road manners.
Ironic then that this new generation of X5 actually has the best off-roading ability BMW has ever fielded, thanks to full variable-height air suspension on most models. The option to add underbody shielding and off-road electronics programmes, and a lockable centre diff, reinforces the point.
How it acts on the road still matters more though. The engines are better, and the all-new body brings extra space and quieter running.
A vast suite of connectivity is standard, including onboard wifi and new graphics for the screens.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
From the front, it’s all you’d expect of a biggish luxury crossover. You sit high, but it’s in no way truck-like, and nor is it the regal perch of a Range Rover. It’s a car, just a tall one. The seats are terrific, and have electric adjustment and heating. That’s just the standard ones – options then run to comfort seats, and finally chairs with massage and ventilation.
The instruments are entirely screen-based, and you can choose from dozens of combinations of information displayed. The layout is fixed though, so however you do it there are strange angular shapes for the main dials, which doesn’t help legibility. The effect is to up-sell you into the head-up display, which is big and comprehensive.
In fact, although the cabin basically follows BMW principles, the details and finishes have been re-thought. In some cases, it’s not obvious why. The climate controls are more complicated, fiddly to use and messy to look at than before. They have little knurled rollers that would add to the richness if authentic, but instead they’re cheaply moulded plastic like they came out of a Christmas cracker. And the markings on the metallic-grey buttons are almost impossible to read.
You can pay extra for a ‘glass’ finish on the iDrive wheel, and a cut-glass (or glassy) gearknob. Interesting, and an experiment to be encouraged, but it soon looks greasy with your fingerprints.
Storage space isn’t too great considering these are used as family wagons. But the optional heated and cooled cupholders could be the gadget of the year.
In the back, legroom is fine (not huge) for two adults, and it’s wide enough for three child seats abreast, two of which are Isofix. That’s before you get to the optional third row.
Seats six and seven, if specced, are reached by pressing buttons that motor the middle seats forward. That’s useful, because it also means there’s scope for second- and third-row folk to divide the legroom between them. In all the space is OK for school-run teenagers, but unless it’s folded under the floor the third-row steals most of the boot.
In the two-row version, the boot is a handy 650 litres. Both the drop-down and hinge-up sections of the split tailgate open and shut by electric motor.
What are the infotainment and controls like?
BMW has gone big on connectivity. It’s live all the time via a signal to the car’s SIM. High-definition traffic is an obvious benefit if you live near a city. It also gives a wifi hotspot for everyone’s devices in the car.
It’ll also link to your phone’s address book, diary and email, via BMW’s cloud server. The idea is it’ll pre-program the car’s navigation with your next destination, and send notifications to your phone when it’s time to depart, depending on traffic. This feature is common to most BMWs now, but the X5 adds new refinements. Whether it’s actually useful or distracting – or plain spooky – is for you to decide.
The X5 has first use of a refreshed iDrive OS, version 7.0 if you’re counting. It retains the central controller wheel by your knee. Having used Audi’s new system where the wheel has gone, we applaud BMW’s decision.
The version 7.0 graphics are slightly different, and location of some information has changed on the screen. The idea is to make the menus shallower, and more customisable. It works, though you might be a while learning it.
Little need need to climb the learning curve actually: Apple CarPlay is at last standard (BMW used to charge extra), and it works over Bluetooth, and since there’s an inductive charge pad for the phone you really can just throw the phone onto the console and get it properly integrated and charged without the drudgery and toil of plugging in. Another first world problem solved.
What’s the performance like?
The petrol 40i is only a three-litre but it goes like the BMW of your imagination. The straight-six engine is pure and sweet and revs like a sports car not an SUV, and it’ll hit 100km/h from zero in 5.5 seconds. Luckily it’s not all about high revs, because plentiful torque will haul it ahead even in high gears. The auto transmission is smooth and is almost supernatural in the way it anticipates your need for a ratio shift.
The 30d diesel is hardly slow, getting you illegal in 6.5 seconds, but in say passing trucks up hills it does labour more than the petrol. Still, it’s quiet for a diesel, is a fine cruiser, uses little fuel and would pull a trailer handily.
What’s it like on the road?
Given the overall weight with driver aboard is 2.2 tonnes, the X5 is amazingly agile through bends. It controls roll and body heave with some aplomb, and at road speeds manages not to feel nose-heavy.
But the test cars had optional four-wheel steering, and it felt inconsistent in the amount of turn you got for a given degree of steering input. This is because the rear tyres are angled according to a load of factors: speed, rate of turn, slip angle, position of the sport button, and several more. The programming of that map seems wrong to us. Sure the system adds manoeuvrability in tight urban spaces, but really, this is a BMW and we’re old enough to remember when they were the ultimate driving machine. Not parking.
Talking of which, there are a number of parking aids, including an optional system that will take over the steering and reverse out of a space following the exact course you used to get in there hours or even days previously.
Despite the taut cornering, your backside won’t be punished. The tester had 21-inch wheels and shallow tyres, and its ride can be abrupt over sharp bumps. But overall the suspension is supple enough, and quiet. It settles well at speed.
Part of the credit for all this goes to the tech in the suspension; it’s a variable-height air system that’ll drop a few mm for fast road use. It also has standard adaptive dampers. And it can raise for off-roading.
What’s it like off the road?
This is a bit of a surprise. Ground clearance is 214mm and fording depth 500mm. No Range Rover then, and still a machine that relies on brakes rather than axle articulation for getting a grip on undulating ground. But we took it on a rising, falling, twisty, rough track between trees and it was obviously happy to go beyond where the more crossovery, less SUV-ish rivals would have grounded or otherwise slithered to a stop.
We had the optional off-road pack, which adds different conditions (sand, snow, gravel, rock) to the mode switch. Those alter the throttle aggression, DSC thresholds, ride height and more. Underbody protection and a different centre diff calibration are included. An all-round set of cameras have perspective-altering software that manages to give you a very handy view of whichever wheel you choose, and the obstacles around it. That saves a lot of jumping in and out.
What safety features does it get?
The X5 is related to the 5-series and X3, which have both had strong results in crash tests, and the Euro NCAP tests of their autonomous braking systems.
The X5 gets basic warning systems as standard, and sensors to help make up for the fact rear visibility when manoeuvring is never that good in a car this bulky.
The optional ‘pro’ driver assistance pack includes rear blind-spot and cross-traffic warnings, plus steering and radar assist for motorway cruising. In some countries you are allowed to take your hands off the wheel for an unlimited time at speeds under 60km/h as it traces the road or the car in front.
Sensibly, the instrument pod contains a camera aimed at your face. Its image processor analyses your gaze to make sure you’re still looking at the road. If you don’t, it’ll turn the aids off. They’re aids, not substitutes.
Visibility forward is improved with LED headlights, or especially so with the optional blazing bright laserlight lamps. Those things need to be used to be believed.