You may need to look twice, but this is the all-new BMW X5. Does it have the goods to build on an already impressive F15 X5? Paul Maric finds out...
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That phrase would have been on the whiteboard of every engineer's workstation during development of the X5.
So, when the silk was pulled off the 2019 BMW X5, it stunned by looking virtually the same as the previous-generation X5. But, is that a bad thing? I certainly don't think so.
BMW built on the already impressive base established with the previous X5, and introduced slightly edgier styling, more features, and went to town on technology, which is vital for a luxury SUV in 2019.
Kicking off from $112,900 (plus on-road costs), the xDrive30d is the entry level to the BMW X5 range. Those wanting the petrol will fork out an additional $3000 for the $115,900 (plus on-road costs) xDrive40i model. Finally, customers in dire need of turbochargers will head for the quad-turbocharged M50d.
Styling-wise, there isn't a great deal of change with the X5. But, importantly, the dimensions have been altered to offer more room. Longer (4922mm v 4886mm), wider (2004mm v 1938mm) and taller (1745mm v 1762mm) than before, the X5's styling has been tweaked with a more aggressive look and a greater focus on aggression.
Step inside the cabin and this is an ultra-high-end place to be seated. Every surface feels solid and assembled perfectly, while all touchpoints are softly padded. Even the temperature controls look luxe with their own LCD display featuring metallic buttons.
Piano black is strewn throughout the cabin with glass covers on some buttons. The piano-black treatment looks great, but it attracts fingerprints like you wouldn't believe.
On the tech and connectivity front, buyers get wireless Apple CarPlay built in, plus a move to USB-C connectivity (converter cables are provided) to ensure the car's connectivity is both fast and future-proofed. Kids and friends sitting inside the cabin can also connect to a wireless hotspot for centralised connectivity, which makes streaming movies a breeze.
Despite how big it looks from the outside, there isn't a huge amount of leg and toe room in the second row for taller passengers, especially if the front seat passengers push their seats back.
Two ISOFIX points on the outboard seats offer child seating, while a centre armrest offers two cup holders.
I love the cargo compartment. The tailgate opens with a split top and bottom section. From there, models with air suspension can have the rear lowered for easier access.
Beneath the cargo floor is storage for a space-saver spare tyre, or extra storage space in models with run-flat tyres fitted.
Why is our first drive review of this car so far after the local launch? It's because we drove the same guise of car twice – once before Christmas and once after. After a detailed play with the technology in the initial test car, we discovered there were some bugs with the iDrive 7 implementation and wanted to give BMW a chance to have a look at the car.
The second car we drove had similar issues. These ranged from the head-up display refusing to display subtext menus (fixed with a shutdown and restart), the navigation system offering to resume navigating to a destination in Hungary that we never entered, and the final one was Bluetooth refusing to pair with the phone.
There was also an annoying issue with the voice-recognition software. It appeared to need internet connectivity for navigation entries. But without a connection available, each address entry would require a country specification, then a manual spelling of a town followed by a street name. With external voice recognition, you can literally read out an entire address and a server outside of the car will convert that to text.
One of the cars also had a pretty shoddy paint job around the boot lid and corner joins, where part of the paint was peeling. Our understanding is that these cars were pre-production models and not representative of customer-delivered vehicles.
In and around town, both versions of the X5 rode nicely. We tested both the variant with air suspension and the one without air suspension but with adaptive dampers. Air suspension gives the car a bit more flexibility with the way it responds to things like bumps, speed humps and corrugations.
Adaptive damping, on the other hand, offers a slightly firmer initial hit, but it rounds off the sharpness with variability in damper stiffness. It results in a slightly firmer ride around town where you're met with constant changes in road surface, but a smooth ride out on the highway where road surface changes are less pronounced.
Would we opt for air suspension? Yes, if you're picking a car with bigger wheels. It lets you get the look associated with the bigger wheels, but you won't compromise on ride quality (especially given all the 19-, 20- and 21-inch alloy wheels come with run-flat tyres).
Also in and around town, you're going to love the 360-degree parking camera. It offers a view out the front, sides and rear, along with a bird's-eye view. This is in addition to front and rear parking sensors.
BMW's unique selling proposition is handling dynamics. And, the X5 doesn't fail to deliver. Fitted with the M Sport package, our car rode on 21-inch wheels at all four corners with staggered tyres that measured 275mm wide at the front with 40-profile tyres, while the rear rode on 315mm-wide tyres with 35-profile rubber.
There's a remarkable amount of latitude in the handling dynamics and the way the car moves through a corner. The driving position is spot on for dynamic driving, with an excellent ratio between steering wheel size and steering ratio.
As you start adding more lateral load to the outside tyres, there's an almost endless amount of grip. Begin adding torque to the equation and the X5 starts to feel like a hot hatch more than a family SUV. It's easily the best in this segment at doing corners and will shake off most other mild sports cars, let alone SUVs on a mountain pass.
With the M Sport package, BMW adds big-calliper brakes to help with stopping power. Buyers can also option M Performance brakes that use four-piston callipers with aluminium construction, along with slotted and cross-drilled rotors.
Feel through the steering wheel is sublime, as is communication through the chassis. As the car rumbles over mid-corner bumps, it absorbs them with aplomb and resists the urge to shuffle the car sideways mid-corner.
On gravel, this is amplified with a nicely smoothed out ride that takes the sharp edges off imperfections and delivers a communicative experience.
While the ride and handling are on point, the 30d engine is the real sweet spot in the range. While you can go nuts with the quad-turbocharged M50d, or go for the turbocharged petrol option, the 30d is now such a versatile engine that you forget it's a diesel.
With the 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder diesel, there's virtually no lag and it delivers a mighty 620Nm of torque, which peaks at 2000rpm and runs through to 2500rpm. That's on top of 195kW of power and a combined fuel consumption of just 7.2 litres of fuel per 100km.
The gearbox is also excellent. It's an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly through gears and offers manual shift options via the steering wheel and an enhanced shift pattern through the Sport mode.
We managed to come in at 8.2L/100km during our time with the car, which included a mix of city and highway driving.
Let's talk about technology. iDrive 7 is a big step forward in terms of processing power. While BMW doesn't quote specific processing power, the screen now measures 12.3 inches and features horizontally stacked menu items with a touchscreen. It teams with another 12.3-inch screen ahead of the driver, with both screens offering a 1920x720 resolution.
Whereas I found iDrive incredibly easy to use, this new version, dubbed Live Cockpit, isn't quite as intuitive. Some of the items can be buried in confusing menus and simple items are often nested deeply in random places. It does become more intuitive as you spend more time with it, but thankfully it's matched with a precise and easy to use voice-recognition system (when it works).
The sound system (both the standard and optional Harman Kardon 16-speaker units) is excellent and gives you the luxury car feel with no rattles or distortion as the volume increases.
The Live Cockpit screen ahead of the driver is sharp and offers a fast refresh rate for lag-free movement between road or engine speeds. The display can also be customised by the driver and changes as the driver switches between drive modes. Each of the drive modes brings with it changes to the ride, steering and throttle calibration to tailor the driving experience.
Don't be under the illusion that owning a BMW is going to be an expensive experience. Surprisingly, owners can pre-purchase five years (or 80,000km) of servicing for $1795. With 12-month service intervals, that comes out to a reasonable $359 per service.
But, you'll only be offered a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Luxury cars are somehow only warranted for a fraction of the time in comparison to much cheaper consumer vehicles.
We were pretty disappointed with the technical issues that plagued our two BMW test cars. Sure, they're pre-production models, but we don't really have a way of knowing whether consumer cars will be stung with the same tech or paint issues we found on our two test vehicles.
Technical issues to the side, the BMW X5 is a marked improvement over the outgoing model. Not an easy feat given the previous generation of X5 was just as fun to drive.
The only problem now is that the entry level is so well equipped and offers such a good engine, there's little point to spend any more money on the M50d.