Back in 1999, when BMW first launched the X5 onto a world where large SUVs were still considered the playthings of rugged outdoorsy types, the Bavarian brand tapped into a niche market to quickly become the ‘oh dahling’ of a certain subset of society.
With BMW brand cachet married to its high-riding stance, the original – and pioneering – X5 quickly became a volume seller, flagging a future direction for the brand where the chromed ‘X’ became ubiquitous on the tailgate of Bayerische Motoren Werke high-riders numbered from ‘1’ through ‘7’.
But it’s the X5 that started it all, and as such holds a special place in the pantheon of modern automotive history. Now into its fourth generation, an all-new gen born in 2019, we have the 2020 BMW X5 xDrive25d in the garage to see if this latest incarnation still lives up the ethos of the original.
With a starting price a single ‘hunge’ short of six figures ($99,900 plus on-roads), the 25d is the most affordable X5 money can buy. And by a long margin. You’ll need another $18,000 or so to step up into the 30d, the only other diesel in the range.
From there it’s another three grand to step into the most affordable petrol variant, the 40i, which kicks off a petrol range topping out with the $151,900 M50i. No X5M. Yet.
Of course, this is BMW. And that means, like pretty much every other high-end premium brand, there are added extras to consider. Our Black Sapphire metallic ($2000) X5 isn’t immune from the options list.
The biggest is the near 10 per cent premium ($9900) over the starting price for the M Sport pack, which brings a host of add-ons to make your X5 feel a little more special: 20-inch alloys shod in runflat rubber, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive suspensions, lumbar support, ‘M’ aerodynamics package, ‘M’ branded door sills, a leather-wrapped ‘M’ steering wheel, aluminium ‘mesh effect’ interior trims, and a swag of exterior finishes in high gloss. There’s also the leather ‘Vernasca’ interior trim.
But, also on the options list of this particular X5 is ‘Merino’ extended leather trim in black with brown contrast stitching at a cool $3200. That's on top of the money already spent for the faux-to-real leather upgrade that comes as part of the nearly $10K M Sport package. Hmmm.
The luggage compartment pack adds an electric cover for the cargo area; a cute idea, but we found it glitchy. Save yourself $1200 and close the luggage cover by hand. It’s not that hard.
A smattering of minor optional accoutrements brings the as-tested price to $117,400 plus on-road costs; a not inconsiderable jump from the sub-$100K (just) starting price.
It all adds up to a heightened premium package worthy of the X5’s legacy, even if, as is the case, this is the entry-level family hauler. And even if it only has four cylinders under that big bonnet.
Powering the xDrive25d is a 2.0-litre (1995cc to be exact) four-cylinder turbo diesel putting out a healthy 170kW (at 4400rpm) and 440Nm (between 1500–3000rpm). Those outputs are sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed ‘Sports’ automatic, combining to propel the 2070kg (kerb) luxury barge from 0–100km/h in 7.5 seconds – not especially quick, but neither is it slow. Top speed, not that it matters, is a middling yet numerically pleasing 222km/h according to the spec sheet.
How that translates into the real world is surprisingly pleasing. It might be a big bugger, and there might only be four cylinders doing the hard work, but the X5 in this spec is eager to a point, certainly for most circumstances. Moving away from standstill doesn’t provide a challenge, the X5 getting away at a brisk pace. So, too, for overtakes on the move.
Step on the accelerator and the eight-speed auto shuffles down a ratio or two and there’s a healthy dollop of torque shuffled to the wheels to get the X5 moving. It never feels overworked, and certainly not under most applications.
It’s sublimely quiet, too. Diesel clatter? Forget it. Pull up at the service station pump and you’ll spend a moment second-guessing yourself which handle to pull up next to. This is a refined diesel, make no mistake.
Its on-road manners, too, are every bit the premium experience we expect (even if they don’t always deliver) from the high-end Germans. In the case of this X5, the news is good.
Yes, the xDrive25d sits on adaptive dampers, but the tune has been executed very much with comfort in mind. Compliant, cosseting, and isolating are the hallmarks of this X5. It’s as if BMW has left the sportier set-ups for those higher up the powertrain tree, focussing instead on refinement and comfort.
Those are – or should be – the hallmarks of any BMW X5, heck, any BMW bar the sportier ‘M’ versions. So it’s pleasing that BMW’s most affordable X5 goes down this road.
It’s an ethos carried through to the cabin, where the premium feel abounds in – almost – every facet. The use of materials, their tactility and how they are screwed together gushes with that luxo vibe. That Merino leather looks and feels the part, although the contrasting brown stitching is a bit lukewarm at best.
The dash-mounted 12.3-inch touchscreen anchors the X5’s infotainment, and now runs the brand’s latest 7.0 operating system.
As well as native sat-nav (with real-time traffic updates), there’s the usual array of digital wizardry: Bluetooth connectivity, DAB+ radio, live news and weather updates, wireless Apple CarPlay, along with a host of settings for the vehicle such as ambient lighting.
The interface looks sleek with crisp, hi-res graphics, while controlling the system can be done via the console-mounted rotary dialler or shortcut buttons, gesture controls (a gimmick to impress your mates the first time and then forget about) and via the brand’s Siri-like ‘hey BMW’ voice commands, which proved a bit temperamental. The rotary dialler worked best, every time.
Wireless CarPlay worked a treat with one caveat: connecting the first time can be a bit glitchy. It took around 10 minutes initially, and this wasn’t my first time at the BMW wireless CarPlay rodeo. However, once connected it’s brilliant. Open the car door, and before you’ve even sat in the driver’s seat CarPlay is up and running.
There’s a certain commanding presence sitting in the driver’s seat, as you stare out at the acres of bonnet in front of you. This is a vehicle with presence, and never is that more emphasised than sitting behind the wheel.
The wheel, typically BMW and chunky in hand (I like it, even if many don’t), frames BMW’s 12.3-inch driver display, which is all gimmick, no substance.
In trying to follow the trend of ever more informative digital driver displays, BMW has missed the mark. Yes, there are the digital dials for tacho and speedo, but the rest of the space is largely wasted. Run maps inside the driver display and you’re presented with little more than a ghosted image of lines that provide exactly zero useful information – no street names, no directions, instead just a crisscrossed network of lines that correlate to nothing. It’s a case of BMW trying to keep up with the Audis. And failing.
You can toggle through different info screens, but again they’re short on actual info and heavy on bling (full colour, crisp resolution album cover artwork for Spotify playlists anyone?).
Luckily, the head-up display offers sharp graphics and a wealth of information, leaving you wondering why BMW bothered with what it calls Live Cockpit Professional at all.
Overall, it’s a minor thing, with critical information readily and easily available. But I fail to understand why go to all that trouble to make something that is, well, a bit underwhelming.
Move into the second row and there’s a decent amount of critical space in all of the important areas. The seats are comfy, too – not always a given, so kudos. It’s nice and airy back there, as well, although the two-pane panoramic roof probably helped in that regard.
Creature comforts for second-row passengers include air vents (although no climate controls), USB points for charging devices, and decent if scattered stowage solutions.
There are also sun blinds on the rear passenger windows to keep the harsh rays off the kiddies, who can be accommodated safely via the usual array of ISOFIX and top-tether points.
Safety is an area BMW has traditionally not skimped on, and that’s the case here, too. The 3.0-litre diesel X5 variant carries a five-star ANCAP rating issued in 2018 when the new-gen was launched. It’s not a stretch to think the 2.0-litre diesel would achieve a similar score, even if technically it remains untested by ANCAP/Euro NCAP.
Safety tech includes blind-spot alert, lane-keeping assist, front and rear cross-traffic alert, driver-fatigue warning, tyre pressure monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop/go function and autonomous emergency braking. There’s a full complement of airbags covering both rows, while parking assistant can parallel-park the X5 for you, if you trust the system.
There’s also reversing assistant, which will reverse the X5 out of a tricky spot according to the last 50 forward metres driven at speeds up to 36km/h. We can see this being handy in especially tight spots.
Cargo space is generous at 650L, expanding to a healthy 1870L with the second-row seats stowed flat. And we love the split-fold tailgate that makes for easy loading. A space-saver spare hides under the boot floor.
BMW claims the X5 xDrive25d will get by on 6.7L/100km on the combined cycle. Our week of admittedly predominantly urban driving returned mid-nines. Longer, loping highway runs should see that number drop substantially. The fuel tank measures in at 80L and is good for, according to BMW, around 1100km of motoring.
BMW’s standard three-year/100,000km warranty looks a bit skinny in an era where five years is increasingly the norm. Servicing comes in at $2150 for the first five years/80,000km under BMW’s Service Inclusive package, which covers annual vehicle checks, oil changes, all filters, and labour costs.
It’s easy to see BMW hasn’t scrimped on luxury with its entry-level X5. It might be the most affordable X5 money can buy, but it’s still loaded with a level of standard equipment offering refinement and comfort.
Yes, there are some minor gripes around the infotainment system and driver display, while the optional luggage compartment pack simply didn’t work as intended.
And yet, as a driver’s tool, the X5 continues to fly the flag it has since 1999, with a plush ride, decent dynamics, and enough urgency from the four-cylinder powertrain to never feel stressed. It's ideal for the school run.