Its G05 code name may never rank with E46 or E39, but the latest X5 is still plenty good
This story has been updated with test results.
Unlike BMW’s sports sedans, its SUVs have no revered progenitors, no E39 or E46 to engender nostalgia and unfair comparisons. The X5 has always been competent and commercially successful, but it has never really been exalted. So BMW doesn’t have to launch the fourth generation of its mid-size SUV with the promise that the company is getting back on track, as it’s doing with the impending new 3-series. Instead, the Bavarians are perfectly content to prove that this X5 is simply a better, more capable, and more advanced version of the last X5. And that’s exactly what it is.
Slightly larger than before in wheelbase, width, and length, the new X5’s proportions are eminently familiar, even if its kidney grille has grown to near-comical proportions. Its skin is pulled tauter over the corners, and the side surfacing adds a bit of interest with a line that kicks up at the rear door, making it look more athletic, but it’s far from revolutionary.
BMW’s New and Improved Platform
There’s a fair amount of novel stuff going on underneath, however. BMW is migrating its entire lineup to just two modular platforms, and the X5 is the latest to switch to the Cluster Architecture (CLAR) that also underpins the new 3-series. Its double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear are complemented by newly standard adaptive dampers and an optional suspension that now brings air springs to the front in addition to the rear axle; they were only available out back previously. Rear-wheel steering is a new offering, and some of the last X5’s options—including active anti-roll bars, variable-ratio steering, and an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential—continue on here.
This vast array of chassis tech is all part of BMW’s assertion that the new X5 handles better on-road and is also more capable off-road. We can’t dispute this claim after initially experiencing the new X5 on a legitimately challenging off-road course as well as on some twisty two-lanes around Atlanta. It’s impressive in the dirt, with all the requisite systems, including standard hill-descent control, making it easy to crawl down rocks—despite the fact that even when fitted with the new Off-Road package, the examples we drove wore decidedly street-biased Pirelli P Zero summer tires.
More relevant are the X5’s road manners, which improve on the old model’s clunky ride and loose steering with a more connected feel and a greater sense of refinement. The primary controls are still somewhat aloof—a tall two-and-a-half-ton SUV is never going to provide the sharp responses of a sports sedan, and we don’t expect it to—but there’s little slop in the steering, and the brake pedal responds progressively to inputs. An X5 we tested in Michigan on Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-season tires circled the skidpad at 0.89 g and stopped from 70 mph in 170 feet, notable improvements of 0.08 g and eight feet compared with its predecessor. The X5 is also supremely quiet, confidently settling into a stable highway cruise with barely any wind or road noise permeating the cabin
You might hear a hint of the xDrive40i model’s sweet-singing inline-six under hard acceleration, but the engine note is hushed, too. This 335-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter mill is familiar from elsewhere in the BMW lineup, and it works as beautifully in the X5 as it does in other Bimmers. Sixty mph comes up in a scant 4.9 seconds, 1.1 second quicker than in the old 35i model. Shifts from the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission are snappy, and the engine is so smooth, satisfying, and potent throughout the rev range that the 456-hp twin-turbo V-8 xDrive50i, which we have yet to drive, seems like overkill. The 40i also achieved an impressive 28 mpg in our real-world 75-mph highway fuel-economy test. The xDrive designations tell you that all-wheel drive is standard, although a rear-drive price leader will likely join the lineup later, along with diesel and plug-in-hybrid versions.
Fully loaded six-cylinder X5s can exceed $80,000 (the models we drove at the launch were optioned as such, while the more reasonably equipped car pictured here stickered at $72,530). With the right equipment, the X5 features one of the nicest BMW interiors in recent memory. The upright seating position of previous X5s is still here, but the dashboard is a refreshing break from tradition. Knurled knobs, modernized climate-control buttons, and shiny bits of trim bring more flair than we’re used to finding in BMW’s typically dour, businesslike cabins. Optional finishes such as a leather-wrapped dash, glass controls, and no-cost open-pore wood class things up to a level that nearly matches the Volvo XC90’s cabin, the segment’s current posh interior of note. The X5’s instrument cluster is fully digital, and it and the 12.3-inch central display boast new software with crisp, clear graphics and easy-to-understand menu structures accessed via the familiar iDrive controller.
Interior Seating Is Best for Five, Not Seven
The larger exterior footprint provides more space inside, but unlike some competitors, the X5 is not really intended to be a seven-passenger family hauler. The upcoming X7, which will come standard with three rows of seats, will cover that base. The X5’s third row is optional, and while its second row remains quite accommodating, the sixth and seventh seats are, as they were before, for kids only. Other nods toward practicality include an optional power-operated cargo cover and the X5’s familiar two-piece tailgate, the bottom section of which is now powered just like the upper section.
With its array of mechanical and technological upgrades, the new X5 will convince even the most steadfast doubters of its superiority over the X5s that have come before it. As an SUV, it isn’t going to garner the sort of following that ranks its G05 code name among the Bavarian legends, but this is the most accomplished BMW SUV yet, and it wears its many different hats with aplomb.
writter: JOEY CAPPARELLA
published:22 may 2018
source: car and driver
photo credit: digital trends