As the first large sporty 4x4 to arrive into showrooms in 1999, it’s fair to say that the BMW X5 was a revelation when it first went on sale.
That it’s been a huge success with more than 2.2 million global sales perhaps isn’t much of a surprise, but it is something of an eyebrow-raising statistic that this latest model will already be the fourth-generation of the X5. Longer, wider and taller than before, this new X5 is also arriving into a very different car market from that in 1999. In BMW’s own showroom alone, the X3 is now actually larger than that 1999 original and the even-larger X7 will join the range in spring 2019.
And while BMW claims improved luxury, performance and, crucially, off-road ability for this new X5, it will need a step forward too. With rivals like the Volvo XC90, Land Rover Discovery and forthcoming new Mercedes GLE, this is hardly a sector of the market where you can afford to take buyers for granted.
BMW expects the majority of X5 sales to be the M Sport rather than xLine trim, setting back buyers an extra £3500, but air suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, sports seats and an electric tailgate are standard on all models. BMW has also grouped many options into packages including a Comfort Plus package including massaging and cooled front seats and an xOffroad package including a differential lock, off-road modes and a sump guard.
Highlights are the £1,390 option to turn the X5 into a seven-seater – chosen by around half of all buyers – and the panoramic roof which is 30 per cent bigger than before and also has a star effect option with 15,000 lights built into the glass like the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Interesting too is BMW’s continued fitment of a split tailgate due to strong positive owner feedback – unlike Land Rover which of course dropped it for the current Discovery.
BMW expects around two-thirds of all X5 sales to be taken by this 3.0-litre 30d model, although it’s evidence of the downturn in diesel that a quarter will be taken by the 345PS (340bhp) 3.0-litre turbo-petrol. A plug-in hybrid is due to arrive next year.
Not that this 30d is a short-straw mind you. With 269PS (265bhp) it manages the 0 to 62mph sprint in 6.5 seconds with a 143mph top speed, 47.1mpg official combined fuel economy and 158g/km emissions.
What is noticeable though is the X5’s improved refinement levels, with engine, road and wind noise all minimal making it a very capable cruiser. The ride quality is excellent too and while the big BMW’s handling has definitely lost some of its sporting sharpness compared to before, its body control via that air suspension is still superb.
Four generations on and it’s hard not acknowledge that the X5 is a very strong proposition as ever. Even in a class where talented rivals aren’t hard to find, the BMW stands out for its sheer competence in all areas and also that noticeably improved on-road refinement.
Yes, some will undoubtedly point to its reduced driver-focus, but that’s a minor loss on a car that’s primarily aimed towards family buyers and also when the improvements elsewhere are so comprehensive. Even the X5’s off-road ability – an oft-quoted past criticism (even if a largely irrelevant one for many) – has been addressed. It might not ultimately match the Discovery, but it will be noticeable for anyone who needs a car for towing.
Make no mistake, four-generations on, this latest BMW X5 is better than ever.