It might not be the most exciting vehicle BMW has to offer, but there’s no denying the importance of its X5 sport utility. Since the model debuted in 1999, nearly 1.3 million have been sold. In 2012, BMW’s U.S. dealers sold 44,445 X5s, making it the third best-selling BMW model in America, following the 3 and 5 Series.
That said, the second-generation X5 was nearly seven years old and squaring off against newer, fresher models from the competition. Unsurprisingly, BMW’s solving that conundrum by launching a new model – the 2014 BMW X5.
Cosmetically, the new 2014 X5 follows in the footsteps of the 5 Series and 3 Series: its shape is a careful evolution of a familiar form, but infused with recent BMW design cues. Headlamps are reminiscent of those used on the present-day 5, but, like today’s 3 Series, they’re stretched until they reach the surrounds of the signature kidney grille elements. The front fenders flow neatly into the hood’s surfaces, while the lower front fascia’s vertical surfaces are broken up by new G-shaped lower air intakes. Look carefully, and you may see active aerodynamic shutters beneath those grille inserts – a first, BMW says, for its X-line of crossovers.
Moving to the rear of the car, the X5’s upright roofline and signature window opening – complete with Hoffmeister kink in the D-pillar – are carried into the new model, but new body sculpting lends the rear fenders a little more shoulder than before. A two-piece liftgate/tailgate combination remains in place, but new tail lamps and wrap-around D-pillars help distinguish the 2014 X5 from its predecessors.
Like the 3 Series and X1 ranges, the X5 is available with three different “design packages” that alter trim and finishes ever so slightly. Looking for a butch appearance? The xLine package adds stainless steel front and rear scuff plates, matte silver grille inserts, satin aluminum window trim, aluminum running boards, and grey 19-inch aluminum wheels. Buyers looking for a softer look can opt for the Luxury Line package, which includes monochromatic body cladding and wheel surrounds, gloss black grille inserts, and chromed window trim. Boy racers can opt for the M Sport package, which throws in a unique body kit, shadowline window and body trim, and 19-inch double-spoke wheels.
Inside, the new X5 is in lock-step with modern BMW design language, but a step forward from the last model’s aging appointments. The upper and lower dash trim elements sweep neatly into the shape of the dashboard, while the standard 10.5-inch LCD screen stands upright, towering above the center stack. In a break from the BMW norm, navigation — along with Bluetooth connectivity and USB audio inputs — is standard. So too is leather seat trim, but two optional interior design packages can wrap the X5’s seating with saddle or ivory-colored hides. Reclining, heated seatbacks for the second-row are available, as is a folding third-row bench that provides seating for seven.
Beneath the surface, the new 2014 X5 bears a close resemblance to the outgoing model. Base models make use of the familiar 300-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission, but all-wheel-drive is no longer a given. For the first time in X5 history, a rear-wheel-drive model – the sDrive35i – joins the lineup alongside the all-wheel-drive xDrive35i. Buyers seeking eight-cylinder power can still opt for the xDrive50i, which uses an updated version of the N63 twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8. The new engine cranks out 445 hp between 5500-6000 rpm and 480 lb-ft between 2000-4500 rpm, marking increases of both 45 hp and 30 lb-ft, respectively.
Diesel lovers will be happy to learn the X5 xDrive35d model returns for 2014, this time with an all-new 3.0-liter, turbo-diesel inline-six. This engine – which will also be ported to the 5 Series range at a later date – develops 255 hp and an incredibly stout 413 lb-ft of torque. Both figures are just shy of the outgoing xDrive35d, but both peak horsepower and peak torque are delivered lower in the power band than before. Better yet, the xDrive35d is now offered with an eight-speed automatic, where it previously was relegated to a six-speed slushbox.
BMW may pride itself on being the ultimate driving machine, but a number of options on the new 2014 X5 actually help reprieve the driver from that very act. A new Driving Assistant package not only lumps in lane departure warning, but a collision warning system that can brake the vehicle if it detects an object – or, at speeds up to 37 mph, a pedestrian – in its path. Adaptive cruise control is also offered, but come December, the system will be bundled with BMW’s Traffic Jam Assistant functionality, which can control throttle, brake, and steering input at speeds up to 25 mph. Also coming in December is the optional Parking Assistant, which can scout for a suitable spot and autonomously parallel park the X5.
That’s neat, but there’s still some good news for those who actually enjoy spending time behind the wheel. Dynamic Performance Control, included with the optional Dynamic Handling Package, is BMW-speak for a torque-vectoring rear differential, similar to the one offered in the previous X5 M. The trick diff will actually overdrive the outer rear wheel in a corner, allowing the truck to rotate and improving turn-in. A Dynamic Damper Control package adds adaptive dampers at all four corners, along with air suspension for the rear axle. A modified form of this setup with stiffer damper and spring rates is only available in conjunction with the M Sport package. Despite these new options and a raft of new standard features, BMW says it was also able to whittle nearly 170-230 pounds from the X5’s curb weight by increasing the use of aluminum, magnesium, and high-strength steel throughout the vehicle.
Pricing and fuel economy figures remain unknown at this moment, but the mystery shouldn’t last long. Production of the 2014 X5 s/xDrive35i and xDrive50i models begin in Spartanburg, South Carolina in August 2013, while production of diesel-powered xDrive35d models is scheduled to begin in December.