EL SEGUNDO, California, and DETROIT, Michigan—During the launch of its all-new X5, BMW set us loose on an off-road course outside of Atlanta. We were impressed with the SUV’s ability to churn through mud, descend steep hills with little available traction, and float over rough terrain while keeping occupants coddled inside. We were disappointed, however, with how little time we were able to test the car on the road. So when we were given the recent opportunity to sample two nearly identical xDrive40i models—one in California and one in Michigan—we were eager to spend more time on the tarmac.
Once you get underway in the X5, the first thing that’s apparent is that the $1,000 air suspension is a good idea. Combined with the standard adaptive dampers, it made every journey preternaturally smooth on California’s relatively decent pavement, and senior digital editor Erik Johnson said the same was true on Michigan, where the roads resemble piles of gravel more than proper driving surfaces.
He reports that the heavy 20-inch wheels and run-flat tires clomp a bit over potholes, but that’s to be expected with that $600 package’s shorter, stiffer sidewalls. Stick with the 19-inch standard wheel or fit conventional tires, and the ride will be that much better. The big rolling stock helps deliver good steering feel, however, and chucking the X5 into corners reveals nimble handling and a flat attitude, while freeway sprints show a greater sense of refinement than in the old X5. The latest X5 and new full-size X7 share the same platform, and it provides a clear foundation for the two SUVs’ high levels of sophistication.
The calibration of accelerator-pedal response is nearly perfect, and dipping into it spurs a buttery, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six producing 335 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. The power is plenty enough to hustle the X5 around, and it’s strong enough to make one reconsider ordering the xDrive50i and its twin-turbo V-8. The eight-speed automatic transmission shuttles through the gears with crisp efficiency and shifts under hard acceleration are accompanied by delightful snorts and grunts from the exhaust, encouraging you to keep the pedal pressed to the floor.
Aesthetically, our BMWs had the looks to match the X5’s sporty character. Both were covered in Mineral White Metallic paint, which looks a smidge generic until bright sunlight reveals its flakes, but it contrasts well with the black plastic body cladding. The kidney grilles are of course huge in contemporary BMW fashion, but they’re not as comically large as on the refreshed 2020 7-series or the X7. Each of our X5s were also fitted with the $400 optional running boards, which look cool enough, but aren’t really necessary for getting into the X5. Use them and you end up too high to comfortably fold yourself inside; don’t use them and you’ll drag a pant leg across every time. Combined with the heavily bolstered seat, average to smaller drivers may find entrance a little pinched.
The sumptuously upgraded cabins were lined in Coffee Vernasaca leather on the seats and, in the case of our California example, were teamed with the $1200 leather dashboard for an especially opulent look. The only other difference between was the West Coaster’s heated armrests, which cost $250 and were welcome on an especially drizzly and chilly weekend. (Johnson survived in colder Detroit just fine without them.) Harman/Kardon premium audio runs just $875 and seems a worthwhile upgrade for its improved clarity and fidelity you’ll enjoy in the whisper-quiet cabin; another level of sound is available in the $4,200 Bowers & Wilkins system, as well.
As a modern luxury vehicle, the X5 is of course available with plenty of safety and driver-assistance tech. The $1,700 Driving Assistance Plus option brings collision warning and mitigation, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, active cruise control, and semi-automated freeway driving. Which features are active can be customized via a menu activated by pressing a button on the center of the dash—when they’re all on, the button shows a green force field; how cute—and most of it works unobtrusively. Johnson found, however, the lane-keep assist to be overeager in operation, often activating when the X5 was still some distance from a lane line. He preferred it off.
Our X5s also had the $2,050 Premium package. It adds a multicamera setup that displays top-down or ground-level 360-degree views, wireless device charging, a color head-up display, gesture control, onboard Wi-Fi, more functionality to the Bluetooth and USB connections, and automatic parking. For all that, the price doesn’t seem so bad, but the trick camera setup seemed to us to be the only indispensable item.
The final cherry on top was the Executive Package, which also runs $2,050. Remote engine start is a must-have in Michigan and nice to have for chilly mornings in L.A., while shades for the rear windows help solar load in places like California and keep the little ones cool everywhere. Soft-close doors were a welcome inclusion, too—they cinch the doors shut if you don’t quite close them hard enough—as were the crisp and bright LED and laser headlights. None is necessary, but the bundle does help the X5 feel even more luxurious.
Although it may not seem like it, our test examples actually went light on the extras. Our California X5 went for $73,980, the one in Michigan $72,530. You can push an X5 xDrive 40i past the $90,000 mark, but we were quite satisfied with the performance and luxury in the ones we drove.
After spending plenty of time with the 2019 X5 in its most appropriate environment—on the road—and knowing how well it can tackle the occasional excursion off those paved paths, it proved itself to be comfortable, capable, and a daily driver that can satisfy even enthusiast drivers. At least until they can swap for their Z4 on the weekend, that is.
2019 BMW X5 xDrive40i Specifications
|PRICE||$61,695/$72,530–$73,980 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.0L DOHC 24-valve turbocharged inline-6; 335 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 330 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||20/26 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||194.3 x 78.9 x 69 in|
|0–60 MPH||5.3 sec|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|