Since the BMW X5 was launched in 1999, it has been referred to by BMW not as a ‘sports utility vehicle’, but as a ‘sports activity vehicle’.
Semantics? Undoubtedly. And yet four generations, 2.2 million sales and an amazing rise to prominence suggest the Munich firm’s marketing department knew what it was doing.
Now, just as it is for the Porsche 911 or Volkswagen Golf GTI, such success is why the new G05-generation X5 has so little margin for error. In fact, the class-leading expectations placed on this new iteration far outweigh those of its great-grandparent, whose brand cachet, practicality and handling prowess made it a winner.
The game has moved on, and BMW has identified comfort as a core dynamic attribute for the car in 2018. Consequently, this new X5 uses acoustic glass for the windscreen and, optionally, the side windows; the suspension is now pneumatic; there is electronic roll stabilisation on some models; and passengers can enjoy four-zone climate control and an enlarged panoramic glass roof.
Naturally, BMW promises a more involving driving experience than ever and we’ll shortly discover whether its engineers continue to defy the laws of physics in this respect.
In 2023, the X5 and its coupé-roofed X6 sibling were given quite an extensive facelift so they could continue to keep up in this very competitive segment. 'Life cycle impulses' – BMW speak for facelifts – are usually quite mild, but the X5 got quite a heavily updated front, an entirely new dashboard and a round of technical updates. The plug-in hybrid in particular received a big bump in power and range.
BMW X5 range at a glance
With the facelift, the X5 range was slimmed down to just four versions. The 3.0-litre diesel xDrive30d remains and is the only one available in the more understated xLine trim. The xDrive40d, which uses a more powerful version of the same engine, is always an M Sport, as is the plug-in hybrid 50e, which will be the company car darling on account of its long electric range. There are no pure-petrol options in the mainstream X5 range because the UK is denied both the xDrive40i and M60i, but you can still go for the V8-powered X5 M. The hugely complex BMW X5 M50d with its quad-turbo diesel, was axed a few years ago.
Transmission: 8-spd automatic