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First Drive of the 2019 BMW X5

The all-new SAV sets some new benchmarks in its class Automotive columnist: , Updated:

Atlanta, GA – For 2019, the BMW X5 arrives as an all-new SUV (“Sport Activity Vehicle” or “SAV” in BMW speak); new engines, new chassis and AWD architecture, new styling and more tech than your local Best Buy have combined to turn BMW’s second-bestselling model (and bestselling SUV/SAV) in Canada last year into one of the most capable and luxurious entrants in the luxury sport-utility segment.

Styling smash hit
While still recognizable as an X5 – BMW even brought along all three previous generations of the vehicle to demonstrate the new car’s lineage – there’s plenty to root the ’19 model firmly in the present.

The front fascia – as you do in a BMW – is dominated by the kidney grille. And when I say “dominated”, I mean it; it’s bigger now than it has ever been, and is no longer two separate segments, instead being connected by its chrome frame. Bigger it may be, but it manages to suit the X5 well.

What’s funny, though, is that while it is massive, BMW has ensured that the headlights either side of it can hold their own. Indeed, these are two of the most detailed, elegant and purposeful headlamps I’ve seen in a long, long while. Everything from the way the laser high beams are finished in blue (and in case that’s not enough proof, “BMW Laser” is etched into the lens housing – nice) to the dual bulbs framed in gorgeous LED DRLs just oozes absolute class. They are works of art, they are.

The rear fascia isn’t quite so adventurous; the taillights do get a 3D look and the crease above them is a nice touch, but on more than a few occasions, I couldn’t help but think “Audi Q7”. Not a huge problem as the X5’s cross-country competitor is handsome in its own right; it’s just not as unique as it would’ve been had they given just a little more shape to the taillights.

Photo: D.Heyman

Hard to find much fault with the profile, though; the character line swinging upwards over the rear fenders provides a slightly lower stance, while new wheel designs (including, for the first time, a 22-inch option) complete the look. There’s even a subtle version of the signature hofmeister kink on the rear side windows, and it’s all topped off by a perfectly-sized roof spoiler. It’s a little tall to be called station wagon-like, but it’s darn close, especially if you’ve got the adjustable air suspension on its lowest “access height” setting.

Crystal clear
You may be surprised to find that those fantastic crystalline headlights actually dovetail well with what’s going on inside the ’19 X5.

It seems that the usual carbon fibre, wood and aluminum trim pieces aren’t quite special enough for BMW’s latest; it has all that – including some fantastic real open-pore wood that has natural imperfections, proof of how real it is – but BMW has added a further touch of class with a shift lever, engine start/stop button, volume knob and iDrive controller all finished in glass; it’s called “Crystal Clarity” and can be had as a $850 standalone option or as part of the $16,000 Premium Excellence Package that also adds adaptive suspension, merino leather interior and Parking Assistant, which provides automatic parallel or perpendicular parking. This is properly luxurious stuff; the segment benchmark has been set for interior quality and detailing with the X5.

Passenger comfort highlights include optional heated and cooled front cupholders powerful enough to chill a full water bottle, and heated and cooled seats that can be both at once if you don’t want to just be cool, but dry as well. The split rear tailgate returns, and you can actually get the X5 to lower itself with the press of a button on the tailgate’s edge.

Interior dimensions, meanwhile, are pretty much exactly the same as they were previous, with the most notable addition being slightly more headroom.

Photo: D.Heyman

Tech talk
Considering the quality presented by the interior environs, the electronic driver aids better match up. It starts with BMW Connected 7.0, the seventh generation of BMW’s iDrive on-board computer. The main add here is the fully-configurable 12.3-inch main display (equaled in size by the fully digital gauge cluster), that can be configured for two, three or four separate widgets. What’s shown on each widget is fully configurable, from your navi map to your infotainment and communication features, and more.

The gauge cluster itself is also configurable, and it consists of three info panes able to display your speed, current gear, navi map and so forth. Unlike Audi’s offering, BMW has elected not to allow the navi map to take up the whole cluster as they deem that too distracting. Instead, what you get is a black and white map that highlights your immediate route should you have set your navi. It’s a nice touch that I actually found myself using as much as – if not more than – the main full-colour display.

That’s all the launch stuff; since the X5’s on-board computer can be updated on the fly, a number of features will be introduced in 2019, including the ability to start your car via smartphone app. The same app will also let you check parking availability at your destination.

Turbo twice
European markets are getting four models at launch – two with diesel power, two with standard fuel. Fuel offerings include the xDrive50i powered by a twin-turbo V8 ($86,000), and the xDrive40i with turbo-six power ($71,500). While the diesels won’t be available in Canada at the outset, an air of “stay tuned” permeated throughout the event. If that’s not enough for you, then know that a plug-in hybrid xDrive45e version will be here for the 2021 model year; it boasts 394 combined hp and an all-EV range of up to 80 km.