The current generation of X5 looks and feels softer and more luxurious, both inside and out.
Inside, the design will be instantly familiar to anyone who's been in other late-model BMWs. Only here the horizontal-shelf layout, with a cockpit-style instrument zone, is wrapped over (and just behind) by a separate layer that merges in with the rest of the dash at the door trim. For the first time, two interior themes can be ordered as an upgrade to the standard poplar wood trim and black leatherette upholstery: Ivory White Nappa leather matches up with oak or other wood trims, while the Mocha look gets Nappa leather in that color and black Nappa leather on the dash, with contrasting wood trim. Dakota leather upholstery is standard on the xDrive50i and available on the other models.
The X5 can be finagled with any of three trim lines. Luxury Line X5s have more bright metallic flourishes, while the xLine gets a blacked-out grille and under-mirror trim, with bright window sills. The M Sport adds a body kit, Shadowline trim, and high-gloss roof rails, as well as bigger wheels.
At its root, it's more gracefully sculpted than its ancestors, in measurable amounts but not in any dramatic fashion. The influences of the latest X3 show up plainly in its sideview, just as those from BMW's latest sedans appear in its front end. The combination of tapered roofline and somewhat lowered beltline give the X5 a bit more of a sport-wagon look than before--the proportions make more visual sense, though it's not a huge transformation on the order of, say, the first- and second-generation Cayenne.
Down its sides, the X5's sculpturing does what the stampings on a Mustang or an S-Class do, scouring some visual weight off its flanks without disturbing the natural order of all car styling--at least, of our modern vintage. The scoop-outs are functional, though, directing air around the wheels. The character line that pulls up from the front fenders toward the LED taillights injects some wedge into the shape, a welcome change from the first X5 and its insistence on regular form and outline.
It's an attempt to blur the SUV reality further off the X5's face, but the complex intersection of lines across its nose comes off as overwrought. The front kidney grille is “thrust forward,” as BMW puts it, while it's supplemented with a smirk of a horizontal intake just below, and a larger intake down below. The X5's headlights are set high up, and better-detailed than ever--and can be swapped out entirely for all-LED units.