2019 BMW X5 first drive review: The generalist

September 27, 2018

The 2019 BMW X5 is no specialist. It can’t afford to laser-focus on doing one thing well, like BMW’s M2, which really only cares about getting your passengers to grip the oh-crap handle. Or the BMW i3, which really only cares about letting you know its coffee table reading consists entirely of Mother Jones and Dwell.

No, the 2019 X5 has to do everything well. It has to slog down muddy Georgia roads on street tires, has to deliver concert-hall sound from both its engine bay and from its speakers, has to carry five people as if they possessed royal titles, and oh, by the way, has to handle well enough so nail-biters and E36 drivers won’t incessantly moan about how BMW has “lost its way.”

That it does all those things so convincingly is testimony to the fact that BMW, like Subaru and Mercedes, is essentially two brands now, split down the middle between luxury cars and luxury trucks. It’s facile at both, and for now, the 2019 BMW X5 earns a 7.5 out of 10 on our scale.

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

MORE: Read our full 2019 BMW X5 review

There’s not much new in the 2019 X5’s profile, just a different set of priorities. The BMW grille’s become more bulbous in this generation, while the headlights have slimmed a bit. There’s a gentle bump up to the shoulder line down the X5’s flanks, just above the rear wheel well, which keeps its outline from veering into anonymity. Trim taillights point in toward that shoulder line, which lends the X5 a bit more of a muscular set of haunches.

The cabin could tell the same story, but in this generation the X5’s cockpit has taken a handsome gel. There’s some concept-car purity in the way its control pods are cordoned off by thick metallic bands, how twin digital displays dominate the dash. And yet, BMW’s applied some loving touches of crystal to the shifter and the infotainment controller, and swathed expensive versions in supple leather dyed in delicious-looking colors. A mocha-brown theme has the same dark tones as the best boxes of Valrhona chocolates.

It’s lush and permissive enough with interior space to suit most passengers. It rides on a long 117.1-inch wheelbase and sits about an inch longer than last year’s X5, so it’s not substantially different from the third-generation X5. BMW’s base seats give way to superb sport seats with multi-contour adjustment; they cup the front passengers well, but don’t leave much toe room for those in the second row. Slip off the Timberlands, and the X5 accommodates just fine, though the second row doesn’t slide or recline for added comfort. It does fold down to expand the cargo area to more than 72 cubic feet, and a power tailgate comes standard.

So do safety touches such as automatic emergency braking and on most versions, all-wheel drive. BMW’s generous with standard equipment, but the leather is synthetic on base models, and BMW insists on charging an annual fee for Apple CarPlay compatibility. It’s expected the Bowers & Wilkins audio and open-pore gray wood trim will smooth that over, but will it?

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

2019 BMW X5 (40i X line)

MORE: 2019 BMW X5 costs $61,695

If not, the 2019 X5’s performance will. BMW has pulled off a sleight of hand with its SUVs. Over time, they’ve grown ever closer to the handling of its bigger sedans. The latest X3’s a great 3-Series wagon; consider the new X5 an excellent 5er Touring substitute.

We didn’t get to drive the social-climbing X5 xDrive50i, the one with the 456-horsepower twin-turbo V-8. But we never felt impoverished, because with BMW’s brilliant single-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6, torque’s never more than a telepathic hit on the throttle away. With 340 hp, an 8-speed automatic, a Sport drive mode, and rear-biased all-wheel drive in that Sport mode, the X5 cracks off 60-mph runs in 5.3 seconds, and never left us wanting.

Drivetrain fluency’s just the start, though we’d probably leave off the X5’s new active steering system, which turns the rear wheels opposite the fronts at lower speeds to help the X5 corner more effectively. In our middle Georgia street drive, active steering overcompensated for the X5’s long wheelbase with too much counter-steer. Better tuned are BMW’s standard adaptive dampers and the optional air springs on our tester: With that setup, the 2019 X5 has a nearly unflappable poise at the kind of speeds that sometimes end in a change in custody of a driver’s license.

Where the big BMW SUV (for now, there’s an X7 coming soon) doesn’t fare as well is off-road, though this X5 gets a new off-road driving package with underbody protection. It needs better tires than the 21-inch summer treads we slid around on through what we assume was a mosquito colony’s summer digs. In any of the X5’s off-road drive modes, a torque-vectoring rear end helps keep power moving around, but ultimately it’s a matter of grip. If you’re interested in more on the road stick, the X5 can be fitted with a sport-handling package that’s most of the way toward the inevitable X5 M to come.

The bottom line: The 2019 X5 does a little bit of everything, and does most of it very well. It’s BMW’s cleanup batter, its generalist, and after all these years of brilliant M cars and high-water mark sports sedans, it’s the one that has something to offer every driver.

2019
The Car Connection
See the winners »
2019
The Car Connection
 
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from the site. I can withdraw my consent at any time by unsubscribing.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.