2019 BMW X5 Review

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad

As the number of X models increases yearly (with the X2 just arriving and X7 coming soon), BMW has to make sure that the big daddy of the lineup is up to the world-class standard that the brand represents.

Now entering its fourth generation, the X5 features more technology to help establish its mission as a premium SUV. Smoother, smarter, and now superior off-road, the new X5 is a great followup to the bestselling generation of X5 that precedes it.

The formula is still mostly the same. Buyers can get an X5 with a turbocharged straight six or V8, each one revised and updated in their own way. We didn’t get to spend much time with the eight, which is an engine that has more in common with the new 8 Series grand touring coupe than the outgoing X5’s motor. Making 462 horsepower, the X5 feels as capable as ever. It’s paired with an 8-speed automatic, and the brand’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system. We spent more time with the more mainstream six-cylinder, an engine that makes 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Don’t let the size fool you, because these are fast vehicles: 0-62 mph (100 km/h) happens in 5.5 seconds in the six-cylinder and 4.7 seconds in the eight. A plug-in electric model is coming soon too.

More Tech Know-How Than the Genius Bar


Engines: 3.0L turbocharged inline-six/4.4L turbocharged V8
Output: 335 hp, 330 lb-ft (3.0L)/456 hp, 479 lb-ft (4.4L)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: TBD
Starting Price (USD): $61,695 (3.0L)/$76,745 (V8)
Starting Price (CAD): $71,500 (3.0L)/$86,000 (V8)

The automaker often brands its X vehicles as “Sport Activity Vehicles,” rather than Sport Utility Vehicles, mainly due to how the big vehicles behave on road. The X5 continues this tradition and features a number of optional features that make the X5 less truck-like to drive, with a more managed, almost fun on-road feel. The M Sport Differential shifts power on the rear axle to the outer wheel to give a sportier drive, while a new four-wheel steering system is in play as well. This is one of those steering systems that move the rear wheels opposite the front ones at low speeds, and in parallel with the front axle at higher speeds, with an articulation of up to three degrees. It’s more noticeable at low speeds, helping the big X5 feel a bit more agile in parking spots and in tight traffic.

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We’ve barely scratched the surface of the X5’s tech offerings that improve the driving performance. For example, the two-axle air suspension system that can raise when off-roading has a few other clever tricks, like the ability to automatically raise when the car’s stability section detects that the car is wading in water. In addition to that reaction, the car also closes its shutters in the grille to help prevent any water getting into the intake. The air suspension system can also take into consideration when one of the run-flat tires gets a puncture. By adjusting the suspension, it reduces the load on the tire so it can last a bit longer. The air suspension can even tuck right down into a loading mode to help with entry and exit of the vehicle, as well as loading things into the trunk.

Even the Trunk is Smart

That trunk still features a split-tailgate design, a quirky trait that BMW seems eager to keep around. But there are also a few high-tech extras found in the cargo area. For starters, there’s a powered cargo cover that not only keeps things hidden but can slide down between the cargo area and the rear seats. There are also interesting running boards in the cargo space, designed as rubber strips bordered by a chrome outline. The metallic bits mean that cargo is easy to load into the car and slide all the way forward, but once the car gets going, the rubber parts raise a tiny bit, and give your items extra grip, allowing it to stay in place. This is fortunate, as the 33.9 to 72.3 cubic feet (959.9 to 2047.3 L) of storage is a touch less than the outgoing vehicle, which offered 35.8 to 76.7 cubic feet (1013.7 to 2171.9 L), although the difference doesn’t look like much.

On the Road

That’s fortunate because the fleet-footed X5 is not only quick but can offer some decently sporty feel on the road. No doubt due to the car’s long list of chassis and powertrain technologies, it means the X5 doesn’t ever feel like a lumbering SUV the way a Range Rover Sport, Infiniti QX80, or Lexus GX might. This is far more premium and responsive, with elegant, if numb steering feel that’s not overly isolated from the road. The brakes have an awkward feel that doesn’t seem too natural. The X5 uses a brake-by-wire system, with a brake force simulator on the pedal in order to provide raking feedback and resistance, but it took some getting used to.

See Also: 2018 Infiniti QX80 Review

Activity and/or Utility Vehicle

Where the X5 really impressed was on the rugged and lengthy off-road course, a setup at Painted Rock outside of Atlanta, Georgia, which seems to have been originally designed for Land Rovers. The course saw us staring skywards as the X5 ascended easily up hills. We utilized the various cameras to help place the big SUV through narrow, tree-lined trails. We used the hill-descent control system to stare down steep grades too — conditions that I’d say are 10 times more hardcore than the lifetime of off-roading an X5 might face. The weird brake feel returned during the off-road portion, but overall, the X5 left a positive impression. The X5 is now offered with a special off-road package, which provides a toggle to switch between various off-road modes, which will impact how the vehicle handles and reacts while driving in certain conditions.

How a Cabin Should be Done

The same can be said about the interior of the X5, which is conservative yet still luxurious. There are fancy crystal accented controls available. The seats are extremely supportive, with a dizzying array of power adjustable settings, but also feature heated, vented and massage functions. There are even cooled and heated cupholders. The dash is dominated by digital displays. Two 12-inch screens are to be found, one for the central infotainment system, an upgraded version of BMW’s iDrive system that’s more personalized than before, allowing drivers to show a focused entry, like a giant map, or a number of widgets and smaller displays on the screen, like a map, weather, media and calendar notification. This system is among the first to feature wireless support of Apple CarPlay, which will surely be a hit with iPhone users.

See Also: 2019 BMW X4 Review

The other 12-inch screen is found right in front of the driver, as BMW does away the round dials and offers a digital gauge cluster, which looks like something borrowed from the brand’s ultra-futuristic i8 or i3 electric cars. This too features some customizability, but it keeps a few areas of the screen static, ensuring that drivers don’t over adjust their display and lose sight of the important information. In case that isn’t enough, the X5 can also be had with a head-up display, which was bright and easy to see, with great animation of navigation instructions and the ability to see layered information, like an upcoming change in the speed limit resting behind the current road’s limit.

While the front seats are a tour of technology and luxurious accommodations, the rear seats feel a little less special. There’s just about the same amount of headroom as the outgoing model and a bit more legroom. They’re not terrible places, they’re just not the kind of limo-like thrones that BMW has delivered in other cars, like say the 7 Series or 640 GT. You can get dual-zone climate control for rear occupants, as well as heated seats, rear sun-shades an entertainment system, or tablet holders if you have your own devices to entertain with. An optional third row is a last-resort for family hauling and seems almost inhospitable for anyone but small children.

It’s Also Safe

There’s an impressive array of safety and assistance technology here too, including the usual adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and an over-eager lane-keep function that was far more aggressive than other vehicles. It was turned off after a few unsavory jerks at the wheel. BMW will also offer a driver-facing camera to help curb distracted driving as well. With plenty of cameras and sensors, it’s easy to park and place the car, and there’s an interesting 3D view of the car that shows you its surroundings. BMW exhibited a telematics system, where you can use a companion smart-phone app to see the vehicle remotely, in case you want to remember what the parking sign said, or where the car was last.

The Verdict: 2019 BMW X5 Review

The X5 is a showcase of BMW’s best and brightest. It features a refined powertrain, classic cabin, high-tech extras, and class-leading in-cabin features. The brand boosted the vehicles off-road capability without seriously impacting the rest of what made the X5 so good before. While a new Mercedes-Benz GLE was just revealed, it’ll take a little while for that model to hit showrooms, leaving the X5 with a confident feeling of being the current king of the hill.

Discuss this review on our BMW Forum


  • Improved off-road capability
  • Lots of new suspension and chassis technology
  • Feels great on the road
  • Nice interior design and features


  • Not a huge improvement in cargo and rear-seat space
  • Inconsistent braking feel
  • Overeager lane keep assist
Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

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