BMW has given its big (but not quite biggest) SUV models an overhaul for 2023, which brings revised styling, an upgraded interior and more electric range for the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) X5 model.
Up front, both models get new, slimmer headlights and a new 'kidney' grille that actually lights up at night. Thankfully, that's an option that you can turn off. There are also new bumpers with 'air breather' vents while the X5 gets new satin-aluminium finished roof rails.
At the back, there are lights with an 'X' motif, along with new bumpers and an aero pack. M Sport cars gets specific body kits and blacked-out chrome, while the range-topping 530hp V8-engined M60i models get twin-bar grilles with special badging. Customers can also choose from around 40 BMW Individual special paintwork shades, including metallic variants such as Atlantis and Velvet Blue, as well as solid or matt finishes. BMW says that: "These exclusive paint options are meticulously applied by hand with the spectrum of colours expanding all the time."
Inside, once again, the X5 can be specced with seven seats, and the boot volume stretches to 650 litres - or 500 litres for the xDrive50e hybrid models. The X6's boot holds up to 580 litres, so it's more practical than the sloped rear window styling would have you think.
Up front, both cars now get BMW's curved-display dashboard layout, with two conjoined screens - a 12.3-inch instrument panel for the driver and a 14.9-inch infotainment screen in the middle. The software is, of course, BMW's latest version 8.0 iDrive setup, which means you get over-the-air software updates and you can control the screens via the iDrive wheel, touch, voice, or steering wheel buttons.
The dashboard is now, as standard, covered in a synthetic leather called 'Sensafin' while the X5 and X6 borrow the distinctive crystal-style light bar from the new i7 and 7 Series, too. This can flash warning signals to the driver, or can just form part of the car's interior ambient lighting package. There's also a new centre console, where you'll find the drive selector and the iDrive control wheel, and that has been more or less lifted from the BMW i7 as well.
Sky Lounge roof
The front seats of both models are now, as standard, sports seats and every model gets Sensafin upholstery, with Merino leather as an option. Those seats are heated, of course, and optionally you can have cooling and massage functions too. An optional comfort pack means you get a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, as well.
As with the 7 Series, there's now an optional 'Sky Lounge' glass roof, which has LED lights built into it that can display "more than 15,000 graphic patterns and generate a display reminiscent of a starlit sky."
More importantly, the plug-in hybrid X5 xDrive50e now gets an upgraded 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine and improved battery performance. There's more power (a total of 490hp using the boost mode, which is 96hp more than the old xDrive45e model) and maximum torque of 700Nm.
The straight-six engine now runs on the fuel-saving Miller Cycle, while the electric motor has had its power boosted to 197hp, which helps shove the X5 xDrive50e to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds from rest.
68km electric range
The battery for the plug-in hybrid has had a 25 per cent increase in energy capacity, now up to 25.7kWh (useable), which means BMW can now claim an electric range of 68km on the WLTP test. The battery can also now be charged faster, at up to 7.4kW, but lacks the DC rapid-charging abilities of rivals from Mercedes and Land Rover.
Other petrol and diesel versions of the X5 and X6 now get 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance, while the range-topping engine is a fabulous 530hp 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8, which also has 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance. The still-popular xDrive30d straight-six diesel models have had a power and torque upgrade, pushing them to 298hp and 670Nm, respectively.
All models come with an upgraded eight-speed automatic gearbox that includes both launch control (in the unlikely event that you want to traffic-light-Grand-Prix start your new luxury SUV) and a Sprint mode that gives you a quick burst of extra acceleration for safe overtakes. There's also more of a rear-drive bias for the xDrive four-wheel-drive system while the V8 M60i models get a trick differential for the rear wheels. Adaptive suspension is standard across the range for M Sport models, and there's optional air suspension (standard for the X5 xDrive50e hybrid) that can raise the body up by 40mm for off-roading, or drop it down by 40mm for loading.
You can spec some models with an active anti-roll system, but that's sadly not available for the X5 xDrive50e PHEV although at least that model does come with BMW's 'active sounds' noise generator for electric mode, with sound effects created by Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer. The 50e also has 'geo-fencing', which means it can automatically recognise when your destination is an urban area, and saves charge so that it can drive on zero-emissions power when you get there.
There's the usual, and expected, suite of safety aids including active cruise control and lane-keeping steering, but there's also park-by-phone, which allows you to nudge the X5 and X6 in and out of tight spaces from outside the car, as well as a memory function that automatically prompts you to let the car park itself when it comes to a pre-programmed location, such as outside your house or your office.
Irish prices for the new X5 start from €97,375 on the road for the X5 xDrive50e plug-in hybrid, and €124,515 for the X6 xDrive30d and the updated models are available to order now for arrival in Ireland from April this year.