BMW's dealers will happily take orders now for the new-for-2019 BMW X5. It's the fourth iteration of the German company's range-topping (for now - the X7 isn't far away) X-branded SUV and brings with it new levels of luxury and technology. But which engine to have? Here we test drive the popular - and super-smooth - xDrive30d diesel version.
In the metal
There's very little of surprise when it comes to the exterior design of the new X5, as BMW strives to maintain a clear bloodline for the nameplate. Saying that, the new version is larger in every dimension and its presence is enhanced further by the use of enlarged kidney grilles up front. The main lights front and rear are slim and intricately styled (if you spot a blue 'X' motif in the headlights, that signals the fitment of laser lights), there's a prominent 'breather' behind the front wheels and a kink in the bodywork over the rear wheels to disguise the bulk of the car. As usual, the various trim lines are differentiated by the finish of the grille, wheelarch, roof rail and side window surround, while alloy wheel sizes now go as high as 22 inches in diameter.
Naturally, all test cars at the international launch were lavishly equipped, but nonetheless, the X5 has clearly taken a step further up the 'luxury' ladder, as the cabin feels of exceptional quality and ambience. Vernasca leather upholstery is standard, clothing electrically adjustable and heated seats up front. The optional Merino leather is lush, though, and buyers can upgrade the seats with ventilation and a massage function.
Once you've got comfortable, your jaw might drop the first time you see the design of the dashboard, as it looks impressive. BMW calls it the Live Cockpit Professional and it features two 12.3-inch screens, one in front of the driver instead of traditional instrumentation and a touchscreen in the middle featuring BMW's snazzy new iDrive operating system. It's incredibly fast to react and the graphics are fantastically sharp, but we can't help but feel that BMW could have allowed a little more customisation of the layout of the instruments. Thankfully, the intuitive rotary controller is retained, supplementing control by voice, the steering wheel buttons or gesture. The latter is standard, and may have been improved a tad, but it's still largely redundant.
In terms of practicalities, there's loads of adjustment in the seating position and steering wheel, visibility is generally quite good for such a big vehicle and there's plenty of space up front - and storage (including useful heated or cooled cup holders). The rear seats are almost as comfortable, but I somehow expected there to be more legroom - it's fine rather than amazing. As before, there's the option of a third row of seating, which can fit in adults if they really have to, but that's not their primary purpose.
Access to the huge boot (assuming there is no third row, or it's folded away) is via an electrically operated split tailgate and there will be the option of a luggage cover that electrically stows out of sight, plus rubber boot floor strips that inflate to hold whatever is on them in place. Clever idea, though we didn't get a chance to test it.
We can't honestly tell you what a standard BMW X5 xDrive30d will feel like, as yet, as the test cars were crammed with all the expensive extras, including (but certainly not limited to) Integral Active Steering (four-wheel steering) and the xOffroad package with its rear differential lock. We also noticed that the side glass was double-glazed... So bear all that in mind when we tell you that this is an exceptionally refined and comfortable car.
The 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine is quieter in the X5 than it has been for some time in any BMW application and it's smooth too. The eight-speed automatic is a good partner to it, shifting gears silkily unless you choose a sport mode, in which case it feels pleasingly more urgent. This X5 never feels super-quick, but it's fast enough for most and has loads of low-down performance thanks to that whopping 620Nm torque output. I actually preferred it in terms of refinement to the quad-turbo X5 M50d we tried later in the day, and that car didn't exactly blow the xDrive30d away with its extra performance.
On the standard air suspension (with adaptive damping), the X5 rides well for the most part, though it can still be caught out by certain ridges in the road surface. It's of massive use for going off-road, of course, as it allows a significant range of ride height adjustment. BMW let us loose on a mildly challenging (though dry) course, which served to confirm that the xDrive four-wheel-drive system and various selectable off-road modes work as intended, the hill descent is useful and the many exterior cameras make it all but impossible to put a wheel wrong. But who in their right minds buys an X5 to go off-road in?
Our test car also seemed to have active roll control, which uses electric motors to actively counter body lean in corners. It's highly effective, but it also gives the X5 an unnatural stance through tight curves, which we'd rather do without. Stick to the standard suspension, perhaps with the addition of Integral Active Steering to help the X5 feel more agile in the turns and easier to manoeuvre around town.
What you get for your money
The BMW X5 is not a cheap vehicle, but likewise, it is not a 'cheap' vehicle, if you get my drift. This is a high-quality product that feels worth every cent. At the time of writing, BMW Ireland has stated that the X5 will start at €94,325 on-the-road, but that is likely to change in the coming months. That price is for the xDrive30d in xLine specification, featuring 19-inch alloys, the air suspension, Parking Assistant, an automatic tailgate and a lot lot more. The only other trim level is M Sport, which gets larger alloy wheels, a distinct styling kit and an interior makeover.
There's a huge amount to take in on first acquaintance with the 2019 X5, as BMW packs it full of everything it knows. It's dripping with technology and can be one of the most luxurious cars in the segment, depending on how it's specified. So long as the government doesn't kill diesel off in the near future, this entry-level xDrive30d model is the star of the range.