New X5 is the sporty SUV to convert non-believers

The all-new, 2019 BMW X5 isn’t so much a new high-riding model in the Bavarian automaker’s range, but more a case of a huge grille with a big SUV attached to it. It is a very proud looking car, the new X5, and BMW really wants you to notice it because it believes it’s great vehicle that should get your attention. You don’t put this big a grille on a car you are not 100 percent confident in and after spending some time with the new X5, in top M50d diesel trim no less, I found little to fault about it. And this comes from a guy who doesn’t really like or understand the need for SUVs (it is my belief that they are a bit pointless and are usually bought to do the same job as a wagon).

I admit that when I picked up the car I wanted to start picking at faults on the quest to reach my predetermined conclusion that you’re better off buying a 5-Series wagon. But you aren’t better off necessarily because the new X5 has a lot to offer - almost car-like handling, strong performance, one of the best six-cylinder engine soundtracks ever, and limo-like passenger room and comfort levels. Plus, BMW says the latest X5 is also the best X5 ever when it comes to going off-road, not that anybody will actually take it off-road, but it’s nice to know it can. I mean it’s an SUV after all, so it should be able to take you off the beaten path whenever you feel like it.

Not this M50d with steel springs, active sway bars, and massive rims, though, as it’s better suited for on-road driving. For the first time, however, BMW is offering models that are more off-road oriented with adjustable air suspension that can increase its ride height and rough ground capability considerably. But boy is that M50d power plant good, especially with the new exhaust resonator that comes online in sport mode - it is probably one of the loudest factory diesels ever made, and I absolutely love it because of this.

Exterior

2019 BMW X5 M50d - Driven
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BMW really wants you to notice its new 2019 BMW X5, a vehicle that, to my eye, looks better than the outgoing F15 model from all angles aside from the rear. From the back, the new G05 just looks a bit plain and a bit lacking in flair - it’s not inherently bad to look at, but doesn’t set your heart racing or look like it’s going fast while standing still either.

Up front is where all the action seems to be, with that monstrous tall grille through which it sucks up trees, people, and even large animals crossing the road in order to feed its angry quad-turbo oil burner.

My tester model was the M50d, so it had a sportier M performance bumper and the optional laser headlights that really helped it look its best (they have a unique blue ornament inside the cluster to let you know they are the top spec lasers, as well as “BMW Laser Lights” script on the side to leave you in no doubt).

At the same time, BMW kind of played it safe with the G05 as there isn’t anything particularly special about the way it looks aside from the grille which, by the way, has active slats. During winter that grille stays closed quite a lot, so it’s really more of a design feature than a necessary means for the engine to breathe properly.

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There are nice details, though, if you take a closer look, like the pleasant matte aluminum finish (with a slight hint of copper tint in it) that you see on the grille surround, ornaments on the bumpers, the side rearview mirrors, and the surround for the (fake) side slats behind the front wheels. This subtle touch adds a lot of class to the way it looks, especially if (like me) you’re not a fan of the overuse of glossy material on new cars.

2019 BMW X5 M50d 2019 Audi SQ7 Mercedes GLE400D Porsche Cayenne S Diesel
Length 4922 MM / 193.8 IN 5069 MM / 199.7 IN 4924 MM / 193.9 IN 4855 MM / 191 IN
Width  2004 MM / 78.9 IN 1968 MM / 77.5 IN 1947 MM / 76.7 IN 1939 MM / 76.4 IN
Height 1745 MM / 68.7 IN 1741 MM / 668.5 IN 1797 MM / 70.7 IN 1705 MM / 67.1 IN
The overall shape is clean and nice, so there's nothing to complain here.

And, for the most part, it is a more pleasant visual presence than the outgoing model. However, the rear end is just a bit too plain and slab-sided - maybe it could have used a bit more fasback body style DNA from the X6 to make it look more muscular and planted. As it currently stands, it’s a bit too van-like, plus that rear light cluster design looks exactly like on the old-gen Kia Sorento... Not bad, just very similar.

Moving back to the side profile of the car, I must admit that I was really won over by the upward kink in the crease that runs along the vehicle’s side. It kicks up before the rear door handle and then goes straight through the center of it - it’s a very interesting design choice that really works in this context and adds some much needed flair to the vehicle’s side and three quarter views.

2019 BMW X5 M50d - Driven
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Something I didn’t like on the side of the vehicle is the fact that the slats behind the front wheels are fake, even though in plenty of other BMW models (even some cheaper ones) these are functional and guide air out of the wheel well. But on the G05, if you stick your fingers through it, you will soon be met by an abrupt end to the channel.

My tester with the M Performance kit on it looks the best out of the current X5 lineup, even when riding on the small 20-inch winter wheels it came with.

For the warmer part of the year, this particular X5 rides on 21-inch wheels clad in sporty, sticky rubber.

Interior

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While the exterior of the new X5 could be summed up as clean, evolutionary and crowned with a great stonking grille on its nose, the interior is much more of a step forward over its predecessor than the outside. And this statement still holds true even if the previous X5 had one of the more up to date and modern looking BMW interiors. The step forward for this latest one is oh so evident and welcome.

Obviously, the fact that my tester cost around €122,000 (equivalent to about $139,000), which is almost twice the starting price of a new X5, was reflected in the interior that has lots of optional stuff.

So, this may have distorted my perception a tad, but I tried to always have this in mind when judging the way you feel inside it.

The most noticeable option fitted to this X5 was the BMW Individual leather pack that includes not only the seats but also the dashboard and door panels. It really made this X5 feel like a very special place to be, helped by the strong (but still tasteful) mood lighting and many of the details.

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And, they don’t get any more detailed than the Swarovski crystal automatic gearbox selector level that I’m sure many will consider too much. However, even though I consider myself a person who likes simple, not fussy design choices that overcomplicate, I actually quite like both the look and feel of this rather unique gear selector.

My only gripe about it has to be the fact that they’ve moved the button for the “Park” function to the back of the stick itself.

There you can try to press it with your palm or contort your hand around it to press it with one of your fingers or your thumb. From an ergonomic standpoint, it’s not great, but boy does it look nice, particularly at night, as you’ll undoubtedly notice in the plethora of night shots I took of its interior.

The X5 also came with glossy wood trim on the dash, as well as glossy plastic in and around the new infotainment island (as BMW calls it) that also houses the aforementioned crystal gear selector. Why does BMW put glossy plastic there? On the buttons that you frequently press, no less? Sure, it looks cool for like two seconds, but once you prod any of the buttons, a fingerprint record of that will remain there forever... or until you take a cloth and wipe the entire thing.

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But wiping and wiping grease off these glossy surfaces is really one chore too many, I think, and not only that, but it’s also prone to scratching. This tester had covered just under 10,000 km (around 6,200 miles) and there was already plenty of damage on it. Granted, this is a press car that is not treated all that well and swaps hands a lot, but I still think it’s not a good solution. They should also sell some sort of protective film for it like you have for smartphones and other scratch-prone devices.

There is absolutely nothing to complain about when it comes to the new X5’s infotainment.

It is just superb from all the major standpoints: it has a great menu structure (further improved over older incarnations of the system), sharp graphics, zero lag, and plenty of functionality and customizability. The digital gauge cluster is almost as nice, but its graphic fidelity seems a bit subpar compared to the central screen, plus I would have preferred some nice analog dials instead - it’s not that these are bad, but in a few years they will look like crap and seriously date the car’s interior look.

The M sport steering wheel is very pleasant to hold on to, though, and if you get it heated like the one in my tester, you will love a cold winter’s day just a little bit more. Speaking of heating, the car not only came with heated and cooled front seats, as well as a heated rear bench, but also heated front armrests (on the doors and center console). This feature really made the car a sanctuary of warmth in the current cold weather.

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Seating comfort was also very good, whichever of the four main seats you happened to be in.

Front seats were fully electrically adjustable, but the rears weren’t. You can’t recline the rear bench backrest, but thankfully, it’s still sufficiently tilted for rear passengers to feel very comfy even on longer journeys. You can happily doze off in the back of one of these, if you’re one of those people who can do that.

The optional panoramic sunroof also seemed to wow passengers since it has integrated mood lighting, and that’s not all that common in the industry. It looks great, but despite extending all the way back to the rear, only the front part opens, and it doesn’t seem to open any more than a regular sunroof does.

Finally, I need to talk about the cargo capacity. With 645 liters (22.77 cubic-feet), it’s decent by class standards, but at the same time lower than what you get in most comparable rival models. You can make much more space by folding the rear bench down, but it’s still not as cavernous as you’d expect it to be. I also didn’t find the split tailgate (that’s now fully electric for both the top and bottom parts) all that useful. Sure, you can sit on the lower part when it’s lowered, but who really does that? I think it’s just one more thing to do in order to access whatever you’re carrying and when you don’t feel like lowering the bottom part of the hatch, it’s actually more of a chore to lift stuff over it.

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But all in all, the G05 X5 optioned up to the level of my tester, is a superb place to travel in, since it’s quiet and surprisingly comfortable (especially for a vehicle equipped with sporty steel springs).

Materials are absolutely beautiful wherever you touch and there’s also a bit of extra space over the old model inside thanks to its increased wheelbase (stretched by 4 centimeters / 1.5 inches) - passengers will feel great even if they have to spend hours inside one of these.

Drivetrain

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This is now the second BMW I’ve had the chance to try out with the brand’s 50d powertrain (after trying the M550d xDrive), which mates a 3.0-liter straight-six diesel engine with no fewer than four turbochargers. The result is a clean 400 horsepower and 760 Nm / 560 pound-feet of torque that is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox from ZF and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system.

That’s exactly the same configuration as the M550d and, on paper, the X5 is slower to accelerate to 100 km/h or 62 mph, achieving the sprint in 5.2 seconds, down on the 5-Series’ 4.4 second sprint time.

However, for some unknown and inexplicable reason, the X5 feels faster and more eager in the first few gears - in the M550d you really noticed that torque was electronically limited in the first gears, but while this is still probably the case with the X5 M50d, it’s nowhere near as noticeable.

The X5 just shoots off the line, and it will reach its top speed of 250 km/h or 155 mph quicker than you would expect. It’s also remarkably quiet at high speeds for a vehicle this tall, with only some wind whistle from around the shovel sized mirrors making its way into the cabin.

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My tester had steel springs, not the optional air suspension, but according to the BMW PR rep, the car was configured in this way in order to be able to opt for the active sway bars that practically eliminate body roll. I first got to use a similar system to this when I drove a Bentley Bentayga a while back, and was hugely impressed by the system there. In the BMW it works exactly the same, and the sensation from behind the wheel is the same.

2019 BMW X5 M50d 2019 Audi SQ7 Mercedes GLE400D Porsche Cayenne S Diesel
Engine 3.0-liter I-6 4.0-liter V-8 3.0-liter I-6 4.1-liter V-8
Horsepower 400 HP 435 HP 330 HP 385 HP
Torque 760 Nm / 560 LB-FT 900 NM / 663 LB-FT 700 NM / 516 LB-FT 850 Nm / 626 LB-FT
0-to-62 MPH / 100 km/h 5.2 Seconds 4.8 Seconds 5.8 Seconds 5.4 Seconds
Top Speed 250 km/h or 155 MPH 250 km/h or 155 MPH 240 km/h or 149 MPH 252 km/h or 156 MPH
Weight 2,396 KG / 5,282 LB 2,270 KG / 5004.5 LB 2,264.96 KG / 4993.4 LB 2,175.4 KG / 4,796 LB
Fuel Efficiency 7.2 L/100 KM or 32.6 MPG 7.6 L/100 KM or 30.9 MPG 5.8 L/100 KM or 40.5 MPG 8.0 L/100 KM or 29.4 MPG

The car will not lean when in sport mode, even if you try brutal maneuvers - it will remain completely level and planted whatever you do. The X5 clearly has an impressive chassis underpinning everything, and that makes it feel like a tall but very sporty wagon that just loves corners. The rear will also (quite surprisingly) often step out when you gun it out of a corner on a damp road.

I really liked the frisky nature of the 2019 BMW X5 M50d’s handling and the fact that it’s more tail happy than you would expect.

In fact, to me it felt even more tail happy than the aforementioned M550d. Although that felt much more planted and stable, it wasn’t necessarily any more fun to drive than the X5 running the same engine and drivetrain combo. Active rear wheel steering also helps tighten everything up, and I suspect it too has some effect on making the car’s rear end as playful as it is (even with the systems turned on).

2019 BMW X5 M50d - Driven
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The X5 M50d is not particularly efficient by 3.0-liter, diesel, SUV standards, but it’s not bad either. If you put it in Eco mode, and run it at, say, a constant 70 km/h / around 45 mph, you may be surprised to see the trip computer display an instant figure of under 7 l/100km / 33 mpg.

However, over the weekend that I had the car, when I drove it almost exclusively in the city, I averaged 12.8 l/100km / 18.4 mpg, and the figure could have been better if I had been better at keeping my right foot from constantly matting it just to feel that torque surge.

From a handling standpoint, it’s definitely one of the best SUVs on the market at any price, and this top diesel engine trim has more than enough shove to make light work of its 2.3-ton body.

Pricing

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In the U.S., you can have an X5 xDrive40i from $60,700, but with options the price of an example you really want still climbs towards the $80,000 mark. U.S. buyers can also opt for the xDrive50i V8-powered model whose starting price is $75,750 - no hybrid or diesel powertrains are available yet.

In Europe, diesel X5s will still be the most popular and buyers can currently choose between the 30d and the M50d. The former starts from €72,350 and the latter, more powerful one, from €92,900. My tester came in at €122,600 with its price bumped up by pricey options like the €2,050 laser headlights or the €2,153 pedestrian recognition system complete with night vision camera.

But the list of options obviously doesn’t end there. Those worth mentioning are the huge head up display (the biggest and clearest one I’ve seen on any car), the four-zone climate control, heated, cooled and massaging front seats, the heated rear bench, and the leather finish inside straight from the exclusive BMW Individual catalog.

Competition

Audi SQ7

2017 Audi SQ7 High Resolution Exterior
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One of the X5 M50d’s natural rivals is the Audi SQ7 powered by a 4.0-liter V8 diesel that has both a conventional twin-turbo setup, as well as an electric powered compressor to help build boost. From the driver’s seat of the SQ7 this translates into instant pickup at any speed and from any rpms and an output of 435 metric horsepower between 3,750 and 5,000 rpm and peak torque of 900 Nm / 664 pound-feet from 1,000 rpm up to 3,250 rpm.

These figures make the SQ7 feel very brisk in terms of acceleration, but actually, surprisingly, it’s not bad to throw around a twisty road. Between its rear-wheel steering, excellent body control and strong grip, the SQ7 is quite fun to drive and very capable, feeling more like a slightly tall wagon than an actual SUV. And surprisingly it actually slightly undercuts the X5 M50d in terms of starting price as it kicks off at €89,900.

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi SQ7

Mercedes GLE 400d 4Matic

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE Exterior
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Mercedes doesn’t currently sell a more powerful diesel engine in its passenger cars than what it offers in new models badged 400d. So the GLE 400d 4Matic is the most powerful oil-burning version of the new GLE and while it may not be as powerful as either the BMW or the Audi, it’s actually not far off in terms of actual performance.

With 330 metric horsepower on tap from its all-new silky smooth 3.0-liter straight-six diesel engine, it can sprint to 100 km/h or 62 mph in 5.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 240 km/h or 150 mph. And you can spice it up visually too, to match its direct rivals in this respect too, with the available AMG look exterior pack complete with new bumpers, side skirts, grille and rims. Pricing for a GLE 400d starts in Germany from €76,100.

Read our full review on the 2020 Mercedes GLE 400d 4Matic

Final Thoughts

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The BMW X5 M50d xDrive is a very niche proposition addressed at those who not only want a luxurious, spacious and (fairly) efficient family SUV, but also want it to handle as close to a sporty sedan as possible and also have it look really mean and aggressive. It’s a great piece of kit, though, blending all these elements very well into an attractive albeit pricey package.

Being based on the latest G05 X5, it looks nice and fresh from the outside and it does draw some looks from bystanders, yet it’s its interior that will impress most, especially in examples specced to a higher level, like my white tester was.

Straight line performance is also a strong point of this package, as in the X5 M50d you will usually be the first to sprint from a set of traffic lights.

It leaps off the line with more zest than it has a right to have and it keeps on accelerating past speeds normal SUVs begin to feel bogged down at.

It handles really well too and it’s one of the few high-riding vehicles I’ve driven that are genuinely enjoyable to drive on the road. I especially appreciated the firm, planted feel my tester gave, thanks especially to the active sway bars that all but eliminated roll and bestowed the car with great agility and the driver with plenty of confidence.
If you can get past the high price, especially for a highly specified model like the one I tested, then the X5 is a great premium five-seat SUV choice. The thing is, though, you don’t have to go for the most powerful diesel and can instead go down a different configuration route and opt for the lower-powered 30d model, get it with cushy air suspension and make it major more on luxury than on sportiness - the options list does allow for that and actually gives prospective owners plenty of options to customize their vehicle in any number of ways.

  • Leave it
    • Still doesn’t handle as well as a sedan or wagon
    • It’s quite expensive
    • This version sacrifices some ride comfort for cornering
    • Rear end design is bland and a bit derivative

Further reading

2019 BMW X5
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Read our full review on the 2019 BMW X5.

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