The Boss is a 2020 SUV of the Year finalist
- Agile and responsive handling
- Supple chassis, responsive rear steering
- Engines pair well with transmission
- Design trapped in time
- Poor phone connectivity
- Underwhelming second row
The Boss is now in its fourth generation. The X5, which in 1999 was BMW’s first SUV, sought the right mix of on-road dynamics and off-road capability. With this edition, BMW has delivered a five-passenger SUV designed to thrill on any surface.
The X5 was fun to toss around a handling course, which translates to the real world—helped by the fact it has moved to the new CLAR architecture to help it carve corners in a way once unheard of in an SUV.
“Dynamically, the new X5 is a huge advance over the outgoing model,” guest judge Johan de Nysschen said. “Handling is agile and responsive, with body roll much better contained. Full-throttle acceleration through the gears is acoustically very satisfying, and the smooth transmission is leagues ahead of the clunky calibration in the Mercedes-Benz GLE.”
The turbocharged V-8 sounds as good as it goes, even if it is but a half-second faster to 60 mph than the base turbo I-6 model. There are gobs of power at nearly any rpm, and it pairs well with an eight-speed automatic transmission that fires off quick, smart shifts. But this model also costs $92,595 USD, almost $20,000 USD more than the smooth and powerful I-6 with its sweet downshifts.
Many judges praised the stiff but responsive suspension. Executive editor Mark Rechtin called its reaction “precise and crisp,” and features editor Scott Evans said the superb chassis was sublime on rough and cracked pavement. Add responsive rear-steering, a gem of an engine, and the right transmission, and “it’s comfortable when you need it to be and sporty when you want it to be,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said.
It’s a rare animal of an SUV that leans into curves with ease and agility. Editor-in-chief Ed Loh liked the clear, natural steering feel and lightness in the way it drives, calling it “the nicest-handling BMW SUV.”
Lane keep assist has among the most humanlike feeling of any, and cruise control doesn’t waver by a single mph down a steep hill.
There’s no off-road mode, but jacking up the suspension and turning the traction control to Dynamic mode gets the job done. Even in Comfort mode it figured out the terrain and what was needed to keep momentum going, quickly locking its spinning tires. The adaptive drive setting knows instantly what surface you’re on and what to do. The X5 has adjustable hill descent control down to 2 mph (3 km/h)—a rarity in our test field.
Efficiency-wise the base xDrive40i engine gets 20/26/22 mpg (11.8/9/10.7 L/100 km) city/highway/combined, which is near the top of the class.
From the outside, “the new architecture also gives the design great balance and proportion,” guest judge Tom Gale said. But the overall look hasn’t moved the needle. Consistency? Or repetition? De Nysschen wasn’t impressed: “BMW design suffers from ‘designer’s block,’ producing one same old design after another.”
All agree the iDrive infotainment interface continues to improve and has become fairly intuitive to use, offering both touch and knob controls. But many judges had trouble with CarPlay connectivity, which often crashed and is complicated to reconnect.
The 50i we tested had tasty chocolate-brown leather seats with caramel stitching, glossy wood trim around the center console, and Swarovski crystal on the shifter and iDrive controller dial. Tom Gale praised the quality materials and finish. The Harman Kardon stereo thumps and soars.
However, the rear seats are not heated, and legroom isn’t as grand as expected, making it hard to envision the dimensions of an optional third row.
Overall, the X5 offers a terrific all-around package and strong value for a luxury SUV. Concluded de Nysschen: “Of all the cars here, this is highest on my shopping list.”
|2019 BMW X5||xDrive40i||xDrive50i|
|Base Price/As Tested||$61,695/$73,980||$76,745/$92,595|
|Power (SAE net)||335 hp @ 5,500 rpm||456 hp @ 5,250 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||330 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm||479 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||5.0 sec||4.5 sec|
|Quarter Mile||13.6 sec @ 98.5 mph||12.9 sec @ 108.9 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||127 ft||119 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.81 g (avg)||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||27.3 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)||25.8 sec @ 0.75 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||20/26/22 mpg||17/22/19 mpg|