There’s a new BMW X5, carrying model code G05, just four years after the last one was launched. Mercedes-Benz technically was technically the first German brand to market with a road-biased four-wheel drive – the unloved first-generation ML-Class – but BMW was the first to really nail the formula.
Here’s a look back at where the X5 started, and how it’s evolved through four generations and nearly two decades.
E53 BMW X5 (1999 – 2006)
Meet genesis, the high-riding spark that inspired a line of X-badged cars running from X1 to X7. Initially conceived during BMW’s ownership of Land Rover, the car was outfitted with hill-descent control and an off-road engine management system from the period Range Rover. You know how the current X5 has a split tailgate? That’s because the first one ‘borrowed’ its boot release and design from Land Rover.
Don’t think for a second this was an off-roader, though. Most X5s spent much more time on the school run than a gravel road, as you’d expect of a fashionable soft-roader. Behind the wheel, most of the switchgear was borrowed from the E39 5 Series. It’s classic BMW in there.
On the petrol front, power came from a 3.0-litre inline-six – remember when that was the norm for BMW? – or a V8 in 4.4-litre and 4.6-litre guise. A beefy 3.0-litre turbo-diesel inline-six was also offered, hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission or, for a period, a manual.
The majority of power was was sent to the rear wheels (62 per cent), and BMW worked hard to establish the car as an SAV (sports activity vehicle) instead of an SUV. Nope, that still hasn’t caught on.
BMW gave it a facelift in 2003, with head- and tail-lights in keeping with the wider range, and a new set of wheel designs. The 4.8-litre V8 was also added to the range in 2003, with 265kW and a noise deep enough to wake the dead.
E70 BMW X5 (2006 – 2013)
Evolution, not revolution, was the name of the game in the E70 X5. Under the skin, the car was 165mm longer, 60mm wider and 110mm longer between the wheels, but had the same roof height for a squat, planted stance.
It was the first X5 to get third-row seating, and the interior was treated to a comprehensive overhaul. Out went the old infotainment system, replaced by an early iteration of iDrive, while the centre console picked up the ‘magic wand’ gear shifter for more cupholder space.
Active steering, adaptive drive modes, active roll stabilisation, a head-up display, keyless entry and four-zone climate control were all offered too. Although they were named different things, petrol power came from a 3.0-litre inline six, 4.8-litre V8 or 4.4-litre V8 engine. Diesel power came exclusively from an inline six, offered in states of tune ranging from 173kW/520Nm to 280kW/740Nm.
BMW treated the car to an LCI update in 2010 (above) with mild (alright, very mild) styling upgrades. The interior was treated to an updated iDrive system, but the changes were minimal. Range-topping cars received a new eight-speed automatic transmission, replacing the six-speeder offered initially.
Finally, the X5 M made its debut in E70 guise. With power from a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 making 414kW and 678Nm, stiffer suspension, along with M-tuned steering and styling, it was designed to put the ‘sport’ in SUV. Given the model was carried over, buyers clearly liked that.
F15 BMW X5 (2014 – 2018)
For generation three, BMW tried to take the outgoing car’s looks and make them a little bit smoother. The rear end in particular was overhauled, with a clearer L-shaped light signature in keeping with the wider range. Inside, the interior got a freestanding 10.2-inch screen in the centre console, along with the latest iDrive and head-up display technology.
At 4886mm long, 1762mm tall and 1938mm wide, the F15 was 29mm longer, 5mm wider and had a 6mm lower roofline than before, with an identical wheelbase.
In Australia, the range started with the xDrive30d, an inline-six turbo-diesel making 190kW/560Nm, and included the xDrive50i – a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 with 330kW/650Nm – and a tri-turbo M50d making 280kW/740Nm. Punchier petrol and diesel options were added to the range later in its life.
Although there was no ‘LCI’ model for the F15, it was tweaked throughout its life with new interior appointments and a four-cylinder rear-wheel drive model. It also got an X5 M variant, with a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine making 423kW and 750Nm.
Why no facelift? Well, it’s only been four years since the car was launched, and now there’s a new one. Let’s take a look at it.
G05 BMW X5
This is the new one, the latest and greatest. It represents a significant step for BMW, which has accelerated its upgrade cycle to unsure its longest-running SUV has all the latest semi-autonomous technology to take to on Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
From the outside, the rear represents a clear departure from the classic X5 formula, with rounded tail-lights that break with L-shaped tradition. The kidney grille up front is massive, and linked in the middle, while a longer wheelbase lends the car a lower, meaner stance.
Inside, the new X5 debuts a new interior design direction for BMW, with climate control information integrated into the space between the air vents and new digital instruments. Expect to see the usual improvement in material quality, too, although we’ll have to hold judgement on that until we’ve actually, you know, driven one.
Four engines will be offered at launch: A 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 and 3.0-litre inline six on the petrol front, and a 3.0-litre inline-six in twin- and quad-turbo guises.
It’ll be touching down in Australia later this year.
Which BMW X5 generation is your favourite?
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