Somewhere on a farm 30 miles southwest of Atlanta, the all-new 2019 BMW X5 falls into a rhythm—skirting around trees, up dirt hills and across bubbling streams. This is the fourth-generation of BMW’s beloved mid-size SUV, but it’s the first to come with an off-road package that enables it to tackle an hour-long off-road course with ease. The car’s quartet of drive modes (for rock, sand, gravel or snow) tailor the vehicle’s height, acceleration, braking and transmission control to the terrain. All the while, the latest version of their iDrive infotainment system keeps us more informed and in control than previous versions.
For the vehicle’s global launch in Georgia earlier this month, the convoy snaking through the verdant forest behind Painted Rock Farm struck an impressive stance, given the new X5 measures nearly an inch longer and taller and 2.6 inches wider than the previous generation. The simplified exterior—with precise lines, powerful shoulders and sculpted flanks rising up at the rear door—hints at the power and performance at hand. And the iconic four-eyed headlights are now rendered as semi-open rectangles, lending a more futuristic look while maintaining respect for heritage.
With a new, 462-horsepower V8 engine and a long list of dashboard technology, the latest X5 xDrive 50i ranks as the most formidable of BMW’s utility vehicles. Though you’ll still find BMW’s signature flourishes (a kidney grille, LED lights and hexagonal wheel arches, among them), this is an entirely new machine—down to the prismatic glass-shifter knob.
On our drive, we’re behind the wheel of an xDrive40i model with 335 horsepower coming from a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine (which provides us with more than enough power for climbing the course’s steep hills). Both models are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and available with the xLine or M Sport packages. Plus, a plug-in hybrid model is coming 2020.
Our fully-loaded test car includes the aforementioned, first-ever optional off-road package to tune acceleration, ride height, transmission response and more to the terrain. An electronically controlled differential lock at the rear axle (also available on the M Sport package) helps modulate power transfer and surface grip. The xDrive’s intelligent all-wheel-drive system divides torque between the front and rear wheels, which morphs the X5 into an agile machine. The result: an X5 that easily tackles an hour of off-roading. At times this ease is almost too luxurious (if such a thing exists), given the vehicle’s disconnected feel as we float over roots, rocks and other obstacles.
The SUV’s cabin inspires as much confidence as its undercarriage—boasting a pair of 12.3-inch digital display screens, heating and cooling cupholders and BMW’s latest iDrive Operating System 7.0, which allows the driver to operate controls using buttons, a controller wheel, a touchscreen, voice or gestures. The BMW Connected personal mobility assistant syncs the car with your digital devices. It remembers frequent destinations (like the office or gym) that you wouldn’t necessarily put in your calendar and tells you when to leave, acting as a constantly calculated navigation system. Additionally, a digital key function locks and unlocks the SUV via an NFC-compatible smartphone.
The 2019 BMW X5 will arrive in showrooms this November. While pricing hasn’t been announced, it’s likely to be comparable with the outgoing model, which starts at $60,700.