There’s a reason we love sport-utes. All that space for stuff. All that seat-folding practicality and versatility. Easy to get-in, easy to get out. Plus that lofty driving position. What’s not to love?
But all that real estate, all that weight and flab, all those rows of seats tend to result in a trade-off: Driving the thing can be about as exciting as watching paint dry.
Since its debut way back in 1999, BMW’s X5 has always delivered a pretty-perfect balance. Not too big, not too small, and with the DNA of the Ultimate Driving Machine, it was more nimble and agile than pretty much every other SUV out there.
With competition in the sporty sport-ute market heating-up, BMW has responded with an all-new, fourth-generation X5 that’s largely new from the hubcaps up. Take out the tape measure and you’ll see that it’s a tad longer, a pinch wider, and a little stretchier in the wheelbase for even more interior space.
And while the design definitely falls into the evolution-not-revolution department, the styling is cleaner, fresher and comes with some nice design touches.
The jury is still out however on that huge, love-it-or-hate-it, shiny-chrome grille sprawling across the nose. Jaws in the 007 movies didn’t have this much of a metallic grin.
Open a door, slide inside, and you’ll notice a big step-up in quality. You could be perched inside a flagship 7 Series so exquisite are the materials, the stitching, the touch and feel, and look of the cabin.
Check the boxes for the massaging, heated and ventilated front seats and you won’t want to leave. And with an extra inch-and-a-half of wheelbase and 2.6 extra inches of width, space for knees and shoulders in the back seats just got more generous.
As with the last-gen X5, BMW has somehow managed to squeeze-in a third row of seats. Don’t ask anyone over the age of 10 to clamber back there, but at a pinch you’ll be able to ferry seven to dinner or a movie.
One really cool new feature is the glass moonroof. Not only is it 30 percent bigger than before, it’s available with a ‘Sky Lounge’ feature that layers thousands of LEDs into the glass to offer different color mood lighting. Very Studio 54.
Power-wise there’s a choice of in-line six, or twin-turbo V8 engines, both sending oodles of muscle to all four wheels through ZF’s Teflon-smooth eight-speed ZF automatic
The six is BMW’s newly-upgraded 3.0-liter turbocharged motor that’s an absolute gem. With 335hp and 322 lb-ft of torque on tap, it can punch this 4,500-pound soft-roader from standstill to 60mph in a zippy 5.3 seconds.
While this configuration offers all the performance you’ll ever need in an SUV, being BMW, too much power is never enough. Hence the V8 powering the X5 xDrive 50i that I’ve just spent a week trying to tame, packs 456 horseys and 479 lb-ft of torque. Foot to the floor, and with all four wheels channeling the power, the 50i can lunge to 60 in a mere 4.6 seconds. That’s fast.
Where this new X5 really excels is the way it delivers precise, dynamic handling together with a true magic-carpet-like ride. Much of this is down to the X5’s new platform that incorporates more car-like suspension with adjustable adaptive damping.
Of course this being BMW, your check book determines the sportiness of the X5’s handling. On the options list is everything from air suspension to M Sport suspension with active roll stabilization, to rear-wheel steering, to variable-ratio steering.
And talking of check books, you’ll pay $60,700 for a base X5 XDrive40i, while the xDrive50i starts $75,750. That said you can count on adding at least another $10-grand in options. Our 50i tester topped-out at an eye-watering $91,005.
But maybe with the exception of Porsche’s pricier Cayenne, this more dynamic 2019 X5 delivers just the perfect balance between practicality and pace. It definitely puts the ‘sport’ in sport-ute.