The BMW X5 is one of the most successful and influential models in the history of the German automaker. Since its debut in 1999, the X5 has sold over 2.5 million units worldwide and established a new segment of premium SUVs that combine luxury, performance, and versatility. I will examine how the X5 evolved over four generations and 25 years and what makes it stand out from the competition.
The First Generation: The E53 (1999-2006)
The first generation of the X5, codenamed E53, was a bold move by BMW. At the time, the company was known for its sleek sedans and sporty coupes, not for its off-road vehicles. The only exception was the Land Rover, which BMW owned from 1994 to 2000. The E53 was born out of a collaboration between BMW and Land Rover and aimed to create a vehicle that combined the best of both worlds: the off-road capabilities of a Land Rover with the on-road performance and comfort of a BMW.
The result was a vehicle with a unibody chassis, all-wheel drive, independent suspension, and powerful engines. The E53 also boasted features like hill descent control, adaptive cruise control, and a cutting-edge navigation system at the time. The design of the E53 was distinctive and elegant, with a large kidney grille, slim headlights, and a muscular stance. The interior was spacious and luxurious, with high-quality materials and a driver-oriented cockpit.
The E53 was a hit with customers and critics, who praised its handling, refinement, and versatility. It also won several awards, including the 2001 North American Truck of the Year and the 2003 Golden Steering Wheel. The E53 was offered various engine options, from a 3.0-liter inline-six to a 4.8-liter V8, and even a 3.0-liter diesel. The most powerful version was the X5 4.8is, which had 360 horsepower and could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds.
The E53 was also the first BMW to feature the xDrive system, which was introduced in 2003. The xDrive system was an intelligent all-wheel drive system that could vary the torque distribution between the front and rear axles depending on the driving conditions and the driver’s input. The xDrive system improved the traction, stability, and agility of the X5, and set a new standard for the SUV segment.
The Second Generation: The E70 (2006-2013)
The second generation of the X5, codenamed E70, was launched in 2006 and represented a significant evolution of the original concept. The E70 was larger, more powerful, efficient, and technologically advanced than the E53. The design of the E70 was more dynamic and aggressive, with sharper lines, larger air intakes, and LED lights. The interior was more spacious and luxurious, with a panoramic sunroof, a head-up display, and a new iDrive system.
The E70 also introduced new features and innovations, such as active steering, adaptive drive, dynamic performance control, and park distance control. The E70 also offered a range of new engines, including a 4.8-liter V8 with 355 horsepower, a 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six with 300 horsepower, and a 3.0-liter twin-turbo diesel with 265 horsepower. The most powerful version was the X5 M, which was launched in 2009 and had a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 555 horsepower and could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
The E70 was a commercial success, selling over 1.1 million units worldwide and becoming the best-selling generation of the X5. It also received positive reviews from the media and the customers, who appreciated its performance, comfort, and practicality. The E70 also won several awards, including the 2007 World Car of the Year and the 2010 Auto Bild Allrad Award.
The Third Generation: The F15 (2013-2018)
The third generation of the X5, codenamed F15, was unveiled in 2013 and marked a further improvement of the X5 formula. The F15 was lighter, more aerodynamic, more fuel-efficient, and more refined than the E70. The design of the F15 was more modern and elegant, with a sleeker profile, a larger grille, and a more sculpted body. The interior was more sophisticated and ergonomic, with a 10.2-inch touchscreen, a surround-view camera, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.
The F15 also added new features and technologies, such as adaptive LED headlights, active blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and traffic jam assistant. The F15 also offered a range of new engines, including a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 445 horsepower, a 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six with 300 horsepower, and a 3.0-liter turbo diesel with 255 horsepower. The most powerful version was the X5 M, which had a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 567 horsepower and could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds.
The F15 was also the first X5 to offer a plug-in hybrid variant, the X5 xDrive40e, which had a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four and an electric motor that combined for 308 horsepower and could travel up to 14 miles on electric power. The F15 was a popular and acclaimed model, selling over 800,000 units worldwide and receiving numerous awards, including the 2014 Auto Express Car of the Year and the 2015 Green Car Journal Green SUV of the Year.
The Fourth Generation: The G05 (2018-Present)
The fourth and current generation of the X5, codenamed G05, was introduced in 2018 and, after 2.2 million units sold from its previous three generations, it reached a high level of maturity. The G05 was larger, more luxurious, more technologically advanced, and more capable than ever before. The design of the G05 was more expressive and bold, with a massive kidney grille, slimmer headlights, and a muscular stance. The interior was more spacious and opulent, with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 14.9-inch center display, and a crystal gear selector.
The G05 also featured new features and innovations, such as the laser headlights, the gesture control, the reversing assistant, and the off-road package. The G05 also offered a range of new engines, including a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 523 horsepower, a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with 335 horsepower, and a 3.0-liter turbo diesel with 261 horsepower. The most powerful version was the BMW X5 M, which had a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 600 horsepower and could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds.
The G05 was also the first X5 to offer a mild hybrid system for the diesel version. At the same time, BMW offered a choice of three gasoline engines that also benefited from electrification. The plug-in hybrid variant, the X5 xDrive45e, had a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six and an electric motor that combined for 389 horsepower and could travel up to 30 miles on electric power. The G05 was a well-received and successful model, selling over 500,000 units worldwide and winning several awards, including the 2019 Golden Steering Wheel and the 2020 What Car? Best Large SUV.
The Future of the X5
The BMW X5 constantly evolves and adapts to the customers and the market's changing needs and preferences. In 2021, BMW introduced a facelifted version of the G05, bringing some exterior changes, a more significant interior upgrade, and 48V plug-in hybrid drive systems. The X5 is also expected to offer a fully electric variant shortly as part of BMW’s ambitious electrification strategy.
The BMW X5 is a pioneer and a leader in the luxury SUV segment. It has set the benchmark for quality, performance, and versatility for 25 years and shows no signs of slowing down. The X5 represents BMW’s engineering excellence and innovation and reflects its customers’ aspirations and lifestyles. The X5 is more than just a car. It is an icon.