A mid-size crossover SUV unveiled in 1999, the BMW X5 was BMW's first SUV also known as 'Four-by-Four' in the UK. All BMW X5's are manufactured in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The X5 comes with all-wheel drive and is available with either manual or automatic transmission along with a range of gasoline inline-6s, V8s and diesel engines are available. Rather than being a SUV, BMW describes the X5 as a Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV) to shift emphasis on its on-road capability despite its size. The BMW X5 brought about the shift from truck-based body-on-frame SUVs to sedan-based crossovers that would have occurred in the late 2000s. The X5 was powered by the V8 4.4i with a manually shiftable five-speed automatic transmission.
In the late 1990s, Chris Bangle came up with the first sketches at the BMW DesignworksUSA studio in California, and in many ways, the current X5 still closely resembles these initial sketches. Rover's takeover ended up being helpful for BMW in the area of development of the X5. The engineers at BMW were able to review and use Range Rover technology and parts in their design of the X5, including hill-descent control. The design of the X5 was heavily influenced by its British counterpart, included the two-piece tailgate taken directly from the Range Rover. Numerous parts and electronics were also taken directly from the E39 5 Series parts bit to save on costs.
The X5 was designed as a sporting road car, in contrast to the Range Rover models, unfortunately the X5's off-road capabilities were significantly less than those of Land Rover. BMW made it well known that the X5 was referred to as an SAV rather than a SUV. Though the X5 was an all-wheel drive vehicle, BMW chose from the start to route 62% of the engine's torque to the rear wheels, working hard to make it feel as similar as possible to the company's rear-wheel drive sedans.
BMW launched a smaller version, the X3 in 2003, which used the ‘X' prefix applied to the BMW SAVs which were derivatives of the BMW number-series models.
The first generation of the BMW X5 crossover vehicle was introduced in 1999 and was produced until 2003 and had a wheelbase of 110.0 inches, an overall length of 183.7 inches and a width of 73.7 inches. The X5 was produced until September of 2006 and was replaced by the BMW E70. At the time that the E53 was developed, BMW still owned Land Rover and because it this is shares many of the components and designs with both Land Rover and also the BMW E39 5-series.
For 2001 no changes were made on the BMW X5. For 2002 the high-performance 4.6is model was introduced with a 340-horsepower V8 engine. Against Mercedes-Benz ML 50/ML55 AMG, the X5 was quite a big contender. Along with this were aero body add-ons, and the new model received 20-inch wheels along with a special sportier interior. For this year option packages received some content revisions.
The Premium group now came with rain-sensing wipers, a sunroof for both the 3.0i and 4.4i and automatic climate control for the 3.0i. The 4.4i edition could also be equipped with a new Rear Climate package that included privacy glass and rear window shades. Optional were rear torso side-impact airbags.
For 2004 the X5 didn't change much and a revised model was debuted in 2004. The all new X5 was revamped completely, and a new 6-speed manual transmission option, and a 315 hp V8 compared to the previous year's 290 hp in 2004. The 04 X5 also received new headlights, a few new exterior colors, upgraded engines and a new four-wheel drive system. The grilles were enlarged along with their actually slats being modified in a ‘flame surfaced' style. The X5's headlights received ‘angel-eyes' which were rings or halos around all front headlamps.
The 2004 taillights also received a similar facelift to the BMW E39 and the exterior glass was transformed from a ‘dotted' pattern to a cleaner ‘line' pattern. Called xDrive, BMW invented a new four-wheel drive system that was shared both in the X5 and X3 in 2005. Rather than using the earlier X5 system which had consisted or power being split 62-38 (rear wheels – front wheels) and DSC to brake wheels losing traction, the xDrive could vary power to the front or rear axles in milliseconds which transferred up to 100% of engine power to either axle, therefore allowing the vehicles to regain traction quickly.
Additional extras were added to the 2004 X5 were soft-boot close feature which allowed the top part of the trunk to pull itself closed, Trailer Stability program which made it an ideal tow vehicles and adaptive headlights. At the end of 2003 it was originally announced along with the rest of the X5 facelift, the X5 4.8is first started shipping in April 2004. Replacing the 4.6 L engine was a new larger 4.8 L engine that was also later used in the 2005 750i/Li. It also included a slightly modified bodykit, 20' wheels and along with the 4.6is were the only X5's ever to feature large chrome-tipped exhaust which hid the quad pipes.
For the 2005 version a few optional versions became standard on BMW's American-built SUV. The 4.4i offered newly standard front and rear obstacle detection which was optional on 3.0i. Now steering linked were Xenon headlights which were standard on V8s and optional on the 3.0i. Along with the rest of the BMW lineup (apart from the E65 7 series) the 2005 X5 received Bluetooth kits straight from the factory if ordered with the Premium Package.
For the 2006 BMW X5 no significant changes were made. The X5 wasn't fitted with the new BMW R6 engine which upped power for both the 2.5i and 3.0i I6 versions of the 2006 X3 and Z4 significantly. Some rumors implied that BMW held back deploying the engine in the 2006 X5 so they didn't waste development costs in retooling the assembly line so they could make way for a more dramatic unveiling of the new 2007 BMW X5. This year was also the end of the E53 X5 as well.
The second generation of the BMW X5, the E70 was introduced in 2008 and had a wheelbase of 115.5 inches, a length of 191.3 inches, a wheelbase of 115.5 inches and a width of 76.1 inches. The E70 is the current X5 SAV which replaced the BMW E53 in November of 2006. The E70 platform replaced the BMW E53 as the X5's underpinnings. A ton of new technological advancements were introduced on the E70-based X5 SAV including BMW's iDrive system as standard equipment, and the first for a BMW, an optional third row seat.
This current generation incorporates safety innovations for the crossover segment like a unique rear framing section that protected 3rd row occupants from injury due to an impact. From late 2008 until the new BMW branding scheme, the X5 3.0sd is now called the X5 XDrive 35D and the 4.8 i is called the X5 XDrive 48I.
During the spring of 2000, a lower-priced six-cylinder 3.0i edition was introduced with a standard five-speed manual transmission and optional four-speed automatic. Both of these models were produced in South Carolina on an exclusive uni-bodied platform. BMW X5's came with a standard permanently engaged four-wheel drive, traction control, all-disc antilock braking, an antiskid system and a tailgate with separate lift glass.
Not intended for severe off road use the X5's four-wheel drive system lacked low-range gearing. Instead, the XM automatically brakes individual wheels to limit slippage in low-grip conditions. The speed was limited to 6 mph down steep slopes down a standard hill descent control.
The standard equipment included power tilt/telescopic steering wheels, 70/30 split folding rear seats and front side-impact airbags which were head-protecting tubular airbags that deployed from above front door windows in a side impact.
Optional on the X5 were rear lower-body side airbags. A load-leveling suspension was included on the 4.4i and optional for the 3.0i, along with 18 inch wheels and tires, wood interior trim and leather upholstery. A Sport Package was available and included black exterior trim, a sport suspension and the 4.4i received 19-inch tires. Available with either model was an optional navigation system with dashboard-mounted video screen. The biggest competitor for the X5 was the Lexus RX 300, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and the Acura MDX.
BMW produced a one-off version of the X5 that was dubbed the X5 LM and equipped it with the M70 S70B56 V12 engine from the Le Mans winning BMW V12 LRM. In 2000 it was driven by Hans Joachim Stuck to receive a lap record at the Nürburgring.By Jessica Donaldson