2019 BMW X5: 9 Things We Like, 4 Things We Don’t

The BMW X5 can be credited as being one of the first premium mid-size SUVs to elevate luxury and performance higher than some measure of perceived all-terrain capability. It’s not that you can’t take the X5 off-road, but this vehicle is much more at home on paved surfaces. The problem for BMW is that many rivals have caught, and even surpassed, the X5 when it comes to offering the ultimate in driving excitement.

Rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Jaguar F-Pace all offer driving dynamics that outshine what you get in the latest X5. That’s not to say the BMW is a performance slouch, however — the standard turbocharged six-cylinder engine delivers plenty of grunt. The X5 also comes standard with all-wheel drive, a feature that costs extra on many competitors.

During our recent test drive of the 2019 BMW X5, we found it offers many things cars shoppers are looking for in a luxury SUV. The cabin is roomy, the seats are wide and comfortable, and there are loads of safety features and tech touches. But when it comes to appeasing diehard BMW fans, the case for the X5 gets muddier (and no, we’re not talking about going off-road).

You can check out our Aaron Bragman’s full review of the new BMW X5 via the related link above. For a quick rundown on the things we liked most — along with some issues we believe could use improvement — keep reading.

Things We Like

1. Elegant Exterior

Since it first arrived approximately 20 years ago, the BMW X5 has maintained an elegant and understated exterior. This holds true with the latest version. While it’s larger than the outgoing model, traditional styling cues — like BMW’s signature twin-kidney grille and a short front overhang — are still present. In our test drive, we commended the BMW design team for giving the new X5 a fresh and modern look without needlessly throwing away this SUV’s entire design blueprint.

2. Strong Engine

BMW knows how to build a smooth and powerful engine. Under the hood of the X5 is a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder that delivers 335 horsepower to all four wheels courtesy of a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. BMW says the X5 accelerates from zero-to-60 mph in only 5.3 seconds. During our extensive time behind the wheel of the X5, we found no reason to doubt this impressive figure.

3. Classy Cabin

When you’re buying a BMW SUV, you expect something a little special for your money. Thankfully, the design of the dashboard and quality of the materials used in the cabin create a look and feel that’s a cut above many competitors. We noted that only the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class might outshine the BMW X5 when it comes to class-leading interior quality.

4. Generous Cargo Room

While the BMW X5 doesn’t lead the pack when it comes to total cargo room, there’s still nearly 33.9 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. This expands to a total of 72.3 cubic feet when you fold the rear seatbacks down.

5. Comfortable Front Seats

We’ve already talked about the fit and finish of the cabin, though special mention must be made for the front seats. They’re wide and comfortable, easily taking the stress out of long drives or a daily commute.

6. Optional Third Row (If You Really Need It)

The BMW X5 allows buyers to order an optional third row. While this adds a degree of seating flexibility, keep in mind these seats are best left for kids. Any adult squeezed back there would be cranky after anything but a short drive. However, if you sometimes need to haul more than five people, it’s handy to have the option of adding a third row.

7. Funky and Futuristic Gauges

The digital gauges staring at the BMW X5 driver are wild and look futuristic. We noted that they’re edgier than the more conservatively styled instruments you find in the Mercedes-Benz GLE. Does that mean they’re ultimately better? Maybe not, but they’re definitely more memorable.

8. Competitive Fuel Economy

 The X5 posts excellent acceleration numbers, so you might worry the performance punch could hit hard at the pump. Luckily, the X5 registers very respectable numbers when it comes to everyday economy: The base turbo six-cylinder in the X5 we tested scores an EPA-estimated average of 20/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined.

9. Top Safety Scores

 Last but certainly not least, the 2019 BMW X5 earns stellar safety scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The X5 scored a Top Safety Pick Plus rating, the highest-possible designation. It didn’t score quite as high in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing, in which the 2019 X5 earned an overall four-star rating out of a possible five stars; the SUV earned four stars for its performance in frontal crash evaluations and rollover collisions, and five stars for side crashes.

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Things We Don’t

1. Numb Steering

This alone could have any BMW purists up in arms — which is kind of the point, since we’re talking about this SUV’s handling. The X5 offers plenty of power, not to mention the grip of standard all-wheel drive. But in cooking up the latest model, the X5 engineers seem to have forgotten to add steering feel to the recipe. As is stands, we found the BMW X5’s handling to feel numb and devoid of any road feel. For a brand that bills itself as building the ultimate driving machines, this is a huge swing-and-a-miss moment.

2. Gesture Controls and (Not So) Smart Access

While we appreciated BMW’s gesture controls in the 7 Series luxury sedan, they’ve been dumbed down in the X5 and are now little more than a fancy gimmick. We also had problems with BMW Comfort Access keyless entry. The system was spotty at best, and eventually we had to give up on the “smart access” part entirely.

3. Strange Split-Rear Hatch

Yes, the BMW X5 has a nice amount of cargo room for shopping bags or luggage. But to access the trunk, you must navigate an awkward split-level rear hatch. The upper liftgate section swings skyward, while the lower tailgate drops down. OK, cool … except why would you want to raise only the upper half? With the bottom section in place, you need to heave everything up and over the edge. Sorry BMW, but we don’t get what you’re going for here.

4. High Starting Price

 While it comes nicely equipped, the 2019 BMW X5 has a hefty price that costs thousands more than many of its competitors. The X5 xDrive40i starts at $61,695 — and our test vehicle had more than $10,000 worth of options attached to it. That’s a big chunk of money, even when you consider that the X5 comes with BMW levels of power and prestige. Now if only they’d included BMW handling, too …

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