Where cars are concerned, living in the United States versus Europe has its pros and cons. On the negative side, Europe has a far larger share of practical, quick and fun hot hatchbacks which I adore. European roads are often engineered to go around geological challenges, which typically results in the kind of switchbacks that enthusiasts love. U.S. roads simply go through such landscapes.
Cars manufactured for sale in Europe are also of a higher quality. Of course, this also keeps down the price on U.S. cars, so it can be viewed as a pro or a con.
But here in the states we can still afford to have huge, snarling engines under the hood because we enjoy far lower gas prices (though our gas is typically of a lower octane). Georgia residents see some of the lowest gas prices in the country, but we are still complaining as the needle has hit $3 a gallon for premium as I write this.
In Germany, it is 1.6 Euros per liter of 95 octane. That’s $6.76 per gallon. If my terrible math skills are correct, that is.
Higher costs at the pump means most European models are stuck with diesels engines with lower output, hybrids and the like. Nothing wrong with those options, except the diesels, but sometimes as an American I am not concerned with mpg numbers, I am far more interested in an “V” preceding and “8” to describe an engine.
And because I am in the good-ole U.S. of A, the 2019 BMW X5, assembled in Spartanburg, South Carolina, has just such a powerplant. To be more precise, a new, 4.4-liter twin-turbo offering 456 horsepower and getting passengers from 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds in the xDrive50i I tested.
It’s not only a more exciting engine than you can get in Europe — there you have a choice of two diesels or a six cylinder — it is simply fantastic.
Opening the taps of the V8 will reward drivers with a consistent punch of 479 lb.-ft. of torque that gets the power down quickly. The X5’s grunt starts low in the rpm range and provides a consistent pull to the upper portions of the digital tach.
From a stop, the V8 can be a tad hesitant on throttle tip-in in comfort mode, but that’s erased in sport. In either driving mode, power is readily available once the engine has built up a few revs, providing extremely sporty throttle responses in an SUV — sorry, BMW prefers Sports Activity Vehicle — that weighs in at just under 2.5 tons.
While I did not test the xDrive40i’s six-cylinder, it likely still has a good amount of grunt with 335-horsepower and 330 torques. But come on, get the V8 and go big while you go home.
When paired with the M Sport exhaust system ($3,800), the eight-cylinder also provides an aural punch. When equipped, the X5 roars when the engine turns over and gives off a low growl under acceleration, giving passengers an enjoyable baritone symphony without blowing their ears out in the quiet cabin.
The V8 is one of many updates for the X5, with 2019 models marking the first of the fourth generation.
The BMW is now a bit bigger, with increases to its length, height and width. LED headlights are now standard, and so is BMW’s just-how-big-will-they-make-it kidney grille. While the grille may be growing to cartoon-beaver-teeth proportions, the X5 does carry an imposing look with a sculpted hood, short front overhang and flexing flanks.
BMW says the new chassis lends itself to improving the X5’s off-road performance and the manufacturer is now offering an off-road package. The optional equipment includes underbody protection, two-axle air suspension and a rear differential lock.
My tester was suited for pavement and fitted with multiple M division upgrades to add to the aforementioned exhaust system. The 20-inch wheels and sporty steering wheel carry M badging and the Dynamic Handling Package ($3,650) includes an increase in the already sizeable brake disks, a sport differential and roll stabilization.
It all makes for genuinely sporty and enjoyable performance.
There is good feedback to be found from the steering wheel, which is perfectly weighted (and just feels nice in the hands), and the sizeable ventilated brake discs give drivers confidence while pushing the BMW big boy into corners.
I experienced perceptible body roll just once while pushing the Beemer hard into a sweeping curve with significant negative camber. Even then, the lean was relative controlled and manageable. The firm suspension is appreciated when pushing the X5, but it means you will feel potholes and the road’s lumps and bumps.
Drivers can change the transmission cogs themselves with paddle shifters, but really there is not much point considering the X5’s eight-speed automatic delivers spot-on shifts in whatever driving mode you select. The auto was unflappable and smooth in city traffic and on state highways, and in sport mode, the revs were kept high when needed but quick to change when the situation called for a downshift.
On the daily trek, the X5 is accommodating and comfortable. While there is a dizzying array of menus, BMW’s iDrive controller is still fantastic for navigating through the 12.3-inch touchscreen.
Creature comforts include 4-zone climate control, a Harmon Kardon stereo system, optional rear HD touchscreen displays and heating/cooling cupholders. However, I was a bit perplexed the X5 does not come with ventilated seats, something my backside definitely needed while testing the Beemer under Georgia’s seemingly triple-digit humidity level.
Opting for the Premium Package ($2,050) adds a head-up display, wireless charging WiFi hotspot and other amenities. The package also includes gesture control, which I described as gimmicky in my X4 review, and my opinion has not changed.
The X5 also has the first voice-recognition system I have encountered that I simply could not stump. I even tried by throwing out my (awful) German, French and deep South accents. Hey, everyone has their own way of dealing with traffic.
For the safety conscious, the X5 has your expected features like lane, blind spot and collision warnings. The optional Driving Assistance package goes further with traffic jam assist which allows hands-free driving in certain situations, automatic lane change, active cruise control with stop and go and front cross-traffic alert.
The package also includes what has to be the most pervasive lane keep assist system fitted to any car, anywhere. Not only does it keep the X5 in its lane, it pulls the steering wheel whenever you are seemingly a few millimeters beyond dead center. If the system could hold a wooden spoon, I’d like to imagine it would give you a knock on the noggin each time you sway slightly in your lane.
The xDrive50i starts at $75,750 with my tester and its five options packages bringing the tag up to $91,000.
Opting for the inline-six in the xDrive40i will save you a significant amount of coin, but at what cost? One day, you will be driving along and hear the growl of the eight-cylinder bellowing out of the M Sport exhaust. At that moment, you will likely let out a deep sigh and think, “I could’ve had a V8.”
I am infatuated with the X5’s new powerplant, and really, the X5 in general. It is practical, spacious and comfortable for everyday needs with serious, smile-inducing performance. And did I mention you can get one with a V8?