Over the past few months, BMW has had a presence in some of the most remote parts of the globe. From the extreme cold of the Arctic Circle to blistering deserts with stifling dust, fourth-generation X5 prototypes have been undergoing testing that will help define the limits of the upcoming production model. Rumored to be slated for a 2019 model year launch—some twenty years after the first generation took the world by storm—a host of fresh suspension and chassis-management technologies, brand-new to the X line, will help usher in the next iteration of BMW models as a whole.
BMW is well-versed when it comes to dispatching engineers and test vehicles to far-flung places; the manufacturer, like plenty of others, is no stranger to putting vehicles in situations where self-respecting owners only find themselves in their nightmares. Perhaps we’ve all acquiesced to the notion that all automakers can now be all things, but it wasn’t that long ago when pre-production E53 X5 prototypes were being taken places that no previous BMW had ever been capable of going.
Like the world around them, automotive markets have changed tremendously since the late 1990s, but somehow, way back then, BMW got it right, and was able to help set the tone for things to come. Now, with the lineup comprised of highly varied and individual offerings from the X1 to the upcoming X7, with no digit forgotten in between, BMW is looking to replace what’s become the bread-and-butter for the larger portion of the overall segment.
Although smaller crossovers have come to dominate dealer lots, the market for large and full-size luxury SUVs appears to remain strong. Volkswagen’s recently launched Atlas offers third-row seating along with a strong assortment of features, while Lexus updated their range-topping V8-powered LX570 for optional availability with factory deletion of the third row. BMW’s new X5, code G05, will be available with a third row despite occupying a smaller footprint, and should be expected to frequent the same parking lots and structures as the aforementioned models.
The big difference between the one with the roundel and its counterparts from competitors is driving feel. Plush amenities and impressive option lists have long since found their way into full-size trucks, SUVs, SAVs, and the like, but when it comes to bringing all of that together in a chassis that doesn’t lumber down the road or jar occupants over speed bumps, just a few marques have demonstrated the ability to rise to the occasion. Many try—the ubiquitous and extremely capable Mercedes G-Wagen has just been reinvented for the first time ever to improve its road manners—but few actually champion driving experience from outset.
Details remain scarce, but an increasing amount of news has indicated that the same kind of technologies that monitor and control road interactions for upcoming models like the 8 Series will be seen across the lineup. This shouldn’t come as any surprise, as BMW has long used the upper end of the spectrum as a sort of real-world test bed, with concepts coming to reality on cars like the 7 Series and then filtering their way down to even the most entry-level models. iDrive came to market on the E65 7 Series in 2002, and by the end of the decade, the 1 Series could be optioned with a much more capable and intuitive version of the same system.
For the upcoming fourth-generation X5, drive tech and systems responsible for keeping high-performance road cars on the pavement seem to have been adapted for optimal control and maximum comfort in completely different conditions. Suspension and chassis systems are said to be completely new for any X model, and are unique among the competitive field as well. Specifics have not been divulged, but one detail includes the ability to change modes in a flash for varying surfaces, including gravel, sand, rock, or snow. (Satch may be planning an Arctic adventure as we speak!)
Even with massive expansion of X offerings, BMW has always found a way to keep the X5 special and desirable. With the growing number of M and M Performance models also in the pipeline—will we still get the diesel?—that challenge will only continue to expand in terms of complexity, but we remain excited to see how the new version maintains its talented and multifaceted personality.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy of BMW AG.]