Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Pay close attention when BMW decides to upgrade a product line to contend with the needs and demands of today’s innovative society. Whether it’s a letter M car or X vehicle there seems to be no limit of capabilities to ascertain the grandest technologies and stately driving pleasures are instilled in the vehicle at hand. This continues to be the case with the evolution of the reimagined 2019 BMW X5 Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) now in its fourth generation. From the enhanced iDrive 7 to the Off-Road Package — a BMW first – the latest X5 will amaze newcomers to the X-line and invigorate brand loyalists when it arrives to dealers in November.

Originally launched in Atlanta, GA 20 years ago BMW invited us back to the South for a weekend of off-roading and performance in the all-new X5. In the U.S. the SAV will be marketed as the X5 xDrive40i and the X5 xDrive 50i with a PHEV model following in a few years. However, do not expect a diesel engine anytime soon as BMW is not close to a decision. Currently signs point to a no.

My drive partner and I chose a Phytonic Blue Metallic xDrive40i with the amazingly efficient and powerful TwinPower Turbo 3-liter 6-cylinder engine with 335-horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 rpm which allows 0 to 60 mph sprints in 5.3 seconds. On the quiet, Georgian backroads we were moving with ease of grace. Power seemed to be available at all speeds for ultimate acceleration when required. If you’re looking for more firepower try the vigorously enhanced 4.4-liter V8 kicking out 456-horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. Both units are paired with BMW’s venerable 8-speed Steptronic transmission with paddle shifters and xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive. Updated tuning of the gearbox’s hydraulic control creates sportier shifts. If you really want to feel grand then go with the optional Austrian crystal gear lever which is absolutely stunning! Various drive modes allow your X5 to transform into habit such as Sport which incorporates three levels depending on your aggression that day. Drivers can also select Eco Pro, Comfort and Adaptive modes (screen color changes when you switch modes).

From afar you probably won’t be able to differentiate the 2019 X5 from the 2018 X5 but upon closer approach you will begin to recognize the noteworthy changes. For starters BMW offers so many wheel options beginning with standard and stunning 19” light-alloys that you will begin to confuse yourself with the choices. Our test model was blessed with optional 21” rims ($1,550) with blue M-brake calipers ($650). A 22” is the largest in-house size BMW offers for the X5. A more profound kidney grille, adaptive LED headlights (BMW Laserlights are optional), defining character lines, two-piece power tailgate, sporty tailgate spoiler and a significantly larger panoramic sunroof (Sky Lounge is not available in the U.S.) are the hallmarks of the new design language which BMW says is now robust, clear and precise. As well, the X5’s wheelbase is longer while its physique has been lengthened, widened and heightened. Furthermore, M Sport and xLine trims will differentiate your 2019 X5 from the next. I must say I do like the sounds of rear underbody protection, the M Sport exhaust and body tinted side skirts.

On road the X5 handles like a dream. Especially with all the ancillary assistance systems such as Steering Assistant, Lane Control Assist, Automatic Speed Limit Assist (perfect for speed cameras), Integral Active Steering, Dynamic Drive Active Roll Stabilization and Lane Keeping Assist. Although, I did find the lane corrections a bit abrupt. But no worries, BMW said the software will be adjusted by the on-sale date. If you opt for the Dynamic Handling Package ($3,650) expect greater performance from the M Sport Differential which provides optimized traction during takeoffs and through corners by shifting torque to the outside wheels.

As for the X5’s tough guy swagger it is an X-rated beast when off-roading. Though a small percentage of SUV owners venture into the unknown the outlook becomes reassuring knowing your SAV can traverse up steep hills, forage through the wild and doggy paddle in muddy waters (grille flaps close to keep water out). The prior X5 was pretty good at it but this 2019 model with BMW’s first Off-road Package is absolutely amazing. For an hour I rummaged through the backwoods with the X5 as it handled its business with aplomb. The system is highlighted by specific xDrive configurations, a two-axle air suspension (prior model only had a rear air suspension) with increased ground clearance, front and rear under body armor and an off-road specific electronically controlled rear differential lock. A center console switch is added for selection of the four driving modes that allow owners to customize the ride expectations for sand, rock, gravel or snow. I was also impressed with the off-road screen that shows the environment ahead when the nose is lifted which obscures normal viewing.

Inside the dignified cabin technology, connectivity and comfort are omnipresent as if you were stepping into a 7 Series. It begins with two 12.3” color displays for the sophisticated instrument cluster and infotainment system operated through iDrive 7 and the iDrive Touch Controller which is knurled along with the volume and dual HVAC knobs. The thick, leather, multifunctional steering wheel is pretty bold as well. Other niceties include wireless charging, heated and cooled cup holders, heated armrests on both the doors and center console, massaging, heated and ventilated seats, LED light trim that flashes upon incoming calls, rear coat hangers and Gesture Control when you are too lazy to reach out to one of the knurled control knobs. Onlookers will mistake you for a symphony conductor if caught in the act! The Head-up Display shows more information and the 20-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Diamond 3D surround sound system ($3,400 on the xDrive40i and $4,200 on the xDrive50i) is pretty impressive, though flatter than comparative audio systems.

Through the BMW Connected App owners can turn their smartphones into a BMW Digital Key to unlock and lock doors and start the engine. Yet, this can only be done with a Samsung Galaxy 7 plus and above since Apple doesn’t share their data. Because your X5 is a super computer Remote Software Upgrade is now possible without having to go into a dealer so your systems are always refreshed and up-to-date. Also expect BMW Concierge Services to tend to informational needs 24/7 so you are always in the know.

Plan to pay $60,700 for a base 2019 BMW xDrive40i and $75,750 for the xDrive50i. Our test ride came to a whopping $81,230 after a slew of option packages and accessories. But this is the price of entry for any midsize luxury SUV. Especially if you go the German route that seems to have a monopoly on advanced technologies and innovation.