The history of the X5 begins in the late 1990s, when Chris Bangle drew the first sketches from his Designworks studio in California. In many ways, the current car closely resembles these initial sketches.
The takeover of Rover proved to be very beneficial for BMW in the development of the X5. BMW engineers were able to look and use Range Rover technology and parts in the development of the X5-one such example would be hill descent control. In many respects the X5 was also influenced designwise by its British counterpart; in this case the X5 got the two-piece tailgate straight from the Range Rover. Many parts and electronics were also taken directly from the E39 5 series parts bin to save costs.
In contrast to the Range Rover models, however, the X5 was designed as a sporting road car, and its off-road capabilities are significantly less than Land Rover products. BMW reportedly worked hard to ensure it was referred to as an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) instead of an SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). When tested off road on the BBC television programme Top Gear, the test vehicle lost traction and was towed by a 1960s vintage Land Rover.
Even though the X5 was a four wheel drive vehicle, BMW chose from the start to route 60% of the engine's torque to the rear wheels, making it feel as close as possible to the company's rear-wheel drive sedans. Many reviewers commented on its road and track "feeling", and as time passed many other manufactures have caught onto this breed of SUV e.g. the Porsche Cayenne, and the Range Rover Sport which offers both sports car performance with full off-road capabilities.
The X5, along with the BMW Z4 roadster, are currently manufactured exclusively in BMW's South Carolina plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
A one-off version known as the X5 LM, equipped with the M70 S70B56 V12 engine from the Le Mans winning BMW V12 LMR, especially used by Hans Joachim Stuck to set a lap record at the Nürburgring in 2000.
For 2004 the X5 was refreshed with new headlights, a few new exterior colors, a new four-wheel drive system and upgraded engines. The exterior touches kept it fresh and gave the X5 a more aggressive look. The grilles were enlarged, as well as their actual slats being modified in a 'flame surfaced' style. In keeping with the E39 refresh of 2001, the 2004 X5's headlights got "angel-eyes" (rings or halos around all front headlamps). The taillights also got an E39-style refresh treatment and the exterior glass went from a "dotted" pattern to a cleaner one of "lines". BMW invented a new four-wheel drive system dubbed xDrive shared both in the X5 and X3 in 2004. Instead of using the previous X5 system which consisted of power being split 60-40 (rear wheels-front wheels) and DSC to brake wheels losing traction, xDrive could variably cut off power to the front or rear axles in a matter of milliseconds, while transferring 100% of the engine power to either, thus allowing the vehicle to regain traction quickly.
In terms of engines, the X5 got the new 4.4i engine which debuted in the 2002 7-Series. This raised output from 290 to 315 hp (242 kW). Also from April production, a new X5 4.8is was offered (see below), giving the driver 265 kW (355 hp) and making it the 3rd fastest SUV behind the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Range Rover Sport.
Although Porsche tried to create a genuine competitor to the X5, a lot of Cayenne owners switched to the X5 soon after buying the former.
Several new extras were added to the 2004 X5 such as:
- Soft-boot close feature (the top part of the trunk pulls itself closed)
- Trailer Stabilization Control
- Adaptive Headlights (available only with xenon HID headlamps; these swivel with the direction of travel of the car)
Along with the rest of the BMW lineup (apart from the 7 E65 series), the X5 got Bluetooth kits straight from the factory if it was ordered with the Premium Package.
Specifically, the 4.4i & 4.8is models got xenon HID headlamps as standard equipment in the United States.
The X5 was not fitted with the new BMW R6 engine, which increased power for both the 2.5i and 3.0i versions of the 2006 X3 and Z4 significantly. It is rumored that BMW held back deploying the engine in the 2006 X5 so as not to waste development costs (retooling the assembly line), and to make way for a much more dramatic unveiling of the all new 2007 BMW X5. In fact, 2006 also marks the end of the E53 X5 as well.
The BMW E70 automobile platform is the basis for the current X5 SUV. It replaced the BMW E53 in November 2006. It features many new technological advancements including BMW's iDrive system as standard equipment and, for the first time in a BMW, an optional third row seat which has increased the seating capacity in the new X5 to 7 passengers.
The new generation BMW X5 is 60 mm wider, 165 mm longer; with a 110 mm longer wheelbase, but remains at the height of the previous generation X5 at 1715 mm. The SUV is manufactured alongside with the new, rumored, 2008 BMW X6 at BMW's Spartanburg, South Carolina plant in the USA.
The interior of the new X5 also features a completely redesigned dashboard. It will have a large center-mounted display screen and simplified iDrive. The X5 also incorporates many state of the art technological advances such as Active Steering and a reverse camera. Many were disappointed to learn that neither the BMW nightvision system nor the radar-controlled cruise-control would be offered.
The E70 has also incorporated two new engines to the X5 lineup. BMW has begun a shift of replacing engines from the 2006 7-Series. It is likely that the E70 will inherit those same powertrains later on.
Petrol models include:
- X5 3.0si 3.0 L 260 hp (194 kW) inline-6
- X5 4.8i 4.8 L 350 hp (261 kW) V8
- X5 3.0d 3.0 L 232 hp (173 kW) inline-6
The X5 is also the first production vehicle to use FlexRay, a new electrical bus system; it is only used for the pneumatic damping system.