There are only so many ways to say that SUVs and crossovers are a big deal these days, particularly at the luxury level. But if there's a vehicle that embodies the pervasiveness of that trend, it's the BMW X5.
BMW was one of the first upscale automakers to get into SUVs in the late 1990s, just a couple of years after Mercedes-Benz launched the luxury mid-size segment with its ML-Class.
To say the segment has evolved since then is an understatement, but BMW has kept pace, adding a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model in 2017 and loading all X5 variants with the kind of technology that has become expected in even a mainstream luxury vehicle such as this.
For 2019, BMW takes that further in an X5 that gets a new design and powertrains. New technology includes a traffic jam assist function that promises what BMW calls "extended hands-off time," suggesting that the car will be happy to move and steer itself on heavily congested roadways.
The new X5 will also support BMW's Intelligent Personal Assistant, an artificial intelligence agent that will let the driver control some secondary functions through voice commands, learn preferences for climate control and other systems and alert the driver when there's a problem with the car.
While BMW says it will upgrade the PHEV model with a new powertrain, that won't come until 2020. For 2019, then, the X5 gets a new optional V8 gasoline engine and a new entry-level trim designation -- xDrive 40i, which replaces last year's 35i -- for its six-cylinder variant.
The xDrive 50i's new V8 comes in a familiar 4.4L displacement and once again uses turbocharging to boost power output. However, BMW says this engine has been "fundamentally upgraded from crankcase to engine management," which has resulted in a gain of 11 hp for a total of 456, and a torque peak of 479 lb-ft that carries over from last year.
Meanwhile, the new xDrive 40i uses an updated 3.0L turbocharged inline six-cylinder good for 335 hp and 330 lb-ft, up 35 and 30 respectively over the 2018 xDrive 35i.
With that new PHEV model coming, we're not sure at the time of this writing whether BMW will bring last year's xDrive 40e forward for 2019; more likely, you'll have to wait till the new xDrive 45e arrives with its 394 hp from a combo of turbo six cylinder and electric motor.
Also temporarily out of the picture is the high-performance X5M. Watch for a new version of it in the coming years as BMW continues its roll-out of this new design.
Typically for BMW, the X5's styling is an evolution of last year's look, and if we're being honest, it's more than a bit derivative, especially from the rear, where we see a strong resemblance to the Kia Sorento.
BMW hadn't published fuel consumption estimates when we wrote this, but we suspect they'll be a little better than last year's figures, which were 13.0/9.8 for six-cylinder models and 15.4/11.2 for the xDrive 50i.