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BMW X5 History

2002 BMW X5 4.6is AWD


The X5 is a mid-size luxury crossover SUV sold by BMW since 2000. It is based on the E39 5 Series and features all wheel drive and a line of straight-6 and V8 engines. For non US models there is a 3 litre diesel engine.

History and development

The history of the X5 begins in the late 1990s, when Chris Bangle drew the first of his X5 sketches from his Designworks studio in California. In many ways, the current car closely resembles these initial sketches. It should be noted, that Chris Bangle in todays era is not credited with uncontroversial designs - something both the X5 sketches and the E46 3 series can attest to.

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 from its British counterpart; in this case the X5 got the 2 piece tailgate straight from 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 car. BMW reportedly worked hard to ensure it was branded as an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) instead of an SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle).

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 Porsche Cayenne).

The X5 has been criticized for having low interior volume for its size - both the smaller BMW X3 and the 5 Series (Touring) have greater interior volume. The next generation X5 is rumored however, to rectify this problem.

2004 Refresh

For 2004 the X5 was refreshed with new headlights, a few new exterior colors, a whole new 4-wheel drive system and upgraded engines. The exterior touches kept it fresh and give the X5 a more aggressive look. The kidney grills were enlarged, as well as they actual slats modified in a 'flame surfaced' style. In keeping with the E39 refresh of 2001, the 2004 X5's headlights got angel-eyes (rings or halo's around all front headlamps). Rear lamps 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 4-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 of 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 275 to 325 hp (205 to 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 2nd fastest SUV behind the Porsche Cayenne.

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 (only available with xenons, swivel with the direction of the car)

Originally announced in the end of 2003, along with the rest of the X5 refresh, the X5 4.8is, first started shipping in April 2004. In had a new larger 4.8l engine (which replaced the 4.6l), and was also later used in the 2005 750i/Li. It also included a slightly modified bodykit (parts of the bottom bumper became painted the body color), 20" wheels, and along with the 4.6is, were the only X5's to ever have a large chrome tipped exhaust which hid the quad pipes.

2005 Changes

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 headlamps as standard equipment in the United States.

2006 Changes

Along with the 2006 BMW X3 & Z4, the X5 was left out of the new R6 engine which increased power for both the 2.5l and 3.0l guises significantly. It is rumored that BMW held back deploying the engine in the 2006 X5 as not to waste development costs (retooling the assmebly line), and to make way for a much more dramatic unveiling of the all new 2007 BMW X5.


  • Winner Australia's Best Luxury Four Wheel Drive in 2001.
  • Winner Australia's Best Luxury Four Wheel Drive in 2002.

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