About 20 years ago, BMW launched a car that would be instrumental in changing the luxury vehicle market. That would be the X5, and it was Europe's first luxury crossover. Since the first model rolled out of BMW's South Carolina plant, over two million have been sold worldwide. And yes, most BMW X5's are actually made in the USA.
The exact birthday of the BMW X5 is actually September 1, 1999, so we're still a few months away from its 20th birthday. Still, BMW has kicked off celebrations early. After all, it is their first crossover. So how did it all start?
Let's clear the air for a bit. The BMW X5 is not the world's first luxury crossover. That honor actually belongs to the Lexus RX300. It isn't the first German SUV aimed towards sub-urbanites either, which was the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class. But what the X5 did was beat its German contemporaries to the punch in making a car-based SUV as the Mercedes rode on a truck chassis.
The story starts in the mid-90's when BMW took note of the booming SUV market. From there, BMW took about five years to develop and the first-generation model that would set the footprint for the succeeding models. It was based on the BMW 5 Series at the time, the E39. From that point on, the X5 would rely on the 5 Series platform.
Known internally as the E53, the first-generation X5 ran from late 1999 to 2006. The second-generation X5, the E70 as enthusiasts would call it, was bigger, had heaps more technology (iDrive, active steering and suspension, heads-up display, among others), and a wide engine range. This generation also saw the first M-engineered X5, predictably called the X5 M.
A new decade ushered in an all-new X5. In 2013, the third-generation was known as the F15, and ushered in hybrid power in the range. It would also be the first X5 to come with a four-cylinder engine, which actually surprised us a year ago.
Perhaps coinciding with its 20th anniversary, the all-new X5 arrived in the country just a few months ago. Again, there's more tech, and more space in the current X5. In the Philippines, the lineup (if you can still call it that) has been simplified too, with just one spec: A six-cylinder, 3.0-liter turbodiesel with all-wheel drive. If you're curious, the current chassis code is now called the G05, and the Philippine-spec X5 xDrive30d xLine starts at Php 5,990,000.
But the X5 story goes beyond that. It paved the way for more high-riding BMWs such as the X3 and X6. These days, BMW's first crossover is no longer the flagship, as that role now belongs to the X7. But without the X5, BMW would not have a wide range of crossovers in their stable today. If anything, it was one of the cars that kick-started the luxury crossover market.