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Plug-in hybrid, turbo four, hot-rod M: all could be in the mix for 2020 BMW X5

What changes will make the 2020 BMW X5 different?

A potential expansion of powertrain choices with addition of a turbocharged four-cylinder, a plug-in hybrid, and a hot rod V-8. They would join returning six- and eight-cylinder engines and put an exclamation point on BMW’s latest changes to its premium midsize crossover. The X5 was fully redesigned for model-year 2019, becoming marginally larger and much better looking, more luxurious, and available for the first time with an Off-Road Package.

The 2020 edition will again be available with a tiny third-row seat to increase passenger capacity from five to a nominal seven. It could answer rising fuel prices with the first four-cylinder engine offered in an X5 — a gas-saving option that could be teamed with rear-wheel drive as an alternative to the otherwise standard all-wheel drive. A plug-in hybrid would further green the X5, enabling it to run emissions-free on battery power for 15 miles or so. Both additions would broaden the appeal of a crossover that ranks No. 2 in sales in its segment, behind the Lexus RX and ahead of the Mercedes-Benz GLE.

Should I wait for the 2020 model or buy a 2019?

Wait for the ’20 if you’re interested in the four-cylinder or intrigued by the plug-in. Neither is a guaranteed addition, of course, but both are logical extensions of the X5 line. So is the potential return of the high-performance X5 M with a twin-turbo V-8 of around 600 horsepower. Wait, too, if you wish to audition an X5 alternative from within BMW own lineup. Due to launch as a ’20 model, the X7 will be larger than the X5, with room enough for an adult-sized third-row bench plus a reasonable amount of cargo room behind. The ’20 X5 will again slot into BMW’s crossover lineup above the compact-class X3 and alongside the X6, which shares the X5’s underpinnings but uses a sportier – and less accommodating – fastback body.

Buy a 2019 X5 if, as most X5 buyers, you’re pleased with its six- and eight-cylinder powertrains and like how BMW updated this staple of its brand. The model-year-‘19 launch of the all-new fourth-generation X5 introduced a restyled body on a larger yet lighter new understructure. Performance, packaging, refinement, and comfort all improved over the 2014-2018 third-generation X5. For 2020, the six-cylinder xDrive40i and V-8 xDrive50i will carry over virtually intact, so buying a ’19 will help you duck any model-year price escalation for what’ll be essentially unchanged models.

Will the styling be different?

Not for the returning models. They’ll show the edgier, sleeker look that came on line with the 2019 redesign, when the X5 gained 1.6 inches in wheelbase (distance between the front and rear axles), 2.6 inches of width, and about 1 inch of overall length and height. Retained, of course, is BMW’s twin-kidney grille motif. Expect the ’20 X5 to return in standard livery, labeled xLine, that uses 19-inch alloy wheels and trims exterior accents in a matte aluminum finish, and in optional M Sport guise, with 20-inch alloys and body-colored and gloss-black accents.

If BMW introduces a four-cylinder X5 for 2020, it’ll likely be badged the xDrive30i when equipped with AWD and the sDrive30i with rear-wheel drive; its main visual distinction could be 18-inch alloys as the standard wheels. A plug-in hybrid – apt to be the X5 xDrive40e – would have a fuel-filler-type door over its front-fender charge port, as well as subtle aero-enhancing tweaks. A return of the full-fledged BMW performance-division-tuned M model to the X5 line would bring with it its own aero body addenda, plus unique trim, larger air intakes, and specific wheels and tires.

An X5 M would also have unique gauges, while a plug-in would get digital instrumentation tailored to furnishing info on battery charge, range, and power flow. Both would share the other X5s’ interior design, with a dashboard that emphasizes a horizontal layout and integrates a central wide-screen infotainment display rather than mounting it tablet-like. Back for sure will be the brand’s center-console iDrive dial/button cluster to control navigation, audio, and vehicle functions. Same for a hooded main-gauge binnacle with configurable virtual instrumentation.

BMW revised its wand-like console-mounted transmission shift lever for the fourth-generation X5, but its toggle action still takes getting use to. M Sport trim will again dress up the cabin with an M Sport steering wheel, piping on the seats, and specific aluminum trim. And an X5 M is likely to have its own extra-bolstered front sport bucket seats. But the interior of every ’20 X5 will again be quiet and sophisticated, very hospitable for adults in front and in the outboard second-row positions, squeezed for anyone but a child in the middle of the second row, and cramped even for kids in the hard-to-access optional third row. Opt for that extra two-person bench seat, however, and BMW gives you cargo-area power controls to slide the second row fore and aft and to raise and lower the second- and third-row seatbacks.

Cargo volume decreased about 6 percent in the 2019 redesign and there’s room for just a row of grocery bags behind the third row. But at 33.9 cubic feet behind the second row and 76.7 with it folded, the X5 is in the upper range of the competitive set and boasts the convenience of a two-section clamshell tailgate; the Comfort Access option allows the sections to be power operated, hands-free.

Any mechanical changes?

Only if BMW confirms our speculation and expands the line with any of the aforementioned models. The ’20 X5 sDrive30i and xDrive30i would be the first non-hybrid X5s with a four-cylinder engine, likely a version of the brand’s latest turbocharged 2.0-liter; expect around 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A potential plug-in hybrid 2020 X5 xDrive40e would reprise a version of the third-generation X5 plug-in’s turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder and combine it with battery-electric power to net around 308 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. The X5 M would use a twin-turbo V-8 of around 600 horsepower.

These newcomers would join the carryover X5s: the xDrive40i with its turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder of 335 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, and the xDrive50i with a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 of 456 horses and 479 pound-feet. All 2020 X5s would continue with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The X5 M could adopt BMW’s trick new xDrive system that allows the driver to switch between rear- and all-wheel drive. The xDrive on the other models would again be calibrated to maintain rear-wheel torque bias in normal driving and to shuffle power to the front tires to maximize handling and grip.

A 2020 X5 M would have specific performance-tuned suspension settings and likely come standard with 22-inch wheels, handling-oriented low-profile tires, and could also use recalibrated versions of suspension systems already on the X5. These include Dynamic Damper Control, which should again be standard and include driver-selectable comfort and sport settings. Returning as an option would be BMW’s Adaptive M suspension Profession, which automatically counteracts body lean in turns, as well as an air suspension with automatic load-levelling. The air suspension will again be part of the optional Off-Road Package that adds underbody protection, an electronically controlled rear differential lock, and driver-selectable modes that automatically adjust the powertrain and ride height for driving on sand, rock, gravel, or snow.

All ’20 X5s would again benefit from the automaker’s new Cluster Architecture, or CLAR platform, adopted with the 2019 redesign. It’s a modular chassis set first employed for BMW’s redesigned 2016 7 Series flagship sedan and a version is slated to underpin future 3 and 6 Series cars, as well as the X7. CLAR is a rear-wheel-drive-based platform that can accommodate all-wheel drive. Supplementing steel construction with magnesium, carbon fiber, and aluminum helps it achieve low mass and high strength, benefitting ride, handling, acceleration, and fuel economy.

Will fuel economy improve?

Not for the 2020 X5 xDrive40i and xDrive50i because they’ll have carryover powertrains. EPA ratings for the ‘20 X5 were not released in time for this review. But expect the xDrive40i to rate around 20/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined and the xDrive50i around 17/23/19. Adding the four-cylinder sDrive30i and xDrive30i models would create new X5 fuel-economy leaders: respectively, figure EPA ratings on the order of 22/29/24 mpg and 21/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined. Look for a 2020 X5 M to rate around 15/20/17 mpg.

A 2020 X5 xDrive40e plug-in would seek to exceed its predecessor’s rating of 56 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent) city-highway combined. MPGe is the EPA’s calculation of the miles a vehicle operating on electricity could travel on gallon of gasoline. BMW’s plug-in hybrids can draw an initial battery charge from a home or commercial outlet, storing enough juice to travel some distance on electricity alone – about 14 miles in case of the third-generation X5 xDrive40e. Thereafter, they perform as conventional hybrids, automatically mixing and matching gas and electric power and recharging the system’s battery pack via regenerative braking and coasting.

Will it have new features?

Probably no new features, per se, beyond the technology associated with possible introduction of the xDrive40e plug-in hybrid and the high-performance X5 M. In addition to the aforementioned standard and optional equipment, the ’20 X5 will return with adaptive LED headlamps as standard and be available with BMW’s distinctive Laserlights with blue x-shaped elements inside the headlights. Other options would again include remote engine start and 21- and 22-inch alloy wheels.

Inside, power heated front sports seats will return as standard with ventilated massaging front seats and extended Merino leather upholstery as options. Expect the third-row seating option to cost around $1,700 and be available on all but the plug-in hybrid and X5 M. Other interior choices will again include genuine glass control knobs and buttons, heated and cooled center-console cup holders, four-zone climate control, and a panoramic moonroof. Also available will be BMW’s gesture control that allows the driver to use finger pokes and hand turns in the air to make infotainment-system adjustments.

BMW’s available Dynamic Interior Light can pulse to signal, for example, an incoming phone call. Entertainment options will again include a 1,500-watt Bowers & Wilkins Diamond system with 20 speakers, and a Blu-ray DVD system with 10.2-inch HD touchscreens in the back of the front headrests that can also display navigation maps.

On the safety front, all ’20 X5s will again come with BMW’s Active Driving Assistant, which includes blind-spot, rear cross-traffic, and lane-departure warning; plus autonomous emergency braking that can automatically stop the crossover to prevent a frontal collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian (it also detects bicyclists).

To get adaptive cruise control that maintains a set distance from traffic ahead will probably again require the optional Driving Assistant Professional package. This package adds Traffic Jam Assist for semi-autonomous stop-and-go driving, as well as automatic steering to prevent you from inadvertently wandering from your lane or from changing lanes into the path of another vehicle. It also includes BMW’s Automatic Lane Change feature that can automatically steer the X5 into a traffic-free adjacent lane; it’s activated by toggling the turn-signal lever. Emergency Stop Assistant is another component. If a medical emergency incapacitates the driver, it can automatically stop the X5 in the road or on the shoulder and notify the BMW Assist call center to alert emergency responders. It’s activated by pulling the electric parking brake switch.

Expanding on conventional hands-free automatic parking, the ’20 X5 will again be available with BMW’s Parking Assistant Plus. This mirrors the path most recently used in the forward direction – for up to 55 yards of hands-free reversing — and enables the X5 to automatically back out of a parking space it drove into forward on the previous day.

Finally, the ’20 X5 will again be available with a system vital to the future success of self-driving cars. BMW’s Mobileye Road Experience Management utilizes software supported by the vehicle’s camera-based driver-assist features, such as automatic lane-maintaining steering. It gathers data on road and traffic conditions and uploads it to the cloud, where it can be used by other BMW vehicles to enhance autonomous driving.

How will 2020 prices be different?

They’ll increase for equivalent models although the price of entry will probably be lower if the ’20 lineup adds the four-cylinder sDrive30i and xDrive30i. Base-price estimates here include BMW’s destination fee, which was $995 on the 2019 X5.

Expect the four-cylinder models to start around $53,000 with rear-drive and $55,000 with AWD. Estimated base price is $62,500 for the 2020 six-cylinder xDrive40i and $77,300 for the xDrive50i. If BMW adds an xDrive40e plug-in hybrid expect it to begin around $67,000.

When will it come out?

Release date for the 2020 X5 is in the third quarter of 2019.

Best competitors

Acura MDX, Aston Martin DBX, Audi Q7, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Lexus GX, Maserati Levante, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Porsche Cayenne, Tesla Model X, Volvo XC90

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]