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Redesigned 2018 BMW X5 to boast an advance structure, and maybe some surprises

What changes will make the 2018 BMW X5 different?

A full redesign, with a restyled body on a larger yet lighter new structure. This will be the biggest change to BMW’s midsize crossover SUV since its model-year 2014 redesign. It’s especially significant because unlike the ‘14 redesign, this redo is revolutionary rather than evolutionary. It transitions the crossover to the German automaker’s new Cluster Architecture, or CLAR, vehicle platform. That should cut weight for higher performance and better fuel economy and increase passenger and cargo room. The fourth-generation X5 will again come standard with seating for five and offer a range of gas engines and plug-in-hybrid model.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

To experience the next phase of BMW’s popular premium crossover. It promises to be the best X5 yet, not only for its collection of advanced features, but for its newfound performance and packaging efficiencies. Weight savings associated with the CLAR platform will allow use of a four-cylinder engine for the first time in a non-hybrid X5, and should also help the returning six- and eight-cylinder engines deliver quicker acceleration and better fuel economy. Ride, handling, even safety should benefit, as well, thanks to CLAR’s added structural rigidity. A plethora of cutting-edge convenience and connectivity features is expected, including predictive suspension adjustment.

The new platform will also allow the X5 to grow strategically, expanding space for people and cargo.

The redesigned model will again slot above the X3 in BMW’s crossover lineup, but it’ll no longer be the brand’s largest SUV. The bigger X7 is set to debut for 2018, as well. In contrast to the tiny, optional third-row seat squeezed into the current X5, the X7 will be long enough to accommodate an adult-sized third-row bench, plus a reasonable amount of cargo room behind.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

Only if you get a deal too attractive to pass up. The 2014-2017 iteration of the X5 has sold well, thanks in part to the surge in demand for all crossovers. Its powertrains are exemplary, ranging from a 300-horsepower six to a 567-horse V-8, with a diesel and plug-in hybrid in between. Build quality is solid and passenger space generous. However, its steering precision and handling composure fall short of the lofty expectations associated with the BMW badge. Prices are steep, too, although that’s expected in this class. Including BMW’s $995 destination fee, the ’17 models started at $57,595 for the rear-wheel-drive sDrive35i and topped out at $101,695 for the high-performance X5 M. Options are pricey, too, and can quickly inflate the sticker’s bottom line. On the upside, buying a 2017 X5 will position you to exploit model-year-closeout sales, as dealers clear inventories to make way for the redesigned replacement.

Will the styling be different?

Yes, and with a refreshing twist. Look for an edgier, sleeker interpretation of the outgoing X5. Spy shots of camouflaged prototypes suggest more slope to the roofline and a more aggressively sculpted nose with larger front air intakes. They also show rectangular dual-exhaust cutouts in the rear bumper. The twist is that the new X5 won’t simply come off as a larger version of the X3 and a smaller take on the X7. It should enjoy enough visual distinction to forge its own identity as a sportier next step for BMW’s still-mainstream but more-youthful midsize crossover. That’s a tricky path, given the overt sportiness of the similarly sized coupe-like X6 crossover. But it’s an avenue newly open to the X5 thanks to the boxier, more stately styling of the coming X7.

While the next-gen X5 is likely to have a slightly longer wheelbase (the span between front and rear axles), its overall length and width probably won’t change much, keeping it roughly in the middle of the competitive set for exterior dimensions. Expect new wheel designs, with diameters again ranging from around 18 inches to possibly 22 inches – up from 21 – on the X5 M.

Expect slightly less individuality to the revamped cabin. BMW has settled on a relatively uniform dashboard design across its vehicle line. It emphasizes a horizontal layout with a wide-screen infotainment display mounted tablet-like above a central cluster of audio and climate controls. The brand’s traditional hooded main-gauge binnacle will return, though it could introduce to the X5 driver-selectable virtual instrumentation.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes, foremost the CLAR platform. The modular chassis was employed first 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. It’s a rear-wheel-drive-based design that can accommodate all-wheel drive. Supplementing steel construction with magnesium, carbon fiber, and aluminum helps it achieve low mass and high strength. The handling benefits of a rigid but light chassis play into BMW’s plan to heat up the X5’s sportiness, now that the X7 can play the role of the brand’s true luxury family crossover.

Under its new hood, the redesigned X5 could feature the crossover’s first used of a four-cylinder engine in a non-hybrid model. It would be a version of the brand’s latest turbocharged 2.0-liter; expect around 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It would likely power entry-level models badged sDrive30i with rear-wheel drive and xDrive30i with all-wheel drive (AWD). To preserve BMW’s traditional handling balance, the X5’s xDrive system would again be calibrated to maintain a rear-wheel torque bias in normal driving and to shuffle power to the front tires to maximize handling and grip.

Returning in models badged sDrive35i and xDrive35i would be the latest edition of BMW’s turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder, probably with 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, up from 300 and 300, respectively. The xDrive50i would be back with a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 of around 456 horsepower and 480-pound-feet of torque versus the outgoing xDrive50i’s 445 and 480, respectively.

The plug-in hybrid 2018 X5 xDrive40e should reprise a combination of a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder and battery-electric power for a total of 308 horses and 332 pound-feet of torque. The high-performance X5 M may not return until model-year 2019. It should also use a twin-turbo V-8 of around 600 horsepower, up from today’s 567, and could adopt BMW’s trick new xDrive system that allows the driver to switch between rear- and all-wheel drive. Expect all 2018 X5s to again use an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Finally, BMW was among the relatively few automakers that continued to offer diesel engines for model-year 2017. Fallout from emissions-cheating investigations caused the EPA to withhold certification for diesel models from Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche brands, along with those from Mercedes-Benz. The 2017 X5 xDrive35d used a turbodiesel 3.0-liter inline-six with 255 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. BMW could well carryover a diesel model to the redesigned, or it could follow the trend toward electrification and use the launch of a new-generation X5 to retire the oil burner.

Will fuel economy improve?

It should, if a more aerodynamic body and weight savings associated with the new substructure offset horsepower gains. Adding the four-cylinder sDrive30i and xDrive30i models would create new X5 fuel-economy leaders: expect EPA ratings on the order of 20/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined. Look for the sDrive35i and xDrive35i to register slight gains and rate around 18/26/22 mpg and 18/25/21, respectively. The 2018 xDrive50i would strive to beat its 2017 counterpart’s 15/21/17 rating. If the diesel returns, it’s EPA bogie would be 23/29/25 mpg.

Likewise, the xDrive40e plug-in would seek to exceed the ’17 model’s rating of 56 mpg-e (equivalent), the EPA’s calculation of the overall mileage equivalency of a gas vehicle that can also run exclusively on electricity. 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 the 2017 xDrive40e’s case. Thereafter, they perform as conventional hybrids, automatically mixing and matching gas and electric power and recharging the system’s battery pack via regenerative braking.

Will it have new features?

Yes, most notably in the realm of next-gen connectivity and autonomous-driving capabilities. BMW updated the 2017 X5 to its iDrive 5.0 navigation system with touchscreen functionality and expanded availability of wireless phone charging and WiFi Hotspot capability. That sort of aptitude will carryover, probably enhanced with gesture control that allows the driver to make infotainment-system adjustments with hand turns and finger pokes in the air. BMW is also apt to offer its Active Comfort Drive with Road Preview, which uses the navigation system to “look ahead” at road contours and conditions and automatically adjusts the suspension for optimal ride and handling.

Expect self-parking capability, along with a wealth of functional and dress-up options, such as the Luxury, Premium, Executive, and M Sport packages offered today. Niceties such as heated seats and steering wheel, even leather upholstery, probably will continue to cost extra on all but the top-of-the-line models. One intriguing possibility is eventual adoption of a system vital to the 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 2018 prices be different?

They’ll increase for equivalent models, though the price of entry probably will be lower if the ’18 lineup adds the four-cylinder sDrive30i and xDrive30i. Base-price estimates here include BMW’s destination fee. Expect the four-cylinder models to start around $51,000 with rear-drive and $53,300 with AWD. Estimated base price is $59,500 for the 2018 six-cylinder sDrive35i and $61,800 for the xDrive35i.

The 2018 X5 xDrive50i is likely to be priced from around $76,500, with the xDrive40e plug-in hybrid beginning around $66,000. Estimated base price for the 2018 diesel model would be around $63,400. If BMW again offers the third-row-seating option, expect it to cost around $1,700 and be available on all but the plug-in hybrid and M models.

When will it come out?

Release date for the 2018 X5 is late 2017.

Best competitors

Acura MDX, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Maserati Levante, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Porsche Cayenne, Tesla Model X

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]