BMW has announced an update for its US-built X5 SUV. The facelifted model debuts in September 2003 at the Frankfurt motor show, and goes on sale soon after with right hand drive models available from January 2004.

The X5 receives three new engines (two in the US which won’t get the diesel). Eight-cylinder power comes from a 4.4i V8, with a new high performance X5 4.8iS arriving in spring 2004. BMW’s latest six-cylinder 3.0 diesel engine is added to the line up, and is complemented by the 3.0i petrol engine carried over from the existing car.

The new 4.4i V8 engine features Valvetronic inlet control and Bi-Vanos valve timing and is mated to a new six-speed automatic gearbox with gear ratios tailored for the new X5. Developing 320 bhp (an increase of 34 bhp over the outgoing model), the X5 4.4i accelerates from 0–62 mph (100km/h) in seven seconds (previously 7.5 seconds) before reaching a top speed of 149 mph (up from 143 mph) in its Sport guise.

The diesel model, the best-selling model in the UK market, now has the second-generation common rail diesel engine, producing 218 bhp (previously 184 bhp) and 500 Nm of torque (up from 410 Nm). From standstill, 62 mph is reached in 8.3 seconds (1.8 seconds faster than its predecessor) whilst still delivering 32.8 mpg on the EC combined cycle. Top speed is 130 mph (up from 124 mph), and a new six-speed manual gearbox is standard.

The revised X5 has BMW’s new xDrive system, an intelligent four-wheel drive system, announced recently on the forthcoming X3, which constantly varies drive between the front and rear axles, depending upon the traction requirements.

Using information from the wheel sensors and data collected from the DSC stability system, including the yaw rate and steering angle, xDrive predicts any loss of traction or tyre slippage and reacts in a few milliseconds. A mid-mounted, electrically controlled multi-disc clutch is used to distribute drive constantly between the front and rear wheels, varying the torque delivery to the wheels which most require it.

This contrasts with the four-wheel drive system of the outgoing X5 which works on the basis of a fixed front-to-rear drive ratio, and uses only DSC traction control for critical interventions.

The X5 has been slightly restyled with new headlamp units and illuminated headlamp rings forming sidelights.

The bonnet has been reshaped, with sharper edges that run into the trademark double kidney grilles, that have also been reshaped and enlarged.

Also revised is the front valance section, with redesigned fog lamps and larger air intakes now divided in the centre by a continuation of the bonnet lines.

At the rear, new transparent glass lamps are fitted.

A number of new safety features are now available on the X5. For the first time, adaptive headlamps are optional, illuminating the road ahead in the direction that the car is travelling, rather than the direction the car is pointing. Fitted as standard on all eight-cylinder models, bi-xenon headlamps are available as an option on six-cylinder vehicles.

Greater levels of safety are also available when towing, thanks to a new trailer stabilisation control. As a function of the familiar dynamic stability control system, sensors monitor and measure any dangerous pendulum motion from a swaying trailer and sensitively apply the brakes, automatically returning the trailer to a more stable condition.