X Marks the Spot.

During the mid-80s, the BMW Group first used the letter X as a model designation that featured four-wheel drive technology. By the turn of the century, it stood for a very special, new form of driving pleasure.

Published: September 2016
Video/Photos: BMW GROUP

When the BMW X5 launched in 1999, the typical test drives presented to international journalists consisted of three elements: an off-road excursion, a meander along country roads and a lap around the race circuit. It took all three terrains to demonstrate the true character of the new model.

 

The BMW X5 was launched as the world’s first Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV), pioneering a new vehicle category. As opposed to conventional off-roaders, the BMW X5 was equipped for both challenging off-road terrain as well as sporty motoring. Its unique position was a result of its unparalleled driving dynamics and excellent handling characteristics.

 

The difference: from the beginning, power transmission to all four wheels was deployed by BMW, not merely to optimise traction

on unpaved roads and in adverse weather conditions, but also to enhance driving dynamics when, for example, taking bends. Other manufacturers tended to use four-wheel drive predominantly to compensate for traction loss experienced on front-wheel drive vehicles. BMW stayed true to its roots and consistently adhered to the typical characteristics of the rear-wheel drive concept. In this way, even in normal driving situations, most of the torque was transferred to where it was optimally transformed into vehicle dynamics – the rear wheels. As a result, the steering precision that is characteristic of a BMW also remained virtually free from drivetrain influences on four-wheel drive models. Moreover, when cornering at higher speeds, steering response was optimised through a targeted increase in torque delivered to the rear wheels.

The BMW X5 pioneered a new vehicle category: the Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV).
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The exterior design of the BMW X3 is characterised by its sporty presence and self-assured elegance. The BMW X3 is known not just for its exciting agility, but also for its outstanding driving safety and ride comfort, not to mention that it has the largest interior and the best variability of its class.

 

The concept of the SAV was too attractive and successful to remain limited to just one model. Shortly after the launch of the X5, the combination of versatility and sporty driving characteristics that are typical of a SAV was transferred to a further vehicle segment – the BMW X3 was the first. With its dimensions more compact than the BMW X5 and its even more swift and agile handling characteristics, it was the only premium vehicle in its class for many years.

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The compact BMW X3 was faster and more agile even than the X5, and was the first premium vehicle in its class.

 

During 2006, production of the second-generation BMW X5 began. This model introduced enhanced space and comfort, luxurious ambience, and even more superior drive technology that included innovative suspension and driver assistance systems.

 

The development of new concepts and ideas in the category continued with the BMW X6 and the advent of the Sports Activity Coupe in 2008. The first-generation BMW X6, with its innovative design and exceptional driving characteristics, became the founder of an entirely new vehicle segment. Its design combined sporting elegance with a powerful presence. Dynamic Performance Control supplemented the permanent four-wheel system xDrive for the first time on the BMW X6 for an even sportier driving experience coupled with brand-typical dynamics on the road and maximum off-road supremacy. The BMW X6 underscored the category’s handling dynamics in a particularly intensive way.

Also in 2009, the BMW X1 introduced the BMW X’s guarantee of multi-faceted driving pleasure in the compact segment. The compact BMW X model became the forerunner, thanks to its versatility, sportiness, high degree of agility and cutting-edge functionality.

 

In the same year, a particularly exclusive and fascinating driving experience was injected into the range with the BMW X5 M and the BMW X6 M. BMW M GmbH, which specialises in high-performance sports cars, presented for the first time two vehicles featuring four-wheel drive. The merging of the M philosophy with the innovative concept of BMW X models cleared the way for the high-performance character associated with the letter M.

 

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The BMW X1 demonstrated that the fascination of sporty, agile and yet confident, self-assured driving pleasure was ready to be enjoyed in the compact class of vehicle, especially when venturing off the beaten track.

The next generation BMW X3 kept up the impetus in 2010, which offered not only enhanced sportiness and efficiency, but also significantly more room and comfort as well as optimised functionality and innovative equipment features.

 

The BMW X4, which launched in 2014, brought the superior dynamism and sporting elegance associated with the BMW X6 to the premium mid-range segment. Like the BMW X6, the BMW X4 also started off without any direct competitors. Its expressive body design combined the power and presence of a BMW X model with the sporting elegance of a classic BMW coupe. Unwaveringly, BMW assumed a pioneering role. This model combines driving pleasure, sophistication and modern functionality in an inimitable way, turning heads with its extroverted design and supreme acceleration.

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The BMW X1 demonstrated that the fascination of sporty, agile and yet confident, self-assured driving pleasure was ready to be enjoyed in the compact class of vehicle, especially when venturing off the beaten track.
With the BMW X5 M and the BMW X6 M the company, which specialises in high-performance sports cars, presented for the first time two vehicles featuring four-wheel drive.
The high-performance versions of the Sports Activity Vehicle and the Sports Activity Coupe set new benchmarks in dynamics in the competitive environment of BMW X models.
Both the BMW X5 M and the BMW X6 M completed the sprint from 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds.
The range of equipment on the BMW X5 M and the BMW X6 M included shift paddles on the steering wheel as well as a Launch Control function for acceleration with maximum dynamics from a standstill.
The intelligent four-wheel drive system BMW xDrive was specifically adapted to achieve optimised M-specific dynamics.
The range of equipment on the the BMW X5 M and the BMW X6 M included shift paddles on the steering wheel as well as a Launch Control function for acceleration with maximum dynamics from a standstill.

The BMW X5 continues the success story of the SAV in its third generation. The current edition of the SAV is optionally available with seven seats. The second-generation BMW X6 presents itself with increased design presence and enhanced sportiness as well as a luxurious interior ambience and innovative equipment features. Like the standard equipment options, the range of driver assistance systems and mobility services from BMW ConnectedDrive has been significantly extended.

 

The family continues to grow and evolve, each generation building on the last. Additions to the range are underway and the unique thrill that belongs to the BMW X model is spreading to new categories. The BMW X7, an exceptionally large and luxurious model, is under development. The popularity of BMW X models, which contributed decisively towards BMW becoming one of the world’s most successful producers of premium four-wheel drive automobiles, continues to increase consistently. Out of every three newly registered BMW branded vehicles, one of them is a BMW X model. Perhaps the idea behind the BMW X family is that the world is full of possibilities and the BMW X models provide you with the means to explore them. Or maybe BMW, in pioneering a new category of vehicle, introduced its unique brand of driving pleasure to a new world. Whatever the reason, X will forever mark the spot where life’s adventures begin.