BMW X5: the world’s first “Sports Activity Vehicle”

GREENVILLE, S.C. - 12/09/1998

The X5, which will be built in BMW’s U.S. factory in South Carolina, will make its world debut at the 1999 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The auto show will be held January 9 through 17. Market introduction is scheduled from the end of 1999.

With the introduction of the X5, BMW is once more opening a new market segment—the segment of the Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV).

The decision to build the X5 in the USA not only speaks to the importance of the United States market to BMW but also to the success of our young manufacturing operation in South Carolina. In only its fifth year of operation to be assigned the company’s newest and a more complex vehicle is a tribute to our associates,” said Dr. Norbert Reithofer, president of BMW Manufacturing Corp.

The new X5 Sports Activity Vehicle is characterized by well-known BMW qualities—aesthetic design, dynamic styling, performance and superior safety. In addition, the X5 is particularly characterized by a completely new sense of driving, especially by the high sitting posture and the exceptional handling on roads of any kind all over the world.

With its unitized body and independent suspension, the X5 sets new standards in terms of driving dynamics and safety for vehicles – remarkable as well in off road conditions. In its fundamental technology, it is an all-new passenger vehicle developed from the ground up specifically for this new market and containing four-wheel-drive according to the latest standard as well as driving comfort and comfort quality.

This is demonstrated through a level of responsiveness and handling on the road made possible by an innovative system of four-wheel drive with four-wheel application of the brakes, ASC+T and DSC 3 (Automatic and Dynamic Stability Control) providing a level of performance and sophisticated technology not available until now. The outstanding characteristic is that the BMW’s Sports Activity Vehicle is able to develop its strengths both on the road as well as off the beaten track with exemplary acceleration and stopping power even on loose ground or – thanks to hill descent control – when driving downhill on steep inclines.

The range of engines for BMW’s Sports Activity Vehicle will comprise BMW’s superior V8 as well as the well-known silken-smooth straight-six and the new ultra-modern direct-injection six-cylinder diesel.

The Sports Activity Vehicle complies with the commitment to safety and security leadership that has always been a hallmark of the BMW brand. In comparison with other vehicles with off-road abilities, the X5 with its unitized body as well as the well-known BMW security package F.I.R.S.T. is unprecedented in case of a crash in view of occupants and other vehicles. And featuring up to 10 airbags, it also offers the same supreme standard of passive interior safety as BMW’s large luxury performance sedans – with frontal, side and head airbags at the front plus side and head airbags at the rear.

It is the boasting proportions of the X5 that proudly reflect its special character of power and softness. The overall length of 183.5 inches, height of 67.7 inches and width of 73.6 inches clearly reveal the mission of the X5 as a vehicle blending the agility and handling so typical of a BMW. As far as vehicles of this dimension are concerned, the X5 is almost compact while smooth and muscular at the same time. The powerful and dynamic look of the Sports Activity Vehicle is underlined by the extra-large wheels up to 19 inch, the short front overhang and the purposeful, powerful side moldings.

With the X5, you will find well-known BMW styling features such as the large kidney grill, dual round headlights, the unique curve at the bottom of the rear side windows, and the L-shaped rear light clusters integrated in the rear section with its two-piece tailgate.

The interior of the X5 is equally thoughtful, providing an unequaled impression of luxury, spaciousness and security highlighted by the high seating position, generous headroom and exceptionally strong roof pillars. Along with the other BMW models in terms of comfort and customization, the X5 clearly reflects the superiority of this new automotive concept: Wherever it goes, whether driven in a sporting, dynamic style on winding country roads or on treacherous road surfaces off the beaten track, it is able to virtually master every challenge and add that sheer driving pleasure typical of BMW.

BMW’s entry into this new segment was announced last winter at the 1998 North American International Auto Show, when the company stated “BMW has a long history of identifying new market niches and developing vehicles to satisfy these market opportunities. Presenting the 02 Series some 30-plus years ago, BMW was the first to identify and introduce the “Sports Saloon” concept to the world market.

The latest market niche BMW entered only recently is the fixed roof two-seater sports car segment, where the Z3 coupe based on the Z3 roadster now proudly flies the BMW colors. And it is no coincidence that the Z3 coupe, like the X5, comes from BMW’s latest car production plant in Spartanburg County, South Carolina.

This is indeed a further step in the strategy to strengthen the position of the BMW Group through globalization. BMW’s South Carolina factory began production in 1994 and plays an integral role in the company’s worldwide production network. Meanwhile, investment figures amount to $1.2 billion.

From the beginning of 1999, the workforce at the South Carolina factory will increase from 2,000 to 3,000 and a new body shop and expanded assembly building will double the plant size to more than 2 million square feet.

Production Figures

  •  2019 Production - April
    • X3 Vehicles: 9,568
    • X4 Vehicles: 5,809
    • X5 Vehicles: 12,863
    • X6 Vehicles: 981
    • X7 Vehicles: 5,322
  • Number of jobs – 11,000
  • U.S. suppliers – 300
  • South Carolina suppliers– Over 40

Media Contacts

Sky Foster

BMW Manufacturing Co.
P. O. Box 11000
Spartanburg, SC 29304


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