Jim O'Donnell, BMW GB managing director, hoped to sell around 4,000 X5s a year when the full engine line-up was available. Only 4.4-litre versions are on sale and the more popular 3-litre becomes available during 2001.
BMW rejects the term Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) for X5, preferring Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV).
At the Birmingham motor show Mr O'Donnell said: “SUV implies the truck origins from which many of these vehicles were born, yet 90% of them never see a scrap of mud in their lives.
“The X5 has been designed to retain the characteristics of a BMW sporting car yet it still offers respectable off-road capability.”
BMW plans other X vehicles on the X5 platform and some are likely to have a more rugged approach. In the meantime, X5 is targeted directly at the Range Rover and Grand Cherokee markets with prices from £44,000.
BMW's M3 made a UK debut at the show. It offers 343bhp from a 3.2-litre straight six engine, reaching 62mph in 5.2 seconds. It will go on sale in the UK next spring and cost £38,500.
The 5-series has received a minor facelift with redesigned headlights and grille. A new 2.5-litre, common rail diesel engine joins the range.