► V8-powered X5 M driven
► M5 tech in an SUV body
► Does it work as a package?
There was a time when the wealthy spent big on sumptuous saloons, virile sports cars or seductive coupés and convertibles. Despite increasingly strict tailpipe rules, there is no end of the SUV boom in sight. If you think about it, a five-seat, all-wheel drive, V8 powered SUV like this new BMW X5 M can obviously do a lot, in exchange for a lot of money and compromises.
But let’s just get one thing straight: if you’re expecting this rival to the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Lamborghini Urus and Audi RS Q8 to be luxurious and sophisticated. It’s not.
Punchy start… why is that?
Because it’s an X5 with an M5 powertrain – no more, no less. In the UK we don’t get the regular X5 M. What we get is the X5 M Competition, which has different wheels, a louder exhaust and more power from the same engine, shaving 0.1sec off the 0-62mph time. For this you’ll pay £110,610, and you can add £2095 for the M Driver’s Package, which ups the top speed from 155 to 180mph.
The M5-sourced 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 here produces 617bhp at 6000rpm and 553lb ft of torque, available from a subtly growling 1800rpm, continuing to a phonetically dense 5800rpm. It’s mated with a fast-acting eight-speed Steptronic transmission which lets the driver select from three different shift speeds.
What does that mean when you’re out for fun?
Really see what the X5 M Competition can do, and an acrid smog lingers long after your ears have stopped ringing from the howling and screaming of the engine and brakes.
The dynamic talents make the mind boggle. Acceleration? Zero to 62mph in 3.8sec, and in a further 9.4sec you’ve reached 124mph. We didn’t get to experience the 180mph on our test drive, but we did get to see 11.9mpg on the dash display, highlighting the problem of turning a 2295kg five-seater into a performance car.
The throttle response is sharp but not jerky, and the adaptive transmission doesn’t depend on driver inputs to deliver. BMW’s clever all-wheel drive system combines a fully variable front-to-rear torque distribution and an active side-to-side torque split in the back. Most of the time, the X5 M travels in rear-wheel drive. Only when it approaches the ambitious limit of traction will the front wheels join in. Locking xDrive in Sport stimulates a tail-happiness that can be enhanced by selecting M Dynamic mode or by deactivating stability control altogether.
A new overkill feature lets the driver choose from two different steering and brake calibrations. The handling is neutral; the car follows your chosen line without fuss and in a stable yet dynamic manner. Switch off DSC and there is almost always enough grunt on tap for second- or third-gear slides; slides that can last until the V8 runs out of grunt or the X5 runs out of road. The brakes are astonishing – out-performing even the M5’s thanks to the extra grip from the wider tyres.
I sense gripes incoming…
Well… the damper settings have three options, only one of which offers any comfort; Sport and Sport Plus are highly unforgiving, abetted by the special-compound hyper-stiff 295/35 R21 front and 305/30 R22 rear Michelins. And while the steel brakes are supremely potent, they lack the stamina of carbon ceramics.
The steering could do with a more relaxed high-speed calibration, and the software governing the transition from glide to slide interferes early and in ragged steps.
The other annoyance is the over-abundance of controls on the centre stack and steering wheel, with no Kimi-style leave-me-alone exit mode when going ten tenths is the name of the game.
BMW X5 M: verdict
And if that’s not your game, this isn’t the car for you. Cramming all of this performance car technology into a five-seat, plush-ish SUV hasn’t quite worked out right in the X5 M.
Don’t get us wrong – this is a hugely impressive piece of kit and highly effective, but it’s wildly expensive. It’s also limited in its usefulness as everyday transport – something other performance SUVs of this ilk manage to pull off far better.
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