Car reviews - BMW - X5 - M
Savage V8 performance, handling prowess for a big SUV, all-paw grip out of corners, awesome braking, comfortable day-to-day ride, classy and well-specced interior layout
Room for improvement
Throttle and steering can get twitchy, noisy ride on large alloys, unimpressive boot space, could use more torque off the line
BMW takes X5 SUV to uncharted heights with new-generation X5 M Competition
19 May 2020
AT LONG last, it’s here. While the fourth-generation BMW X5 large SUV first touched down in Australia in November 2018, it has taken a year and a half for the range to be crowned by its X5 M.
The new generation marks the first time the X5 M has been offered in full-fat Competition grade, which among other features sees power of the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 jump from 423kW in the outgoing generation to a fearsome 460kW.
Extra power and some visual enhancements sound good on paper, but how does the new X5 M Competition stack up in the real world?
First drive impressions
The X5 M Competition arrives Down Under at the same time as its mechanically related X6 sibling, priced from $209,900 plus on-roads – $4000 underneath the X5.
Some relatively small spec changes and body shape differences aside, the X5 and X6 M are fundamentally the same, sharing the majority of important components headlined by its engine.
Buyers of the X5 M Competition will have access to the most potent engine offered on a BMW model to date, with the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 also seen in the M8 Competition and M5 Competition tuned to produce a massive 460kW at 6000rpm and 750Nm from a wide 1800-5800rpm.
The ‘regular’ X5 M, which produces 441kW, will not be offered Down Under.
The massive 460kW output makes it the most powerful petrol engine in the luxury large SUV segment ahead of the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo (404kW), Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S (450kW), Maserati Levante Trofeo (441kW) and Range Rover Sport SVR (423kW).
Only the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid and its plug-in hybrid V8 trumps the X5 M for output (500kW), while the title of most powerful large SUV overall still belongs to the ‘mainstream’ Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and its 522kW supercharged V8.
As one might imagine, 460kW at your disposal makes for some seriously eye-opening performance, even when under the bonnet of a large SUV that tips the scales at a considerable 2310kg.
Put simply, the X5 M V8 is a beast. Off the line, the big bruiser could use a little more torque to get moving, but once the twin turbochargers are spooled up and the engine revs creep north of 3000rpm, the bent-eight comes to life with a vicious response that continues all the way to redline.
Sporting an all-paw set-up with a bias to the rear wheels, the V8 is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, which like other similar units in BMWs does an excellent job with no major gripes to speak of.
The level of power available once moving is frightening, with a poke of the throttle coming out of a corner causing the big SUV to positively leap forward, and gallop all the way to redline while showing no signs of slowing down.
All that power does make for a thirsty engine, however, with our average consumption coming in at 13.3 litres per 100km with a mix of gentle highway and harder back-road driving.
Throttle response is instantaneous, especially in sport mode for moves like highway overtaking where the big wagon will surge forward as if it were starting from standstill.
The flipside to the manic feedback from the go-fast pedal is the X5 M can sometimes feel a little twitchy around town, which gives a feeling of required vigilance to keep the big V8 at bay, like a pit-bull terrier pulling at its leash.
Likewise, the steering of the X5 M around town can be similarly sharp, which when combined with the hyper-vigilant lane-keep assist system can tend to make piloting the vehicle a little tiring in everyday situations.
While the razor-sharp steering is not particularly well suited to daily driving, get the X5 M out onto twisting backroads and the steering calibration – which BMW M says it worked tirelessly on in the X5 M – becomes much more palatable.
The M division has done a great job of making the X5 M feel might sprightlier than its 2310kg kerb weight would suggest, with the sharp-yet-weighty steering feel and solid levels of feedback providing an engaging drive experience at speed.
While BMW’s engineers have done a good job of calibrating the steering, the work they have done to ensure the X5’s dynamics are worthy of an M badge are even more impressive.
The big bruiser tips into corners surprisingly well, holding its line tightly through the apex of corners.
Most impressive of all is the way it exits corners, with the xDrive all-paw system and V8 helping to slingshot the X5 out of corners, with absolutely no hint of tyre squeal or loss of traction that defies logic.
The various traction control systems keep the twin kidney grilles constantly pointed in the right direction without any over- or understeer, and provides an engaging driving experience for drivers of varied experience and skill.
Granted, there is more bodyroll than you would be accustomed to in a sedan or coupe, with trick engineering not able to completely negate the laws of physics.
Often with full-fat performance offerings, buyers have to sacrifice comfort and luxury in the name of performance, however the X5 M’s adaptive suspension provides a ride quality that, while not plush, gives a liveable level of ride comfort that would make it a palatable daily driving prospect.
The only drawback is the large alloy wheels – measuring 21 inches at the front and 22 at the rear – which allow a good deal of road noise into the cabin, especially on less-than-perfect road surfaces which on long journeys can become particularly tedious.
Speaking of the cabin, the X5 M doesn’t stray too far from the successful formula of its less performance-focused siblings, with a comfortable, luxurious environment that uses premium materials, cutting-edge technology and has fantastic fit and finish.
BMW’s Operating System 7.0 is one of our favourite multimedia interfaces (with the exception of the digital instrument cluster, which should be more customisable), and the comfortable leather sports seats, strong equipment levels and generally sturdy and well-constructed feel make the X5 M a comfortable place to be.
Dimensions are comfortable for front and rear passengers, and we like that the tailgate has a split design for easy loading and even doubling as a bench, however we would prefer the X5’s loading space had a little more room from floor to roof.
Nevertheless, the X5 M throws down the gauntlet to its competitors. Its 460kW output puts all other contenders on notice, and its ability to snake its way through corners as a 2.3-tonne SUV cannot be understated.
With Mercedes set to release the all-new GLE63 S in the second half of the year, it’s time to say – over to you, AMG.
Model release date: 1 May 2020
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