CALLING it an M X5 just wouldn’t do. Even if the iconic Mazda roadster never existed, the BMW SUV flagship is clearly an SUV first (albeit blisteringly fast) and an M car second.
As with all the new-generation X5s, the M range-topper is essentially a rebodied version of what went before. It gets headlights from its X6 sibling, kidney grilles with M-signature double bars, and redesigned bumpers with 50 percent more voluminous air intakes.
Side-on, the gills get chromed, twin-stalk mirrors mount the doors, and unique 21-inch alloys (on non-runflat rubber) result in a 10mm lower ride height. Out back, the reprofiled bumper’s body-coloured diffuser houses four exhaust pipes.
Building on the X5’s usual space, comfort, practicality and functionality, the M version gains M-specific seats, steering wheel with paddle-shifters, gear selector and ‘exclusive’ trim finishes, some of dubious taste.
There’s certainly a taste for firepower aplenty, courtesy of a 423kW/750Nm 4.4-litre directinjection V8, employing two twin-scroll turbos and crossbank exhaust manifolds to edge power and torque outputs upwards to the tune of four and 10 percent respectively. Efficiency enhancements including regenerative braking and idle-stop see consumption drop 21 percent.
A switch from a six-speed to an eight-speed ZF auto also helps.
It’s been engineered to mimic the characteristics of a dual-clutch, so while the torque converter stays, low-speed ‘creep’ is gone, cog changes are quick and a new launch-control system cuts the 0-100km/h dash to 4.2 seconds – just 0.1sec shy of the $100K-dearer Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.
Even in its most docile Comfort mode, the X5M is a staggering performer, gaining ferocious momentum while maintaining a state of composed grace, on smooth and straight roads anyway. The BMW’s biggest strength is its ability to waft along on its own terms.
Acceleration is always colossal.
While no other 2.3-tonne SUV is as agile, the Bavarian blunderbuss lacks the laserguided tactility of other M cars.
The standard adjustable air suspension with its changeable dampers, variable-ratio steering, torque-vectoring AWD system (set at a 60/40 rear-drive bias) and astonishing braking make the driving decisions for you.
So while the helm is beautifully measured, the handling reactive and controlled, and the roadholding reassuringly tenacious, the net effect is like driving on auto pilot, with precious little real feel.
Choosing one of many adjustable steering, transmission or suspension modes can add a dramatic edge, accompanied by a thunderous exhaust soundtrack.
But the constant pitching of its chassis, exacerbated by inevitable body movement (despite Dynamic Drive active anti-roll) and deteriorating ride comfort over anything other than velvety smooth surfaces, might dissuade excursions into the X5M’s Sport or Sport+ modes.
More palatable is the $185,900 relative value. For $2K extra, there’s $15K more kit, including bigger wheels, a leather-lined dash, driving/parking assist tech, Harman Kardon audio and ConnectedDrive services. Lack of autonomous emergency braking is disappointing, though.
Two days of ripping along stunning Tasmanian roads reveals the X5M’s cracking speed, handling and roadholding, but also highlights issues of thirst, ride, a clunky gear lever and driving detachment. The M bits are added-on, rather than engineered-in. Stonking as it is, it could never be badged ‘MX5’.
Clunky gearlever; insatiable hard-driven thirst; turning circle; ride Strident performance; handling; comfort; practicality; attitude; value 52 wheelsmag.com.au
Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale BMW X5M 4395cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin turbochargers 423kW @ 6000-6500rpm 750Nm @ 2200-5000rpm 8-speed automatic 2275kg 4.2sec (claimed) 11.1L/100km $185,900 Now
X5M’s huge 423kW/750Nm outputs not only make it the most powerful roadgoing M car currently on sale, but the most powerful ever. Current M5 matches it for power, but only produces 680Nm.
If you’re unhinged enough, and have enough room, X5M’s MDM setting will let you “execute mild drifts”. Feel like pitching nearly 2.3 tonnes of SUV sideways? You’re mental.
Big power and big weight requires big brakes. Happily, the X5M’s six-piston front brake calipers are 50 percent larger than before, and 1.6kg lighter.
WHEN the $8800-cheaper X5M offers an identical driving experience in a better looking, roomier and more practical package, then we cannot see the point of the ‘coupe’ version (above). The $194,700 X6M offers less rear headroom, 70 litres less luggage space (though the one-piece tailgate is more practical than the X5M’s wagon-esque split system) and less cool factor, though it does weigh 10kg less. We know which BMW would get our wad of cash.
UNTIL Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo S trumped it, this was the quickest SUV to lap the Nurburgring with a lap time of 8m14s. Blown V8 and two-stage active exhaust sound awesome, but its 405kW/680Nm and 4.7sec 0-100km/h time can’t match the Bimmer.
CAYENNE Turbo S is the logical rival, but we reckon the GTS is the better buy. It’s $130,000 cheaper than the Turbo and is nimbler too. The only letdown is the 324kW/600Nm 3.6-litre twinturbo V6, which in this company is lacking straight-line performance.