New BMW X5 M Competition 2020 review
The new 617bhp BMW X5 M Competition is a fine example of what BMW's M Division can do
BMW’s latest M car is a fine example of what M Division can do to what is, let’s face it, not a natural home for its handiwork. As high performance SUVs go the X5 M Competition is quick and hugely capable, while it’s a technological tour de force and highlights how BMW’s build quality is as good as it now gets. It’ll provide a stiff challenge for a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and even the more expensive Aston Martin DBX.
When the original BMW X5 was launched just over twenty years ago, it was launched in the USA at the Road Atlanta racetrack. It was a bold move by BMW, but then the X5 has always been an SUV that justifies the Sport as much as the Utility Vehicle tag.
Now we’re back in the US – where all X5s are built – to drive the latest version and the latest BMW to wear an M badge - the new BMW X5 M Competition.
M Division has worked its magic on the X5 twice before, but this takes it to a different level. Almost every part of the car has been tweaked, with a new M-designation for each new feature.
At the heart of every M car is the engine, in this case a 4.4-litre V8 with M TwinPower Turbo tech – we warned you. That means two turbochargers sit within the V of the engine, with the Competition version of the X5 M (BMW GB isn’t bothering with the ‘standard’ version) offering a mighty 617bhp and 750Nm of torque.
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That power goes through an eight-speed M Steptronic gearbox to the M xDrive four-wheel drive system featuring an active M Differential, while there’s a bespoke M exhaust.
The M Servotronic steering controls M light-alloy wheels (21-inch at the front, 22s at the back), while M compound breaks reign all that power in.
On the outside, the X5 gets the M design treatment with larger air intakes, M gills on the front side panels, traditional M-aero door mirrors, rear roof spoiler and a diffuser lower down, with two pairs of exhaust pipes peaking out. It’s mean, but slightly subtler than some high performance SUVs.
It’s the same inside where quality is as good as it gets, there’s a fabulously beefy M steering wheel, plenty of M embellishments, a spot-on driving position and super-suportive M multifunction seats. It’s all, well, mmmmmm.
So how does it drive? First you’ve got to choose your drive setting: Road, Sport or Track. More likely you’ll be delving into the many menus to find M mode so you can select your own settings for the drivetrain, steering, dampers, stability control, exhaust note and even brake feel. Our favourite? Stick everything in Sport, but leave the dampers in Road. The red buttons on the steering wheel can be used for instant access to two settings of your choice.
Prod the Start button and the V8 jumps to attention, giving a hint of the excitement to come if you have the loud option selected and you get to floor the throttle.
Do that and the X5 M will leap forward, accompanied by a decent growl, hitting 62mph in just 3.8 seconds as the gearbox punches through the gears so quickly you’ll hardly feel the changes.
There are no electric systems boosting engine power, so acceleration rises like a sprinter – quickly – rather than being totally instant. In these days of electrification, it’s deliciously old school.
While the M people have done an incredible job on all fronts, this is still a big, heavy car. You could never describe the X5 M as lithe, but it feels considerably lighter than its 2310kg suggests – quite a feat in itself.
Throw it into a corner and it’ll stay flat and grip hard. With the M xDrive system sending plenty of power to the big rear wheels, where the active diff also does its work, there’s a greater sense of agility than we’ve seen in an M SUV before. It takes an intake of breath to go hard as you exit the corner, but there’s no danger of lurid slides, while the steering feels quick enough to adjust things swiftly if you need to. There’s a decent sense of what the tyres are doing up front, too – another oddity in an SUV.
We’d caveat all this with a caution over the ride; even in the softest Road setting, it’s firm. It feels less likely to jolt and jiggle as the previous X5 Ms, but this isn’t a car that’ll cosset.
It’s fun and addictive, though; nowhere near as adjustable as a lower-set M-car and even less likely to want to be used in Track mode where the name suggests it should. The V8’s soundtrack that’s boosted through the speakers adds nicely to the drama, though.
Of course, you have to pay a fair bit for this M expertise wrapped up in a large, easy-to-live-with SUV (it’ll seat five at a cinch with a 650-litre boot). The UK’s X5 M Competition cars will cost £110,610. If you want the slightly more svelte X6 M Competition – which M’s engineers tells us feels pretty much identical in spite of a slightly lower weight (and, for the record, while the X6 remains aesthetically challenged, this is the best yet) – you’ll have to find £113,310.