IT’S CRAZY TO THINK THAT A 'HULK-SIZED' FAMILY SUV CAN DELIVER ALMOST SUPERCAR LEVELS OF PERFORMANCE, BUT THE 2016 BMW X5 M DOES JUST THAT.
Externally, there are some subtle hints as to the potential within, but nothing too garish. Same goes for the interior - if you know what you’re looking for it’s obvious, but your average passenger may not notice at all.
But the frantic leap off the line gives the game away - this X5 is a force to be reckoned with. Welcome to the sometimes strange world of the performance SUV.
Vehicle Style: Large performance SUV
Price: $185,510 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 423kW/750Nm 4.4 8cyl turbo petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 11.1 l/100km | Tested: 18.7 l/100km
In value for money terms, the X5 M is a bit of a bargain. Starting from $185k is no small chunk of change, but on a dollars-per-kilogram basis, the X5 looks pretty decent value against the M5 sedan.
Like the M5, the X5 M features a 423kW twin-turbo V8 engine, but, unlike the sedan, the X5 M generates a more outrageous 750Nm of torque (compared to 680Nm in the M5), resulting in a performance-equalling 4.2 second 0-100km sprint time.
And, if 'stuck like glue' roadholding is your thing, the all-wheel-drive X5 M offers mind-altering grip.
But, is it possible to consider a 2.2 tonne SUV a genuine performance car? Or are there too many opposites at work? We spent a hard-charging week with the X5 M to find out.
- Standard equipment: Four-zone climate control, leather seat-trim, electrically adjustable sports front seats with memory, LED ambient lighting, proximity key and push-button start, powered sunroof, colour head-up display, LED headlights, sports steering wheel, M instrument cluster, multi-function trip computer, 21-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 10.25-inch colour display with iDrive Touch controller, Harman/Kardon speakers, FM/DVD/DAB+/USB, Bluetooth phone/audio integration, Internet browser, BMW ConnectedDrive Services package, satellite navigation
- Cargo volume: 650 litres minimum
On the inside the X5 M is more SUV than sports car, but that’s not to overlook the thorough reworking here by BMW’s M division.
Like the regular X5 range there’s capacious seating for five, with a commanding driving position and plenty of comfort and convenience features.
But, the M badge adds a sports steering wheel, M-branded sill plates, M instrument cluster, and a pair of front seats that wouldn’t look out of place in an exotic supercar.
There’s also the M-specific auto shifter from BMW’s dual-clutch cars, despite the X5 M’s ‘regular’ conventional automatic.
It’s enough to give the X5 M that performance vibe, the feeling that this SUV can carve corners as well as it can cart kids.
And, when it comes to carting, the back seat of the X5 M can comfortably accommodate three adults. The rear bench lacks the deep sculpting of the front buckets making it easier for three to slide across or to more-easily install child seats.
Unlike other members of the X5 range, the X5 M is strictly a five-seater, with the third-row option not offered on the fastest variant in the range.
Behind the two-piece tailgate (with a powered upper gate) is 650 litres of storage space. Plus, the cabin features the usual huge door bins, and large glovebox common throughout the X5 family.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 423kW/750Nm 4.4 litre twin turbo petrol V8
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Double wishbone front, multi-link rear with M Adaptive suspension
- Brakes: Four wheel vented and cross-drilled disc brakes
- Steering: M Adaptive electric power steering
The 4.4 litre twin turbo V8 under the bonnet of the X5 M is, without a doubt, an absolute sledgehammer, pumping out 423kW of power at 6500rpm and a brutal 750Nm of torque from 2200rpm to 5000rpm.
Those are some huge figures, by any measure, and transform the X5 from family freighter to performance car warrior with just one stamp on that truly brutal right pedal.
Though tipping the scales at 2275kg, when all of that torque is released, the weight of the X5 M simply vanishes. Never ponderous, this is a properly M-honed machine and built to do battle with some of the most potent machinery on the planet.
As well as the ballistics-grade engine, the X5 M rides on M adaptive suspension, adjustable via Comfort, Sport and Sport + settings. Even in comfort mode, the sporting intent is clear - the ride is taut and disciplined, with eager turn-in and flat front-end balance.
Dial things up a notch or two to Sport and Sport+ and the suspension all-but eradicates body roll, keeping the X5 M glued to the tarmac, and resisting all those laws of physics - that sensible drivers might otherwise be forced to respect - when firing from bend to bend.
Steering offers the same adjustments and fine degree of control, progressively adding weight for a more connected feel. In a most un-SUV-like way, the thick steering wheel of the X5 M offers performance car control and feel, while filtering out the worst of the hits and corrugations on broken tarmac and edges.
Given the right stretch of road, the X5 M reveals the true beast within. Laden with grip, hungry for corners, and with simply astonishing rolling acceleration, it lifts and surges from apex to apex in a way that few cars can (let alone a two-tonne-plus square-rigged wagon).
It’s almost as good as the M5 sedan, however that car, with its seven-speed twin-clutch transmission in place of the eight-speed auto in the X5, can change gears with absolutely explosive theatrics. The X5 M is good, better than good in fact, and rifles through gear changes, but it's not quite the same as the M5, not quite as bold.
Which is probably for the best. Because besides offering power and performance at almost comical levels, the X5 M remains an SUV; it still needs to trundle to the office, drop the kids off at school, take the in-laws to the airport, and pretend to be a sensible family car.
The good news is, it can do all of those things while feeling a little more relaxed than an M5 might. In and around town the X5 M can be almost inconspicuous and behave like a normal well-mannered SUV.
Perhaps that's why it lacks the 'aural presence' of the M5. In fact, at lower speeds, the V8 burble of the X5 M is perhaps just a little too muted for our liking (though it comes on song when given the heavy shoe, and play the gear changes right and you’ll extract a crackle on the upshift).
And this is its true Jeckyll and Hyde character. It can be both well-mannered and monstrous, a family carriage and a crushing performance drive. It's this dual character that makes it almost sensible.
ANCAP rating: The BMW X5 range has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Six airbags (dual front, front seat side, dual curtain), switchable traction and stability control, ABS brakes with brake assist, tyre pressure monitoring, front seatbelt pretensions with load limiters, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, front and rear park sensors, 360 degree camera,
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
While the idea of a high performance SUV might be an unusual one, BMW is not alone in the market, with the closest competitor being the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 - and its pure heavy metal soundtrack.
Head to Porsche for the Cayenne Turbo, and while it’s a few kilowatts short, it matches the X5’s torque, but asks for quite a few more dollars.
And if diesel rather than petrol is your fuel of choice, Audi is gearing up to introduce the triple-turbo SQ7 to Australia, pushing out a mountanous 900Nm of torque resulting in a claimed 0-100 km/h sprint of 4.8 seconds.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The BMW X5 M is effortlessly bone-crushingly powerful. It may be shaped like a pallet of house-bricks, but it can leave nearly everything in its rear view mirror, whether in a straight line, or through a tight, winding road.
While it might be missing the third row, it otherwise retains all the space and family-friendly practicality of the regular X5 range - it’s just hidden behind the monster alloy wheels and deeply-vented bumpers.
As for value, in purely M-specific terms, the X5 M offers a heady list of premium standard features and comfort, delivers the performance of the high-output M5 - but releases even more torque - and adds all-wheel-drive for safety and security.
It may be high-end, but if you have the not inconsiderable means to sign on the dotted line, there can be few better ways for getting to the snow (with room for everything) - and you won't be the last to arrive.