BMW‘s dabbling in black magic here… How else would you explain a full-size family SUV that’s capable of sprinting to 100 km/h in a claimed 3.8 seconds (0.4 seconds quicker than its direct predecessor) and handle a tricky mountain pass like its a VW Golf R on stilts? It’s an astonishing achievement, but it’s come at the expense of some daily usability. More on that later, though…
Launched last year, the current (G05) generation of BMW’s luxury SUV is in its fourth iteration and in many ways sets the standard in its class for refinement, comfort, quality and spaciousness. It does very little wrong, especially in brilliantly balanced xDrive30d guise.
THIS AIN’T YOUR STANDARD FAMILY SUV
The X5 M Competition, however, is a different beast altogether. Using the X5 M50i as their base, BMW’s engineers fettled the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine to deliver 460 kW and a fat torque wedge of 750 Nm on tap from a lowly 1 800 r/min all the way to 5 600 r/min. The two ‘chargers nestle within the V and are made more efficient via a cross-bank exhaust manifold that’s said to eliminate turbo lag. The V8’s coupled with an eight-speed torque-converter M Steptronic transmission, the sensitivity of which can be adjusted through a Drivelogic system that also tweaks engine response, suspension, steering and sound. Interestingly, the driver can also adjust the xDrive system’s torque bias to a 4WD sport setting that affords the X5 M a more rear-driven feel.
Essentially, all the jargon means is that the X5 M is an M5 with some extra air between its underbody and the road surface. It certainly creates a passable impression of the M5. Firstly, the engine feels heroically powerful across the rev range, despite the X5 M weighing in excess of 2.4 tonnes. It shoots off the line cleanly before hitting its stride once the Steptronic ‘box hooks third. The sheer pace on offer between 100 and 200 km/h is astonishing as the V8 overcomes drag created by the X5’s bluff, aerodynamically inefficient front. This is a towering engine and, yes, there’s very little lag (although it’s not been completely eradicated).
If only it sounded more special. Curiously muted, the 4.4-litre would benefit from some AMG-like aural drama. In all other aspects, from the silky smoothness of its operation to how well it gels with the ZF-developed auto ‘box, it’s flawless.
FROM ROAD TO RACETRACK
The stiff chassis is equally astonishing. Set to sport+ mode, the M Adaptive suspension with its Elasto Kinematic dampers hunkers down and reins in body roll to, again, a degree not unlike that of the M5. There’s a hint of understeer if you overcook your entry into a tight corner, but the trick M rear differential ensures a clean and very quick corner exit before the V8 clears its lungs and lunges for the next bend. It’s even possible to bring the rear axle into play in 4WD sport mode for a spot of giggle-inducing slip. At the local launch on Zwartkops Raceway’s tight and technical 2,4-kilometre track, the X5 M (and its X6 M cousin) proved its mettle as a track titan.
However, there’s a downside to this composure-uber-alles approach. Slow things down, dial back all the settings and the promised refined ride doesn’t materialise. On all but the smoothest of road surfaces, the X5 M Competition is a relentlessly stiff companion, much like the X3 M Competition. Ruts knock through to the cabin, undulations elicit a smidge to much aggressive rebound and road scars unearth groans from the otherwise beautifully finished interior. I’d suggest taking an X5 M on an extended test drive across a variety of surfaces to decide whether you can live with the compromise.
Still, despite its surprisingly narrow remit, the X5 M Competition is a brilliant achievement. It won’t have the spotlight for too long once the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S, Audi RSQ8 and the like become readily available, but for now the X5 M is the performance SUV segment’s undoubted dynamic champ (even if it’ll rattle its buyer’s fillings).
Included in the price is a two-year/unlimited km warranty and five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan. There are a bunch of appealing extras, too (although, as expected at the price, the X5 M Competition is very well equipped).
BMW X5 M Competition M xDrive M Steptronic: R2 632 258