Whether the original BMW X5 M has diluted the brand is a moot point. However, there's no doubt that this second iteration is a cracking car

What is it?

Back in 2009, when BMW launched the first X5 M, purists were not pleased. The hallowed M Division had always said "no" to anything other than rear-wheel drive and yet here was a bulky, behemoth of an SUV, carrying that famous letter.

Well, with the launch of the second-generation, it’s time to accept that the X5 M is here to stay.

The 4.4-litre direct injection twin-turbo V8 now produces a whopping 567bhp and 553lb ft of torque. That’s 20bhp and 51lb ft up on the previous version, and even more potent than the similarly engined M5. Perhaps more pertinently, it’s also more powerful than either a Range Rover Sport SVR or Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

Despite weighing in at a hefty 2275kg, the extra power coupled to four-wheel drive means that the X5 M can out-accelerate an M5 by a tenth of a second. It will now go from 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds. By comparison, the SVR can manage only 4.7 seconds, although the Cayenne gets closer with a time of 4.5 seconds.

With that in mind, there can be no doubt about the X5 M’s pace. However, is it merely a one-trick pony, or does it have the range of abilities to win over those who still believe it shouldn’t exist at all?

What's it like?

First, the engine is a belter. Okay, there is some 1980s-style turbo lag, so you find yourself mentally counting down the seconds to lift-off like one of NASA’s launch controllers. However, once those twin-scroll blowers spin up, it almost feels like it's rocket fuelled.This means that it fires through the lower gears while the rev needle flicks round almost instantly to the redline. So much so, in fact, that it makes the gearchange indicator in the head-up display (when you’re in M Mode) almost vital if you are to avoid consistently running into the limiter.

There are aural delights, too, which encourage those completely childish but entirely necessary window-down moments. Compared with the thundering baritone note of the SVR, the X5 M has a harder-edged, racier sound, punctuated by mini explosions after every gear change.

You can adjust the speed of those gear changes to match your mood. Set the 'box to auto, dial back the change speed and it’ll slur its way through the eight available ratios. Alternatively, opt for the quickest setting and switch the gearbox to manual and it’s comparable with most of the dual-clutch systems out there for speed and precision.

So, can the chassis cope with all this immense firepower? Absolutely. Set the adaptive suspension to its maximum Sport Plus mode and the body control is phenomenal; the amount of lean is minimal and the car stays composed even over undulating roads or under extreme braking.

Admittedly, you can’t be precise in the way you can in an M3, for example, but when you remind yourself of the mass that is sitting a foot and a half above the Tarmac, you can’t fail to be impressed.

BMW claims the X5 M will pull 1.2g in corners, and I can believe it. The huge bespoke tyres (our test car had the optional 21in wheels with 285/35 Michelins at the front and 325/30s at the rear) produce astonishing levels of grip.

When it does let go it’s the front that gives way first, although you can unsettle the rear with a well-timed stab of throttle. Keep it neat, with sensible corner-entry speeds, and it’s all very manageable. Be warned, however: if you try and carry too much speed into a turn, the inertia of the X5 M can carry you a long way off-line before grip is restored.

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For the size of car, the steering is pretty direct and pointy, although there is a mild tram-lining effect and some bizarre weighting.

In either the Sport or Sport Plus settings, the steering has an odd stickiness to it. Also, as you add more lock, rather than merely weighting up, it almost fights you with an artificial self-centering action. By far the best setting is Comfort, which loses a lot of the weight but feels more natural.

The feel of the brakes isn’t ideal. The mammoth calipers and dinner-plate discs haul the car up sharply, but under heavy braking the pedal has a long travel and a disconcertingly spongy quality.

The previous X5 M came in for criticism over the harshness of its ride but this new version has addressed that. It’s no limo, obviously, but in the Comfort setting it rides as well as most large SUVs and even firmed-up to the max, the ride is tolerable over all but the harshest of bumps.

Inside, the cabin’s spacious and the driving position near perfect. It’s also comfortable, too, thanks to a pair of superb looking M Sport seats.

The interior is beautifully finished, as well. Merino leather covers not only the seats but also the majority of the interior surfaces, and is interspersed with carbonfibre trim and stylish ambient night lighting.

BMW’s i-Drive works as effectively as ever and the large display has some of the clearest graphics of any system on the market today. It also comes with a 20GB hard drive and BMW Connect Drive, which provides access to the internet, as well as live traffic reports, music streaming and a concierge service. 

Should I buy one?

Telling you that you should buy a super-fast SUV costing the thick-end of £100k seems, quite frankly, a little absurd. Even if you can afford one, the debate still rages in pubs and online forums as to the validity of these seemingly incongruous beasts.

However, while accepting the legitimacy of that debate, I urge you to set aside any prejudgments. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, I would argue we should all be able to acknowledge that the BMW X5 M is a remarkable feat of engineering. If you view it in isolation, it’s simply a hugely impressive car.

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Whether it is the best of its type is something we’ll only know when it meets the Cayenne Turbo and SVR in a group test. One thing’s for sure, though: it certainly does possess the range of abilities to ensure that such a contest will be extremely close and thrilling.


Location Hertfordshire; On Sale now; Price £90,170; Engine V8, 4396cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 567bhp at 6000-6500rpm; Torque 553lb ft at 2200-5000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd auto; Kerb weight 2275kg; 0-62mph 4.2sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 25.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 258g/km, 37%

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madmac 29 April 2015

I look forward to that triple

I look forward to that triple test,but make it a Turbo S.Personally I despise trucks and SUV's.Here in Canada they are undeniably popular.I lived in Saudi Arabia for 10 years and the G55AMG was the King.
david RS 29 April 2015

I think M (and BMW) has lost

I think M (and BMW) has lost its soul...
275not599 29 April 2015

Four and a half stars with

Four and a half stars with spongey brakes and sticky, inconsistent steering. Five stars for depreciation when it's out of warranty.