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.
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.