The X5 M is 0.4sec quicker to 62mph, and while its limiter stops the fun 16mph before the Porsche maxes out, that’s unlikely to bother anyone in real-world conditions (and if you’re intending to try it out, can you let me know so I can be in a different county?).
Dynamics? Well, this is still an SUV – but as long as you keep that fact in the back of your mind, it’s reasonably effective. Body control has long been an X5 strength and the X5 M builds on this; it hangs on with admirable aplomb around corners, helped by steering that is a little on the heavy side, but impressively feelsome for something of this size. The six-speed automatic gearbox is quick enough, too; it’s rarely caught out.
There are downsides, though, and they do a disappointingly decent job of spoiling the party. First, the X5’s cabin – while acceptable at just north of £40k – falls short of the plushness required at almost double that figure. Truth is, the M’s cabin feels little different from that of a regular diesel X5.
More importantly, though, the quest to give the X5 the same cornering ability as an M5 has resulted in a ride that is borderline unacceptable. We could forgive some choppiness around the suburban rat-run, if that were the only gripe. But you’ll find yourself jiggling around in the seat on all but the smoothest motorways too, and hanging on for dear life on a bumpy B-road. The seats could use more lateral support, which would help with this, but you’ll still be sitting too high up to feel totally connected to the road beneath.
While we’ve little doubt that M division has sunk a commendable amount of resources into this project, it has ultimately failed to change the laws of physics, so while the X5 M has the raw pace of an M3, it lacks the poise, balance and finesse of that car. This car feels like it should have been called xDrive60i, or even xDrive60m, but it falls short of justifying its M status.
Worryingly, too, the engine plays its part in that failure. Its note is nowhere near as pleasant as the M3’s naturally aspirated V8, or the V10 unit in the outgoing M5.
Should I buy one?
Enjoyable though the wall of torque is, we can’t quite bring ourselves to recommend a 2.4-tonne SUV that’ll struggle to break 20mpg in everyday use. The X5 M feels like a vehicle for another time – or at least, a country with lower fuel prices.
And while the M tuning has added a little extra capability in corners, too high a price has been paid in terms of ride quality. Harder still to forgive is the fact that it singularly fails to feel like an M car.
Doubtless this vehicle will draw a few buyers away from Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo; it is marginally softer on the soul, after all. They may even enjoy the launch control system, the undeniably strong surge of power, the harsh ride and heavy steering and consider themselves fortunate to have bought what is one of the best ‘high-performance SUVs’.
But if they think they’ve stumped up £76k for one of M division’s finest creations, they’ll be kidding themselves.