From £90,630
A Porsche Cayenne Turbo rival - but far from the M division's finest effort

Our Verdict

BMW X5 M costs from £90,180

Can the new X5 summon up the charisma expected of the M badge, or does it fall short of rivals from Porsche and Mercedes-AMG?

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    BMW X5 M

    A Porsche Cayenne Turbo rival - but far from the M division's finest effort
7 December 2009

What is it?

This is the BMW M division’s take on an SUV, the X5 M, finally in the UK after an exhaustive build-up (releasing the X6 M at the same time probably didn’t help matters).

These models represent the M division’s first xDrive variants, and they both use the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine that could well form the basis of the next M5.

It’s a potent unit, sure enough, making the X5 M the most powerful M car to date. Its 547bhp sounds impressive enough; more startling is the 502lb ft of torque, which is available from just 1500rpm right up to 5650rpm. That’s enough for the X5 to crack 0-62mph in 4.7sec and reach a limited top speed of 155mph.

Other stats of note? It costs £76,110, returns a claimed 20.3mpg (combined) and emits 325g/gkm of CO2.

What’s it like?

Shockingly rapid, for starters. If the X5 M has an obvious rival it’s Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo, and it’s more than up to the task of taking it on. The BMW is considerably more powerful and while it’s slightly weaker in terms of torque, the spread at which its twist is available is a few thousand rpm wider. So in raw pace, there’s not much to choose between the two high-performance heavyweights.

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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.

John McIlroy

Join the debate


8 December 2009

It is a complete waste of the M Division's talent, metal, plastic, leather and rubber ...

8 December 2009

No mention at all for the punchy Range Rover Sport Supercharged?

8 December 2009

x5 m - a car designed specifically for motoring journalists, to get excited about.

8 December 2009

One to keep off the shopping list...

What a pointless car - I really liked the original X5, it handled well for a 4x4 yet remained comfortable.

If you want a big, fast car, then surely an M5 makes more sense? No boubt there'll be a few of these knocking about Chelsea and Cheshire!

8 December 2009

[quote kcrally]x5 m - a car designed specifically for motoring journalists, to get excited about.

To be fair to Autocar, they didn't get that excited about the car, and if I recall correctly, they have not been to keen about the idea of it since its inception.

8 December 2009

Companies making cars like this (and the V12 Audi Q7 comes to mind too) are just handing a PR gift to the environmental lobby.

BMW are working so hard to make genuinely efficient, yet still attractive drivers cars (like the 123d) that a monstrosity like this is like shooting themselves in the foot.

Methinks somewhere the right hand doesn't quite know what the left hand is doing.

8 December 2009

[quote roadtester]No mention at all for the punchy Range Rover Sport Supercharged?[/quote]

Why should there be any?

8 December 2009

Interestingly, the more people that fall out of love with BMW with every new model launch, the more desirable I find the cars becoming.......

8 December 2009

[quote jonfortwo]the more people that fall out of love with BMW with every new model launch, the more desirable I find the cars becoming[/quote]

You have good a point. Who would ever have guessed that BMW would become the less common, less brash, Audi alternative.

8 December 2009

Because the RR Sport Supercharged is an outstanding high-perfomance SUV which, in particular, avoids the ride problems referred to here in connection with the X5M. Perhaps it's not mentioned because it is so clearly superior!


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