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Tested: BMW X5 M

2010-06-25 06:48
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer BMW
Model X5 M
Engine Turbocharged 4.4-litre V8
Power 408 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque 680 Nm from 1 500 – 5 650 r/min
Transmission Six-speed automatic with Steptronic and shift paddles on steering wheel
Zero To Hundred 4.7 seconds
Top Speed 250 km/h (275 km/h with optional M Drivers' Package)
Power To Weight 5.6 kg/kW
Fuel Tank 85 l
Fuel Consumption 13.9
Weight 2 380 kg
Boot Size 620 – 1 750 l
Steering Rack-and-pinion power steering
ABS included with HDC, DBC, ASC-X, ADB-X, DTC and Trailer Stability Control in DSC III
Tyres 20-inch light alloys
Front Suspension Double track control arm; small, negative steering roll radius, dive reduction
Rear Suspension Integral axle; multi-dimensional with anti-squat and anti-dive
Price R1 255 500

Hailey Philander

Penis extension.

Those words crossed my mind when I first leapt in and saddled up the monster that is the X5 M.

I was, however, also mildly intrigued by the most unlikely M-model ever and rather eager to see just how appalling the swift beast would prove to be in the week I was granted to interact with it. 

I was pleasantly surprised.

The awesome power generated by the 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 is almost otherworldly. In a very un-M-like fashion, it uses twin-scroll turbocharging to make its 408 kW and 680 Nm; that is big, in any language. After all, those figures oftentimes reflect the makings of proper, dyed-in-the-wool sports cars. And here it was in a behemoth weighing more than two tonne.

This engine, which is dramatically more juiced up than the version that appears in the 750i, is promised for the next M5, slated to appear sometime next year. The new 5 Series in regular guise is simply phenomenal, so I have already started rubbing my hands in glee at the thought of how that little match-up will turn out. While the thought of the next M5 is completely inviting, the M at hand is a lot less convincing.

Watch it go

Looking at this X5 – which for M duties has been dolled up with a new front bumper with enormous airdams, a rear bumper that accommodates the motorsport division’s signature quad tail pipes and hip hop star-friendly 20-inch wheels – it hardly looks particularly athletic. While it is unlikely bystanders will confuse this for any other X5 model, any latent doubt will soon be dispelled by the roar of that crazy engine. It remains a little muted in the cabin, but drop the windows when clattering through your favourite mountain pass to experience the majesty. Never mind the apparent bulk. Or that I’m probably half as tall as it is – standing at the front fender, the bonnet just about touched my shoulder. Imposing? Never!

Recalling the entertaining handling characteristics of the “regular” X5 and the levels of confidence it inspired, in the X5 M I was rewarded with superb handling, flat cornering and levels of grip expected from a vehicle weighing at least half as much as it did, and riding a lot lower to the ground. The xDrive all-wheel drive system is largely to thank for that, constantly measuring slip and distributing power between the front and rear axles. It is able to, within seconds, stabilise the vehicle and
quell any unwarranted behaviour, even before the DSC kicks in.

Dynamic Performance Control also steps in to monitor interaction between the M suspension and Servotronic steering. This SUV’s technical abilities are astounding, so much so that it will convince a mere mediocre driver he (or she) is F1 material. The 0-100 km/h sprint comes up in 4.7 seconds and with such ferocity, it’ll make your eyes tear. Flung right back into the seat as the rev needle charges towards the red line, the sensation of hurtling towards the 250-km/h (275 km/h if you’ve optioned the M Drivers package) top end is akin to being smothered in a soft (and bolstered) leather bear hug.

This SAV promises a manic experience, but as dynamic and nimble as it is, the X5 M remains a large vehicle and never stops feeling like it. That said, there really aren’t any large SUVs that will go, corner and stop quite like this X5 M. The mammoth task of stopping this car rests on 395mm and 385mm diameter vented discs with four- and six-piston calipers for the front and rear, respectively. Get it wrong and ABS, dynamic brake control and cornering brake control will hopefully provide some relief.

Flood of M firsts

This is the first M model to not come with a manual shifter, if you leave the M5/6’s dual pedal sequential manual out of the equation. It may tear purists’ hearts apart, but the thought of choking a snap shift while racing towards the red line does leave one with a dull and aching sensation in the pit of the stomach. Six-speed Steptronic it is, then.

Indeed, not even the clever DCT dual clutch that the M3 makes do with, although this auto’ is infinitely entertaining. Manually shift through the steering wheel-mounted paddles, or take the leisurely approach, choose a setting between comfort, sport and dynamic sport, and allow the ‘box to do the work for you.

Along with adjusting the gearbox’s shift characteristics, these settings also allow you to temper the damper settings, the severity of the throttle inputs, manoeuvre the launch control and basically set the car up to your racer’s heart’s desire.


Think BMW X5, just a little more in your face. Physical additions are surprisingly understated, but the M badge, gaping airdams and quad tailpipes speak volumes. The test unit provided by BMW was finished in an eye-popping white that seriously upped the ogre’s sex appeal


The addition of the new iDrive controller is a welcome boon. Simple to use, it allows driver and occupants to toggle between the various entertainment, navigation and information menus with ease. Rear parking camera essential

Driving it

The BMW X5 M seems intent on defying the laws of gravity with utter contempt as it slices and dices mountain passes, freeways and other cars’ egos… A mind altering experience, although those who become too accustomed to it may run the risk of losing the novelty factor.


As sad as it may be, the X5 M is an example of what happens when marketers dictate to engineers. History is a thing of the past and so too, clearly, are rear-wheel drive, manual, naturally-aspirated M cars.

It may pique the interest of Cayenne owners and make ML 63 AMG drivers do a double take, but it is, at its essence, merely a very quick SUV that happens to have the once-hallowed M-badge on its rump.

This super-SUV would seem wholly unnecessary to most members of society, but if it is a big and fast SUV you’re after to stick your obnoxious personalised plate too, few things will attract as much attention. We would settle for a decent M car such as the M3 or wait for the next M5 and spoil ourselves with the change. Spending your days with any of those five-seaters is bound to be a more pleasurable, although by virtue of the M-badge alone, the X5 M is worth a look.

“Build it and they will come” certainly rings true in this instance, but at what cost? By taking the pedigree of the M badge and prostituting it on a behemoth that is as wildly entertaining and completely exhilarating as this, the broader BMW landscape is forever changed.

Could this X5 derivative affect the way you view future M products? Add your voice to the BMW X5 M discussion


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