Once the whole fast-fourby thing would warp your mind.
That a car could claw up a fire trail, tow a caravan, swallow the booty from an ambitious IKEA trip, yet also do a track day and blow away an HSV GTS at the lights was extraordinary. But these days it's not as special and, in fact, if you want one, you’ve never been more spoilt.
In the budget bullet category there's the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Then you have the Range Rover Sport with the F-Type’s blown V8 and an exhaust note like the devil playing didgeridoo. Porsche has a couple of killer Cayennes topped by the Turbo S. AMG’s new GLE63, nee ML63, is on the way, and Audi is reportedly beavering away on an RSQ7.
Then there’s BMW’s X5M. And it says the same thing on its box as all its rivals – freaking fast – yet it boasts an unfair advantage in price. The Cayenne Turbo S costs $284,700; the Range Rover Sport SVR $218,500. The X5M? $185,900.
When the GLE63 replaces the $183K ML63, at we presume a similar price, a dogfight for sharply-priced super SUVs will ensue. But for now, the X5M is it.
This refreshed version, like the new X6M, gets a new twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8. With 423kW at 6000rpm and 750Nm from 2200-5000rpm, it’s the most powerful engine M Division has ever developed.
That’s 17kW and 70Nm more than the old car. And, we gleaned from the launch, M Division had a few sleepless nights meeting the new engine's vast cooling demands. As such the front of the car is crammed with heat exchangers – radiator, intercoolers, oil coolers, the lot.
M Division’s twin-clutch DCT auto didn’t make the grade, either, because it couldn’t handle the torque. BMW has fitted its eight-speed torque converter transmission instead, which does its best impression of a DCT.
Having installed that monster engine BMW has also ensured there’s appropriate rubber and brakes. Front tyres are rather large 285/35s; out back, there’s 325/30s. Meanwhile under those 21-inch rims live six-pot front calipers and single-pistons at the rear.
BMW boasts the car is optimised for the Nordschleife but doesn’t provide a lap time. This is particularly conspicuous given the ’Ring wars between Porsche and Range Rover for “fastest SUV”. It leaves speculation open the X5M simply isn’t fast enough.
Not that you'd think it considering it does 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds. Think about that for a moment. It's an SUV. For corners the X5M’s suspension is suitably stiffened to cope with 2275kg of carpet and metal, including active sway bars and adaptive dampers.
Climbing aboard, unsurprisingly the seating position feels like you're sitting on a few Yellow Pages. You're also aware there's lots of car around you, like you're driving a hippopotamus. Still, a hippo's innards it ain't – it's a very pleasant, classy and quality-feeling interior.
Driving, the first thing you notice about the X5M is that, sweet blasphemy, it’s fast. You’ll be stunned by the sheer ferocity of its acceleration in the first three or four gears. My god, it's swift.
You'd actually swear it was a DCT, too, the torque converter grabbing higher gears swiftly with an aggressive blat on the upshift. BMW's also engineered a little billygoat kick on upchanges which, admittedly, won't be to everyone's tastes.
We tried launch control but it more stalls the car up against the brake rather than summoning 4000rpm and dropping its clutches like a DCT. Turbo lag? There’s a slight hesitation if you stab the throttle wide open at, say, 4000rpm in third gear. But it won’t bother you.
The acceleration – the sheer, 2.2-tonne-defying power and torque – is the most addictive quality of the X5M, and its basically mechanically-identical X6M sibling. The way it hammers through third, fourth and fifth gear makes 110km/h feel like the new 50km/h. All X5M owners will end up in prison.
The X5M also defies its weight in the way it attacks corners. In fact, it simply shouldn’t be this fast up a bendy road, feeling not like an overpowered SUV, but more like a jacked-up, overweight hot hatch, taking turns like an NRL winger.
It deals with its 2275kg super impressively. It resists body roll like the sway bars are made from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s calf muscles. The damping is impressive, too; it's totally uninterrupted and unfussed by mid-corner bumps big and small.
BMW says the torque split is 30/70 front-to-rear, but can direct up to 100 per cent torque to either the front or rear axle. And it says the X5M will power oversteer, even in the half-off ESP setting ‘MDM’, although our efforts to test this suggest you need to be in the rain, or dirt, or ice, or simply a madman, such is the monster levels of grip to overcome.
The grip is huge – it takes actual focus to make a tyre squeal, there’s so much rubber to lean into. Unfortunately it's a little frightening leaning into the tyres because there is zero steering feel.
The steering lets the team down for the X5M. It's accurate and alert enough, allowing for a pretty precise trajectory, and it loads-up all right. But even in Sport Plus mode, you can’t feel a thing from the front tyres.
The steering woes don’t end there, either. At 100km/h it’s horribly groggy and heavy off-centre, like there’s no assistance at all. BMW says the steering saves 0.3L/100km at highway speeds, suggesting they in fact switch off steering assistance at the dead-ahead to save fuel. You wouldn't call it a pleasant sensation.
Other gripes? The engine noise isn't bad, but it's almost Tron-like and overly computer-y. It's not deep, menacing, or sinfully flatulent like a Range Rover Sport. It sounds suspiciously artificial; BMW Oz’s tech folks couldn’t clarify.
There’s also the fact that, with that bulldozer front bar, this off-roader mightn't like getting its paws dirty.
All that aside, the X5M is a pretty mega thing. Philosophically you will laugh out loud at how silly it is (an X5 with 423kW?). And you'll be flabbergasted by just how fast you can blast up a twisty road. The fast-fourby thing isn't new, but it still warps our mind. How the X5M shapes up to its many super SUV rivals, we'll find out soon.
4 out of 5 stars
Engine: 4395cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 423kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 750Nm @ 2200-5000rpm
0-100km/h: 4.2sec (claimed)
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