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First drive: BMW X5 M Competition. Image by BMW AG.

First drive: BMW X5 M Competition
The latest entrant into the hyper-SUV war is this, the brutal, 625hp BMW X5 M Competition.


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BMW X5 M Competition

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It's another day, another massive great powerhouse arriving in SUV form. Squaring up to the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, the Audi RS Q8, the Range Rover Sport SVR and the incoming Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, this is BMW's third attempt at the rapid X5 M. It uses the 625hp/750Nm biturbo V8 from the M5 Competition and M8 Competition, and so it too gains the exalted 'Competition' honorific. Can a 2,385kg family chariot ever really be a proper BMW M Competition machine, though? Time to find out...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW X5 M Competition
Pricing: X5 range from 57,640, M Competition from 110,610
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: M xDrive all-wheel drive with Active M Differential, eight-speed M Steptronic automatic
Body style: five-door performance SUV
CO2 emissions: 291-296g/km (VED Band Over 255: 2,135 first 12 months, then 465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 145 annually thereafter; NEDC-correlated)
Combined economy: 21.7-22.1mpg (NEDC-correlated)
Top speed: 155mph (limited; option to raise to 180mph with M Driver's Package)
0-62mph: 3.8 seconds
Power: 625hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 750Nm at 1,800-5,800rpm
Boot space: 650-1,870 litres

What's this?

The BMW X5 M Competition, a V8 biturbo monster that will run 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds, 0-124mph in a ridiculous 13.4 seconds and has to be limited (limited to, mind) 180mph, if you tick the M Driver's Package option. It's a beast, a brute, a behemoth capable of bending space and time (sort of), if you will, and BMW - more than most - has a lengthy history of these things. For the original E53 X5, the most potent model was the glorious, naturally aspirated, Alpina-gifted 4.8is of 2004, with its 360hp 4.8-litre V8, but by the time the E70 Mk2 had hoved into view in 2006, BMW M had abandoned its principles of 've vill not touch ze SUVs mit eine bargepole' and was feverishly working on a hot X5.

So the original X5 M duly arrived in the dregs of 2009, packing an almighty 4.4-litre V8 twin-turbo unit making 555hp and 680Nm. Sound familiar? That's because the engine in the 2020 X5 M Comp is the same unit, pretty much. It has found its way into all manner of cars in the intervening 11 years, such as the F10 M5, the G12 M6 and the current F90 M5, but it was later developed into a more powerful 575hp/750Nm derivative for the F85 X5 M of 2014, which was in turn based on the F15 regular X5 Mk3. And if you're thinking the X5 M is a slow-selling vanity project on the part of Munich, think again: BMW shifted 8,830 examples of the E70 X5 M worldwide, and a further 12,842 units of the F85 between 2014 and 2019.

Clearly, then, there's a market for these wildly powerful SUVs. Even if BMW seems to have taken the risky decision not to hybridise its entrant in any way, shape or form. When Porsche offers a full-blown plug-in hybrid variant of its Cayenne Turbo and when the incoming Merc-AMG GLEs are all EQ-Boost-ed with electrification and when the RS Q8 proudly wears the words 'MHEV' on its sleeve, BMW's X5 M is steadfastly petrol-only. What a petrol it is, mark you, but petrol-only might count against it in the increasingly eco-conscious years to come.

In other markets in the world, there will be the chance to buy softer-riding, less-aggressive-looking 600hp 'regular' versions of this X5 M and its sister X6 M (yep, there's one of those too), but here in the UK it's the 625hp Competition models or nowt. Which means lots of black detailing on the outside, such as for the double-vaned kidney grilles, all the visible model badging, the aerodynamic door mirrors, the roof rails, the window surrounds and, if you like, the massive 21-inch front, 22-inch rear alloy wheels. The X5 M also has a 'three-dimensional' front airdam (it means in terms of its sculpting, somehow), quad exhausts, a rear diffuser and a roof-mounted tailgate spoiler. Inside are some tasty-looking and comfy-to-use M sports seats with integrated head restraints and a honeycomb-pattern for the stitching, an M steering wheel with two red M1/M2 buttons and paddle shifts on it, the side-to-side M gearlever, bespoke displays for the Live Cockpit Professional digital cluster, an M Head-Up Display as standard and also lots of carbon-fibre trim, plus an 'X5 M Competition' black badge on the lid for the cupholder area of the console. The price for all of the above is (wait for it...) 110,610. Oof.

How does it drive?

It is largely brilliant, except in three key regards. One of these is slightly lacklustre M Servotronic steering: it's not that the X5 M Competition has a bad set-up, but it's not exactly replete with feel nor particularly pleasantly weighted. It's OK, is what it is, no more. The second issue is that it's not the most involving M car you'll ever go in, although that's not a surprise given its SUV leanings; and, as we shall come to see, it's about as entertaining as anything else in this rarefied class, so this is not a major flaw.

However, by far the biggest bugbear is the criminally tough ride quality. It doesn't take many metres at all in the X5 M Competition to know it would be a punishing daily driver on the UK's roads. There's a constant underlying shimmy of sport-focused suspension at all times, making for a notably poor low-speed ride, and while the damping starts to come into its own at higher speeds (as seems to be the way with all modern fast metal), it never, ever approaches a level we'd call 'tolerable'. And before you think we've gone soft in old age, know that all of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo/S E-Hybrid, the Audi RS Q8 and the Range Rover Sport SVR ride better than this, and there's every likelihood the forthcoming AMG GLEs will as well, given the old model on Airmatic was nicer to travel in than the X5 M.

This brittle ride will be because the BMW sits on M adaptive suspension with electronically controlled dampers; there are no air springs here. The pay-off for this is something you used to always expect with a BMW, albeit it's not a factor that always holds true in recent years, and it's this - aside from the Cayenne, when the roads get challenging, this is the best, big, fast SUV you can get. While it corners a little more steadfastly than we'd like, thanks to its permanent 4WD, it is nevertheless genuinely entertaining to get it stoked up on the right roads, because it can change direction quickly and tackle cresting turns with just as much decorum as it can thunder through well-sighted, open bends at frankly insane speeds. The body control is absolute, the grip levels on the 295/35 front, 315/30 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 5 tyres are immense, the traction advantages of the M xDrive and the Active M Diff cannot be ignored. The X5 M Competition is devastatingly quick in the curves and even its brakes, six-piston front callipers gripping 395mm discs up front and 380mm discs in single-piston floating callipers rear, do an admirable job of reliably and powerfully reining in 2.4 tonnes of hard-charging Bavarian beef time and time and time again.

Also, the performance of this magnificent, magnificent drivetrain is unimpeachable, it really is. It is a belting engine, hooked up to a majestic gearbox, driving through a four-wheel-drive system that never gets flustered in the slightest as it attempts to corral 750Nm coursing through its mechanicals. The performance results are as startling as you'd expect: any gear, all revs, tap on the throttle and the X5 M surges for the horizon with an eagerness that's most delightful. It also sounds better than a regular M5 with the same engine, thanks to the Sports exhaust playing some great notes, but for all its monumental pace and terrific road-holding, the X5's kerb weight and its jarring ride quality always make you idly wonder... what if BMW just did the decent thing and made an M5 Touring instead? Hmm.


In terms of its dynamic talents on a challenging road, the outrageous BMW X5 M Competition is easily the finest rapid SUV the German company has cooked up yet and it's one of the most engaging machines of its type from any carmaker which is currently on sale. However, it's incredibly expensive, it doesn't ride with good grace and as good as it is for an SUV, it's by no means the best M car you'll ever experience. If you've been waiting patiently for the third iteration of the X5 M and you've got a hardy constitution, then this Competition is undoubtedly going to wow you with its qualities. For everyone else, it will seem like a lot of very good hardware that might have been better off employed elsewhere.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 28 Feb 2020    - BMW road tests
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- X5 images

2020 BMW X5 M Competition Phoenix USA drive. Image by BMW AG.2020 BMW X5 M Competition Phoenix USA drive. Image by BMW AG.2020 BMW X5 M Competition Phoenix USA drive. Image by BMW AG.2020 BMW X5 M Competition Phoenix USA drive. Image by BMW AG.2020 BMW X5 M Competition Phoenix USA drive. Image by BMW AG.

2020 BMW X5 M Competition Phoenix USA drive. Image by BMW AG.2020 BMW X5 M Competition Phoenix USA drive. Image by BMW AG.2020 BMW X5 M Competition Phoenix USA drive. Image by BMW AG.2020 BMW X5 M Competition Phoenix USA drive. Image by BMW AG.2020 BMW X5 M Competition Phoenix USA drive. Image by BMW AG.


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