When you think of a sports SUV, Porsche is probably the first thing to come to your mind. But BMW has now taken the fight to their German rivals with the “Beast from Bavaria”; the BMW X5M Competition.
Engine – Under the hood of the BMW X5M Competition is the most powerful production engine that the brand has ever made. A 4.4L twin-turbocharged V8 that produces 617 hp & 553 lb-ft (460 kW & 750 Nm) of torque. However, this engine does not call the X5M engine bay the only home. It’s also found in the X6M, M5, & M8. Back in this X5, the 617 hp engine can propel the 2,461 kg (5,425 lbs) body up to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds. That’s fast enough to embarrass some supercars let alone sports cars. Behind the steering wheel, the X5M Competition feels a lot faster than the claimed 3.8 second time. It’s as though it sheds all of its SUV heft and becomes a sports sedan like the M5.
However you do have to watch your speed because you sit quite high up in the X5. Even with the seat in its lowest position, the high driving position makes it feel as though you’re not travelling as fast as the speedometer says. But because of the engine’s tremendous power, the speed limit is quickly reached on city streets and highways.
However, with great power comes great thirst. The BMW X5M Competition is not frugal with the gasoline. It is rated for 13.0 L/100km (18.1 MPG) on a highway and 17.9 L/100km (13.1 MPG) in a city. It is one thirsty SUV but not as thirsty as the Ram TRX. But at least you can achieve those fuel economy figures as I averaged around 17.0 L/100km (13.8 MPG) during my time with the X5M.
Transmission – Like many other BMW vehicles in the modern times, the X5M Competition utilizes an 8-speed automatic transmission. This is a fast and smooth shifting transmission. It doesn’t quite have the sharpness of the dual-clutch transmission of the BMW M4 for example, but this 8-speed works very well with the V8. It’s also much better around town than BMW’s own dual-clutch. You hardly ever notice the shifts when doodling around a city core. Shift ferocity can be adjusted if you’d like by the button that’s right next to the Park button on the gear selector.
Braking – Helping stop the big SUV are 6-piston front calipers and Mahoosive 395mm front discs. The rear has 380mm discs with just a single piston caliper. Even with the equipped snow tires that this demo vehicle had, the X5M Competition stopped like as though it drove into a brick wall. Brake feel is very good for such a large vehicle. Just like when it accelerates, the BMW X5M feels like a lighter vehicle when it comes to stopping. Automatic emergency braking is standard on the X5M.
Handling – Normally the BMW X5M Competition comes equipped with 295 wide front tires & 315 wide rear tires. But because this demo had winter tires, the width was 295 all round. Nevertheless, the grip that all four corners of the SUV provided was incredible. Around the twistiest roads I could find in Vancouver, the X5M felt planted even in the rain. The xDrive AWD system is rear biased, as one would expect, and is coupled with an Active M Differential. This helps send power to each individual rear wheel depending on the driving conditions. What it helps to do is to rotate the SUV when cornering. Mid-way through a corner, you can feel that the back end of the SUV feels like it’s ready to accelerate hard out of the corner. Unfortunately, this AWD system cannot be disconnected and made 2WD like how it can be done in the BMW M5 & M8 but it definitely still feels like a RWD biased system.
The steering feel is a bit on the artificially heavy side but it is quick. If you’re not careful, you end up turning in much too soon into a corner. Body roll is very well controlled. The X5M comes equipped with standard adaptive M suspension that can be switched between Comfort, Sport, & Sport Plus.
The different suspension settings are tied to the standard drive modes or you can customize them via the two M buttons on the steering wheel. For example, I had M1 set to Sport Plus engine power along with the most aggressive shifting but the suspension & steering on Comfort. M2 was my “all out” button with every feature to Sport or Sport Plus.
Ride Comfort – Speaking of adaptive suspension, in the Comfort drive mode, the ride is pretty good for a “super SUV”. You’ll probably still want to play “Minesweeper” around really deep potholes or manhole covers but overall it’s a comfortable ride for everyday commuting or long road trips. Switch to the more sporty suspension settings and the ride is noticeably firmer. Body roll is better controlled but it’s not a drive mode that you’d want to be in for daily commutes.
Interior Space – The front seats are where you’d want to be in the BMW X5M Competition. There is a lot of room for tall adults like myself. As well, the seats are both comfortable and supportive for when you decide to take the X5M around a race track. They have power adjustable lumbar support, power adjustable thigh support, power adjustable side bolsters, and a massaging feature with multiple massaging settings.
The back seats are not quite as roomy as the front. My knees feel a bit squished against the back of the front seat behind my driving position. The lack of rear legroom is also evident in the spec sheet as the Mercedes-Benz GLE has more rear legroom than the BMW X5.
Further back, the BMW X5M Competition has one of the biggest trunks in its class. With the rear seats in the upright position, there is 960 L (33.9 cu-ft) of cargo space. Fold the seats down and that number increases to 2,047 L (72.3 cu-ft) of cargo capacity. Furthermore, I like the split fold tailgate. It makes loading heavy items in the trunk easier by not having to reach far into the trunk to place a heavy item. It can also be used as a seat at a tailgate party.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Starting off with the good, the interior of the X5M doesn’t have any odd squeaks or rattles from the trim pieces. It feels solid inside and well built. The bad is that there is a bit more road noise coming from the tires than I was expecting. Granted, as I mentioned earlier, this demo vehicle had winter tires but high performance summer tires are just as loud.
Happily, however, all of these noises can be subsided with a light push of the accelerator pedal. The V8 has a traditional European soundtrack with a few small burbles as you let off the throttle. It doesn’t make an over the top snarling sound like a Mercedes-Benz V8 from not too long ago. It’s more elegant but still powerful & pleasant sounding to the ears.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The 2021 BMW X5M Competition starts at $130,000 CAD ($114,100 USD). This particular demo X5M Competition came fully loaded with all the available options and a price of $147,000 CAD ($125,300 USD). The features that you’d expect from a 6-figure luxury SUV are there like the aforementioned massaging seats with heating & ventilating, navigation, power liftgate, adaptive cruise control with lane centering & traffic jam assist, and leather everywhere you touch. However, there are a few gadgets that are still quite common – even in non-luxury vehicles – but have a unique BMW spin on them. For example, there is a panoramic sunroof but it has a blue glow around the perimeter. There are heated & cooled cup holders. The 360 camera has a 3D model of the car that you can spin to see all around the car. And finally, the X5M badging in the seats glows at night. Little details like these add to the overall package of the car and make it a bit more unique than its competitors.
Interior Design – In terms of flashiness, the interior of the BMW X5M Competition is not quite on the same level as that of the Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 AMG. However, it’s still a very nice place to be in and to look at on a daily basis. While there is quite a bit of carbon fiber on the center console, it’s not overdone. The ambient lighting is very visible at night but, again, it’s not over the top. The climate and radio controls are straightforward & simple to use. As well, almost everyone loves quilted leather seating surfaces.
There are just three things that really stand out about the interior which you’ll notice the moment you step in. The red M mode buttons on the steering wheel and the red engine start/stop button on the center console.
Exterior Design – To the untrained eye, the BMW X5M Competition looks pretty much like any other BMW X5. But those who are gearheads will notice the larger air vents in the bumper. The different designed side vents behind the front wheels. The M carbon fiber mirrors. The quad – and real – exhaust pipes in the rear. And finally a more sculpted roof mounted spoiler. Overall it exudes a luxury presence but it’s not over the top. Plus this Marina Bay Blue Metallic paint pops whether it’s in the sunlight or on a cloudy day.
So in the end is the BMW X5M Competition worth it? Well if you’re sensible with your money, not really. This is an over the top SUV and if you want a V8 powered BMW X5, there’s the M50i with 523 hp. It’s actually faster than you think and significantly less money. There’s also a plug-in version of the X5 and to be honest, that’s the one I’d go for. With the rest of the money I saved, I’d buy a Mazda MX-5 as a weekend car. However, if you have a boatload of money and already have a supercar collection & want to take the kids to school in a 600+ hp SUV, then the X5M Competition is the one to go for. It’s broadly the same price as the Mercedes-Benz GLE 63S AMG but a bit more powerful. It’s more powerful & less expensive than the Range Rover Sport SVR. And while it’s not as powerful as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid, it’s significantly less expensive. So in a way, you can call this the “Bargain from Bavaria”.
Thank you to BMW Canada for providing the vehicle. www.BMW.ca