The sports utility vehicle category used to be marketed as one filled with cars that can do the school run and go off-road occasionally, as well as take the family on vacation with a recreational vehicle in tow. That is still the case, but now there's a niche within this niche that does even more; the BMW X5 M is one of the vehicles that qualifies for this category. It'll do all the above tasks as well as make your kids sick with its ridiculous power and insane handling. Powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 generating a crazy 617 horsepower with the Competition package and not much less without it, it's one of the true all-rounders. However, as impressive as the X5 M is, it's not a unique vehicle. Competitors like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Range Rover Sport SVR are just as capable and sporty, so is one of Germany's original SUVs good enough to keep its European rivals at bay?
For this year, the Competition model of the X5 M is now no longer a standalone trim but comes as a package that you can spec on the regular "base" vehicle. Satin aluminum exterior trim and roof rails have also been removed from the options list, along with the rear-seat entertainment system and the night vision camera. On the plus side, SiriusXM with 360L and a year's full access subscription has been added. The really important news, though, is this: Android Auto is finally included.
See trim levels and configurations:
4.4L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
The exterior of the X5 M is handsome yet menacing. Massive dual-slat kidney grilles are flanked by LED headlights, while model-specific wing mirrors add to the sporty look. A fender vent on each side and 21-inch wheels (22s are available for the rear) add to the muscular look further, while the rear features a huge diffuser housing quad-exit exhaust tips. Like other M-badged BMWs, this one features Shadowline exterior trim. On top, a panoramic moonroof and a roof spoiler complete the look. Spec the Competition package, and you'll get numerous gloss black accents where there is usually chrome.
The dimensions of the 2021 BMW X5 M are in line with those of its rivals. Length measures 195 inches, which is the same measurement you'll find on the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, while the wheelbase measures 117 inches. Width is calculated at 79.3 inches. Ground clearance is claimed to be 8.3 inches, although we doubt many of these will ever see a dirt road. Height is 68.9 inches while the curb weight starts at 5,425 pounds. Interestingly, the Range Rover Sport SVR is lighter, at 5,070 lbs. The Cayenne Turbo is also lighter, at 5,056 lbs.
There's a large selection of colors for the X5 M, most of which won't add anything to the cost of your car. As is typical of BMW, one such color is Alpine White, but metallic finishes like Carbon Black, Black Sapphire, Mineral White, Marina Bay Blue, Donington Grey, Manhattan Green, and Toronto Red are also available at no charge. If these aren't to your liking, Tanzanite Blue II and Ametrin are also on offer, but these cost $1,950. That Tanzanite Blue is worth the money though, and certainly makes the X5 M stand out in a way that is not vulgar. Plus, it matches the standard caliper color too.
The aggressive styling of the X5 M is backed up by its performance. A 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine powers BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system while an eight-speed automatic controls gear changes. Output is 600 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque as standard, but the addition of the Competition package boosts power to 617 hp. With the lesser power figure, BMW says the X5 M will get from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds, while the Comp package will make it a tenth quicker. Opt for the M Driver's Package, and the top speed limiter will be moved from 155 mph to a stupidly fast 177 mph. As nuts as that output may appear, what's even scarier is that the X5 M feels comfortable at these speeds and seems to want to go even faster. In addition, this 'sports activity vehicle', as BMW calls it, can do the twisty stuff better than some smaller cars.
One engine and gearbox is offered with the X5 M, but the familiar 4.4-liter V8 is available in two configurations. As standard, the engine produces 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, but with the optional Competition Package, you get 617 horses. Not that you really need the extra power - the X5 M in any guise is ridiculously quick and will embarrass many a supercar from the traffic lights. It's not all low-down boost and a wheezing motor on top either - you will rarely find an occasion where you need to really time your overtaking maneuvers to avoid a crash. The power is just all over the rev range, but when you do decide that you need to drop a gear, the ZF eight-speed automatic has already decided on it and will almost telepathically change to the right ratio for the performance you seek. The transmission is excellent when you switch to manual mode, too, obeying your every command with lightning-like efficiency. When it's time to just cruise, the 'box will shift so smoothly and swiftly that your only clue to the new ratio you're in is a slight change in tone from the engine. Simply put, this combination of V8 and eight-speed auto is brilliant.
Let's get one thing clear right off the bat: the X5 M handles far, far better than any vehicle this tall has any right to. It turns in with accuracy and mitigates body roll in a way that makes you really question whether you didn't accidentally get into your M5. The whole car stays flat in just about any scenario, and the rear-biased AWD system keeps you pointing in the right direction at all times - with the exception of those occasions where you come in far too hot to convince your passengers that you have their safety in mind. However, as good as the braking is and as stable as the X5 M is, it does feel a little numb and detached. A test drive will quickly highlight the absence of feedback from the wheel, which means you simply have to trust the car to do its thing. That's to be expected when electronics are responsible for keeping a hulk like this pointing the right way, i.e.: on the road and not in a ditch. But, when Porsche can make electric steering systems feel analog, BMW can improve. Still, that's the only real complaint here, and when you're not looking to embarrass sports cars around a track, the X5 M is still a big family vehicle with excellent ride quality and an approachable demeanor.
There aren't many buyers of M cars who care about a gas mileage rating, but for those that do, the X5 M in either base model or Competition format achieves official EPA estimates of 13/18/15 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Range Rover Sport SVR and Cayenne Turbo alternatives are a little more frugal, though, with mixed driving figures of around one mpg better. But, with a 21.9-gallon gas tank, the X5 M is expected to return a reasonable mixed driving range of 328 miles before you need to top up on premium.
The interior of the X5 M is a stunning place to be. Its design is modern while still retaining BMW signature elements, and it features large quantities of leather and aluminum. A 12.3-inch driver info display and a matching infotainment touchscreen in the middle of the dash help to mix the classic styling elements that you expect from a Bimmer with modernity in a way that looks perfectly cohesive. However, it's worth noting that Audi's RS Q8 may be more to your taste if you really want that wow factor. This interior is more minimalist, but that's no bad thing either. With plenty of room and good ergonomics, this is a wonderful cabin.
The X5 M may have bucket seats up front, but it's still a comfy family car that can seat five adults with no problems in terms of headroom or legroom, whether you're in front or in the second row. Getting in and out is easy too, thanks to large door openings, and even six-footers will be able to sit through a long road trip without much issue. In front, the driver and the individual riding shotgun have multiple adjustments available thanks to 18-way power seats with four-way lumbar support and memory. This makes it easy for the pilot to get the perfect driving position and a commanding view. Speaking of which, visibility is good all around, although the high rear tailgate can partially obscure those who think your bumper is attractive.
As you'd expect of a vehicle at this price point, the interior is covered in sumptuous leather. As a BMW, it's of the Merino variety and comes in Black as standard, although you can also choose Midrand Beige with contrast stitching and Alcantara. However, this upgrade requires ticking the box for the pricey Competition package, too. If you want to spend extra, full Merino leather in black is available, as well as Taruma Brown, Silverstone, Sakhir Orange/Black, and Ivory White/Night Blue - each of which costs $3,500. The leather-wrapped steering wheel features the M tri-color accent in its stitching, while aluminum pedals and accents further enhance the sporty feel. Trim elements are finished in a glossy carbon fiber as standard, with Aluminum Crossline also available. Piano Black, Fine Wood Ash Grain, and Fineline Black aluminum are on offer as well, with these adding $1,080 to the bill. As standard, the dashboard is covered in leather.
The cargo area of the X5 M is just as impressive as the cabin, offering an impressive 33.9 cubic feet of volume. That's more than enough to fit medium-sized suitcases for each occupant with room to spare, but if you need even more space, the rear seats can be folded to open up an area of 72.3 cubes.
In the cabin, each door features medium door pockets, while a pair of cupholders are provided for each row, along with center armrest storage. The front console also features a large compartment where you can put your phone, and there is a well-sized glovebox.
Another thing the X5 M is not short on is its list of features. These include a power tailgate with hands-free operation, a power panoramic sunroof, and 18-way power-adjustable seats. You also get adaptive automatic LED headlights with auto high beams and adaptive LED taillights, keyless entry and push-button ignition, quad-zone climate control, hill descent control, dynamic dampers, a 12.3-inch configurable driver info display, a head-up display, dynamic cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats, heated front armrests, and a heated steering wheel. There's also multicolor configurable ambient lighting, a surround-view camera, parking sensors, and park assist. Lane departure warning, forward collision alert, low-speed automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, crash preparation, and post-collision braking form part of the safety offering. All of this comes standard while traffic jam assist, remote start, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, soft-close automatic doors, heated and cooled cupholders, and adaptive LED headlights with laser light are options.
The infotainment system features a 12.3-inch touchscreen display that finally adds Android Auto to the existing Apple CarPlay functionality. It also includes gesture and voice controls, navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless charging, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Bluetooth and USB compatibility. The system works very well if you stick to the iDrive controller or the touchscreen, but voice control and gesture control have yet to be perfected. Fortunately, the 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system helps disguise these mild inadequacies, but you can upgrade to a 20-speaker Bowers & Wilkins system if you really want the ultimate aural experience.
When spending over $100k on a new car, reliability is not something you expect to have problems with. Unfortunately, the 2021 X5 has already been subject to three recalls in the US, although the NHTSA has not yet published the details of these. The 2020 version of the X5 was also subject to a few recalls, with the most serious including a potentially faulty steering rack.
Fortunately, BMW will cover all new X5 M models with a four-year/50,000-mile basic and drivetrain warranty, along with 12 years of corrosion coverage. You also get four years of roadside assistance and a three-year/36,000-mile complimentary scheduled maintenance plan, which is better than that of every competitor besides Jaguar.
Expensive vehicles focused on performance rarely get crash ratings or reviews in the USA, and the X5 M is no different. However, the NHTSA has conducted a review of the regular BMW X5. It scored four stars out of five in the overall rating from this agency, while the IIHS has not rated the 2021 variant at all. However, the IIHS did rate the 2020 model, and this model won the highest possible honor of a Top Safety Pick+ award.
As you'd expect with a family vehicle capable of 177 mph, there's a considerable number of standard safety features for the X5 M. These include dual-stage frontal, side-impact, and rollover airbags. You also get adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams, adaptive LED brake lights, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking, dynamic cruise control, a surround-view camera, parking sensors, park assist, and a full-color head-up display. However, last year's night vision camera is no longer available, presumably due to low demand for the option.
In 2020, there's almost never such a thing as a bad European car. Even Alfa Romeo makes great cars again; but when it comes to a brand like BMW, where excellence has always been a part of its history, things are better than ever. This doesn't apply to absolutely every model the Munich-based automaker produces, but it certainly does for the X5 M. This is an SUV that can blaze around a track, blast down the Autobahn, and remain blissful on the way home. It's packed to the brim with standard features, has a massive cargo area, offers plenty of passenger room, and drives exceptionally for even the novice. It has its faults, most notably in the numb steering system, but beyond that, the X5 M is all but perfect. If you're looking for a premium family car that can do it all in one stunning package, the X5 M is one of the best. However, if you want the ultimate in engaging drives rather than an all-rounder, the less practical Porsche Cayenne Turbo is still the boss of driver's SUVs. That said, the X5 M is right on its heels.
Although it is hardly affordable transportation for the masses, the price of the BMW X5 M is still the same as it was for the 2020 model. It starts at $105,100 before a $995 destination fee. Since the X5 M Competition is no longer a standalone model, there is no MSRP for the complete package, so to speak, but you can add the Comp bits for $9,000, which is the same price increase that the Comp asked for in 2020. Naturally, there are a few other options and packages you can spec, and a fully loaded model will set you back around $130,000.
Just one variant of the X5 M is offered for the 2021 model year, but it's packed with features and power. A 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 generates 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, all of which is controlled via an eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF. This sends power to all four wheels via BMW's xDrive AWD system. The SUV features full LED adaptive headlights and brake lights, 21-inch wheels, a panoramic moonroof, and various M-specific styling touches, including a special diffuser and mirror caps. Inside, Merino leather adorns the seats and many of the other interior panels, complemented by carbon fiber trim elements. 18-way power-adjustable front seats are standard and boast heating, as do the front armrests and the steering wheel. Behind that wheel is a 12.3-inch configurable driver info display, while to its right is a touchscreen display of the same size. This infotainment system now features Android Auto as standard, along with Apple CarPlay. Using these features, you can blast your favorite tunes through a 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. As cool as all these things are, BMW hasn't forgotten about safety, and you get equipment like blind-spot monitoring, forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking, and a full-color head-up display to help you keep your eyes on the road.
The most important package for the gearhead is the Competition package, at $9,000. This bumps power from 600 to 617 hp, but other changes are included too. You also get numerous gloss black exterior accents in place of the standard chrome finishings, along with 21/22-inch staggered wheels, full Merino leather upholstery, an M Sport exhaust system, and M seatbelts with tri-color pinstripes. For even more performance, you can unlock the X5 M's full potential with the M Driver's package that raises the speed limiter to 177 mph. If that doesn't take your fancy, the $3,600 Executive package adds heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, remote start, and Icon adaptive LED headlights with laser light. Also available is a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system with 20 speakers, for $3,400.
There's no such thing as too much, according to BMW, so if excess is underrated, we'll get the X5 M with the Comp and M Driver's packages, thus making it seriously difficult for rivals to keep up. We'd also be tempted by the Executive package as it would make the SUV even more comfortable and safe, but with such a long list of standard features, we also wouldn't discriminate against an option-free variant. Depending on whether you'll use the capabilities of the X5 M to their full potential or not will help you decide if any packages are really necessary, but the base model is perfectly brilliant on its own.
Since the X5 M comes in Competition flavor, it's only fair to make a comparison between the Bimmer and the fastest of the Range Rover Sport models: the SVR. As much as BMW loves its 4.4-liter V8s in big M cars, so Range Rover and Jaguar love their 5.0-liter supercharged V8s. The one in the SVR is especially ludicrous, producing 567 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Yes, that's considerably less than the 600+ hp and 553 lb-ft of torque you get in the Bimmer, and yes, the Brit's 4.3 second 0-60 mph time is glacial compared to the X5 M's, but the Bavarian doesn't have a supercharger, and the noise of such a thing is almost worth the asking price of the car alone. In terms of cargo space and technology, these two rivals are not too far apart, although their execution is certainly different. The styling, both inside and out, is impossible to confuse, but despite a higher asking price, the SVR's infotainment system isn't quite as good either. That said, the RR is more capable off-road and will be more comfortable on it. The choice will come down to what kind of fast SUV you want.
Much like the Bimmer, the ultimate driver's SUV is only available in a single trim. Yes, there are other variants that are not shy on performance either, but the Cayenne Turbo is considered as a standalone model. Unsurprisingly, it's not cheap. Its asking price of $127,800 is nearly the same as how much you'll pay for a fully loaded X5 M with the Competition package, so it's already down a point. Its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is also not the most powerful engine around, producing 541 hp, but torque is greater at 567 lb-ft. Most Porsche models have recently had a stunning interior makeover, and with this comes a gorgeous infotainment display showing crisp images, which is finally in keeping with what others have to offer. However, besides all its technical equipment features and fancy gadgets, the Porsche is still just that, and as such, it's the Cayenne Turbo's handling prowess that makes it stand out. This vehicle is less capable in terms of cargo-carrying capacity or acceleration, but it drives better than any other SUV here. As a car to live with, we'd have the Bimmer, but for something to truly stand the hairs on the back of your neck up when you're carving up a canyon, we'd want Stuttgart's SUV.
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