Video: Calvin Chan
Published: May 7, 2018
Take a standard X5, inject it with a bonkers V8 engine, a big body kit, a snorting exhaust, plaster a bunch of M badges eveywhere, and you’ve got yourself a recipe to blur the lines between performance and utility.
This is the BMW X5 M, and it’s an insane proposition in a world in love with SUVs, so maybe, just maybe, BMW is onto something here. But it’s a rather subtle transformation from the standard X5. The only tell tale signs are the M badges, quad exhausts, chrome fenders and bigger intakes. This isn’t exactly a car that stands out from the crowd, especially in this murdered out spec.
This specific model we got here is the Black Fire Edition - a rare aesthetics package with only 25 coming to Canada. Apparently some BMW enthusiasts love blacked out cars so much they made one specific for them. You pay around an extra $5,000 for this package, but that means a Sapphire Black paint, blacked out kidney grills, black 21-inch wheels, and carbon mirror caps. Inside you get two-tone red-black leather upholstery and a special edition badge on the passenger side dash. It’s not something I’d personally opt for, but there are definitely going to be those out there looking for that “limited edition” appeal.
But the extra $40,400 over the base X5 gets you more than just looks. Under the hood is the same 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 that also powers the BMW M6, and churns out 567 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, so don’t think your riced-up Honda Civic could keep up with one of these. Even though the X5 M weighs as much as two Subaru BRZs stacked on top of each other, it has launch control, all-wheel drive, and a 0-100 km/h time of 4.2 seconds. If that number doesn’t mean anything to you, let me put it into perspective. It’s quicker than the Range Rover Sport SVR, and even quicker than BMW’s own i8 supercar. Floor the throttle off the line and you’ll start to become dizzy within a few seconds.
There are these two M buttons here on the steering wheel where you can program shortcuts for your driving modes - that goes for the powertrain, suspension, transmission speed, and HUD. So you can be cruising with all the settings on Comfort on the highway, but if you need that quick burst of speed because you forgot an exit is coming up, just double click the M button and you’ve got all horses on tap.
However, even on the most comfortable settings the X5 M delivers an unusually firm ride. Despite having an air suspension it’s stiffer than most SUVs on the market. Comfort mode feels like the regular X5’s Sport mode. But what the X5 M loses in comfort, it gains in pinpoint steering and excellent body control, something that you’d never feel possible in a vehicle with this much mass. I think that’s what I love most about the X5 M: how it defies physics.
We don’t condone it on public roads obviously but you can turn DSC off and drift this thing like a M3. And we’re talking about a five-passenger shopping cart here. Just check out the width on those rear tires too. They’re huge, and offer so much grip. I know it’s surprising to say but this thing drives really really well.
The noise is a little disappointing though. It doesn’t have the soundtrack to back up its athletics. There is no musical buildup or octave progression. Even at wide-open throttle, the X5 M just grunts in a deep but uniform tone. There’s no climax to the music. Sadly, it’s only when you’re accelerating hard and changing gears at high RPMs will you hear those ear-wrenching split second farts, but the noise is short-lived. It sounds better than the Cayenne Turbo, but not as thrilling as the Range Rover Sport SVR. I actually think BMW’s inline-six engines sound better than this.
The X5 M’s interior is quite a feast for the eyes. Despite the overwhelming flurry of buttons that will babble BMW newcomers, the layout is fairly simplistic – audio buttons are where you’d expect them to be and a rotary dial makes you feel right at home. I just wish there was a little more storage space. The center compartment is a little lacking in depth, and the side pockets are hard to reach when the doors are closed.
The seats are beautiful are beyond comfortable. I love how you can adjust both lower and upper back panels, to really tailor it to your own body shape and driving position.
Probably the most annoying thing about the X5 M is this little pimple-like gear shifter here - a bit complicated to use as there is no parking button. You have to either put it in neutral or pull the electronic handbrake, or turn off the car, for it to shift into Park. BMW uses this for the DCT cars, but this isn’t a DCT, yet it is programmed to be like one. The new M shifters like the one in the M5 are much easier to use.
Despite being a performance SUV, the X5 M is still very practical. It adorns a Range Rover style liftgate with two panels, one that folds up and one that folds down. You can also use it as a makeshift sofa at your local drive-in theatre. And thanks to a flat roof, getting in and out of the X5 M is much easier and more accessible than the coupe-variant X6 M.
The X5 M is a remarkable SUV that defies tradition. It’s usable on a daily basis, conventional in appearance, and provides one of the best driving experiences on the road. If you suck up the disappointing exhaust noise and overly firm ride, well, you’re in for one hell of a treat.
Model: 2018 BMW X5 M Black Fire Edition
Paint Type: Sapphire Black Metallic
Base Price: $112,400
Price as Tested: $134,500
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,851 / 1,994 / 1,764
Curb weight (kg): 2,386
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8
Horsepower: 567 hp @ 6,000 - 6,500 rpm
Torque: 553 lb-ft @ 2,220 - 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 16.1 / 12.1 / 14.6
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 15.1
Tires: Pirelli Scorpion winter tires