2021 BMW X5M
In the 1950s and ‘60s sports cars with two doors like MGTDs, Porsche 911s, and muscle cars were all car enthusiasts wanted. Then in the ‘70s and ‘80s sports sedans such as the Mercedes 6.9, BMW M5, and Saab 9000 turbo (remember that?) grabbed our attention. Now it’s SUVs.
And why not? A Porsche Cayenne Turbo S can lap the Nurburgring as quickly as the 1980s supercar Porsche 959, and a Lamborghini Urus SUV can do it even faster. The combination of turbocharging, All-wheel drive, torque vectoring, and traction/suspension management software has resulted in the ability to make SUVs go really really fast.
Enter the 2021 BMW X5M, a hyper-SUV (I just made that up—give me credit if it catches on) which is pretty much an M5 sedan with a higher center of gravity and more space (and weight).
Driving the X5M is surprisingly similar to being behind the wheel of the M5. Explosive acceleration accompanied by a raucous V8 soundtrack is what happens when you hit the gas. And be careful when you do that, not because you’re approaching the X5M’s limits—they’re prodigious and much higher than yours—but because just five or so seconds after you nail the throttle at 60mph you’ll be going 120MPH.
Despite a curb weight of 5425lbs(!), the X5M can handle almost as well as its M5 brother because of the aforementioned tech-enabled advancements. Cornering is neutral at any speed (at least any sane speed), and the big Bimmer is very stable on the highway as well. And thanks to a wide track and lowered suspension, the X5M isn’t “tippy”.
Nevertheless, that tuned suspension combined with bigger diameter wheels and low profile performance tires give the X5M a “sporty” ride, which borders on harsh if the pavement’s not smooth.
On the highway, on the other hand, everything’s wonderful. Not only is the ride comfortable and wind noise subdued, but the gearing is such that the engine is relaxed at speed. I spent a lot of time between 75 and 90MPH and the X5M was quiet and very much in its element the whole time. And all that power and torque means that passing is a snap. In fact, the ability to pass quickly and effortlessly even at high speeds may be the best reason to buy an X5M (or M5 for that matter).
For the record the X5M sprints from 0-60MPH in 3.6 seconds, but guzzles premium gasoline at a rate of 13 MPG City/18 Highway.
Naturally, driving the largest and heaviest BMW M-vehicle off road would be stupid. Would you hurt it? Probably not, but, even though it’s an SUV, this beast is about as much of an off-roader as a Ferrari.
It sure doesn’t look like a Ferrari though. Instead it looks like, umm, an X5. That’s either good or bad depending on your point of view. If you want your neighbors to recognize instantly that you spent $120,000 (and probably more) on your hyper-SUV, then you’re likely to be disappointed. On the other hand, if understatement is your thing, then you’ll like the X5M.
There’s less understatement inside the X5M’s cabin where numerous M-badges and classic M blue and red accents serve as reminders that you own a special machine connected with such automotive icons as the M1 supercar, E30 M3, and wish-I-had-one E34 M5. I could do without the bold X5M badges on the seat backs (which light up at night), but the two tone seating surfaces with diamond stitching certainly look good.
Of course, at this price point there needs to be luxury, and there's plenty of that. The interior materials are first rate, and there’s tech galore easily accessible via the rotary iDrive knob on the center console. Rest assured, BMW makes sure buyers of the X5M will feel special when they drive it.
After close to 20 years of evolution the iDrive system is finally intuitive. Porsche and Audi have switched to touch screens, but they’re no better than this generation of iDrive.
Like all M-vehicles, the X5M can be had as the “base” model or the X5M Competition. For an extra $12,000 choosing the Competition version gets you 17 additional HP (for a total of 617, which is probably closer to 700 since BMW famously understates their power figures), blacked out badging and trim, and other enhancements. Frankly, the standard X5M is all you need (actually the non-M X5 50i is plenty fast), but if you want bragging rights and paying rock bottom prices isn’t that important to you, the X5M Competition is quite satisfactory.
It’s now the ‘20s, and performance SUVs have supplanted sports cars and sports sedans as “the” thing. I personally don’t like that reality much, but I can’t argue with the performance of vehicles like the X5M. It’s an amazing vehicle.