OUR GERMAN host points to a set of squiggles on a map. “We like to call this section the roller-coaster,” he says. “We would say that this is the best place to try the car.”

The car in question is BMW’s mid-size SUV bruiser, the thoroughly overhauled X5 M. Due in Australia in May, only the full-fruit Competition version will be offered, at $209,900. The X5 M will face down rivals as diverse as the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport SVR,

while Audi’s incoming RS Q7 will be bigger but no less fearsome.

Based on the 2018 CLAR-platformed X5, the X5 M scores BMW M’s 460kW/750Nm S63 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, backed by a ZF eight-speed auto with adjustable shift feel and an M-fettled version of BMW’s xDrive AWD platform. This gives it a 70kW advantage over the previous king of the X5 hill, the M50i, while eschewing the 50i’s air suspension for steel springs all round.

It’s got big brakes – six-piston front calipers mated to huge alloy-hatted steel rotors up front – that nestle behind staggered 21-inch alloys, with 295mm-wide tyres up front and 315mm boots out back, while an M Active diff sits between the rear wheels.

The thrust peeling onto Arizona freeways with 400kg of passengers and video gear on top of its 2385kg unladen weight gives credence to the claimed 0-100km/h dash of 3.8 seconds. The freeway stint reveals a comfortable and reasonably roomy SUV. The driving position feels a tad tall and the Z-pattern auto stick is irritating while the M-spec wheel is typically chunky.

Tall rear-seaters struggle a little for kneeroom and the rear seat backs don’t recline much, but toe- and headroom is adequate. A lack of rear USB ports in our US-spec tester is an annoying oversight, while the onboard nav is stubborn and uncooperative.

At the roller-coaster, much is forgiven. A thrape through kilometres of perfectly manicured, deeply cambered corners is thrilling and surprising. The V8’s lowdown response allows the X5 M to punch hard on corner exit, while the huge brakes – adjustable for feel within the M Mode menu a la the M8 – wash speed off with aplomb. Steering feel is faithful if a little feathery, but the front end refuses to push wide. Ride quality is surprisingly compliant too, with the active anti-roll bars helping to keep a flat platform.

We suspect it will eat tyres at a rapid rate on Australia’s rougher roads, but out of the box the X5 M has the potential to claim some serious scalps.


Model BMW X5 M Competition 

Engine 4395cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo

Max power 460kW @ 6000rpm 

Max torque 750Nm @ 1800-5800rpm

Transmission 8-speed automatic 

Weight 2385kg

Economy 13.0L/100km 

0-100km/h 3.8sec (claimed)

Price $209,900 

On sale May 2020


Braking ability; ride quality; low-down grunt of V8


Z-pattern shifter; kneeroom; $60K jump up from M50i