The BMW X5 M Competition is not supposed to be a good performance vehicle.
It is far too big. Heavy. And theoretically unwieldly. That is the logic. But BMW’s engineers have spent decades redefining what it means to deliver true driving pleasure and the company’s latest high-performance luxury family vehicle, is a case in point.
Before 2009, BMW had never marketed a high-performance version fo its X5. The promise to BMW M3 and M5 customers had always been clear: They would never have to deal with the possible conflict of interest, whereby BMW might produce an SUV that could rival their vehicle for outright speed.
That all changed with the first-generation X5 M. It set all manner of new parameters for BMW. Never before had a high-performance vehicle from the celebrated German brand features four-wheel drive, turbocharging or an automatic transmission. The original X5 M, had all three.
BMW X5 M Competition: Looks like it belongs at Kyalami instead of Kruger Park
A decade later, the X5 M Competition remains a strange product within BMW’s portfolio. It has the raised ride height and all-wheel drive technology to be an entirely competent Karoo or rural KZN gravel traveller. But that is not its purpose.
There is no mistaken the 2020 model year X5 M Competition for a less potent BMW full-size SUV.
It features a reshaped front bumper, with larger air intakes, and rolls huge 21-inch alloy wheels. Even the wing mirrors are specially shaped, to be more aerodynamic.
At the rear, there four exhaust tips, framing a diffuser, and the tailgate has a meaningful spoiler, which delivers stabilising rear-axle downforce at high speeds.
Raw and relentless acceleration
Those amplified design elements don’t make a hollow statement, either.
This BMW luxury SUV is powered by the most potent version of the company’s 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, boosting 460kW and 750Nm.
With its enormous power Michelin tyres providing traction, there is no doubting this BMW’s credentials. The company claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 3.8 seconds and top speed of 290km/h.
Those performance numbers are overwhelming when deployed in the real world, forcing passengers unfamiliar with such raw and relentless acceleration into stunned silence.
BMW X5 M Competition: Very potent when required
BMW has equipped the X5 M Competition with wonderfully adaptable modality. You can set it to be calm and docile, crawling along slowly in traffic, or when navigating an underground parking garage. But once you depress one of the two red ‘M-mode’ steering wheel buttons, this BMW reveals its full potential.
Any vehicle with a kerb weight of 2295kg and relatively high centre of gravity, is never going to feel agile. That said, the 295/35 front 315/30 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 5 tyres deliver enormous reserves of mechanical grip. It might not be nearly as rewarding to steer around high-speed corners as an M3, but the huge BMW SUV’s poise is commendable although its steering feedback is quite anaesthetized.
An interesting aspect of the X5 M Competition’s technical configuration is its suspension.
Whereas the standard X5 SUV benefits from air-suspension, this is discarded for the high-performance version. Despite this, I found the ride quality to be particularly liveable, which is an almost counterintuitive outcome, considering those low-profile Michelin tyres and the very stiff compression damping required to keep the X5 M Competition stable at speed.
‘Ludicrous straight-line performance’
Lots of presence. Ludicrous straight-line performance. And wonderfully comfortable BMW sports seats. The X5 M Competition is a curious offering in BMW’s current product portfolio.
It has a more spacious cabin than an M5, is as quick in a straight-line and can drive on many routes where the traditional BMW high-performance sedan would face ruined wheels, tyres and bodywork.
There is a price premium of nearly R400 000 between the M5 sedan and R2 605 900 X5 M Competition SUV. For purists, the M5 will remain inarguably BMW’s best deal as a high-performance family car.
But if you need to occasionally drive on some dirt roads to access your private game or wine farm, the dearer X5 M Competition makes greater sense.