Hit the engine start button on the 2018 BMW X5 M and you’re greeted to a loud bark as the engine comes to life and slowly settles into its idle. It sounds like a caged tiger being poked awake with a stick.
Parking underground only serves to amplify the sound, much to my amusement. Not so sure about the neighbours.
The designers kept the M styling tweaks to a minimum and other than the aggressive bumper with all its radiators and extra openings there’s not much, visually, to distinguish this from the “garden variety” X5.
Another clue that most BMW aficionados will spot is the 4 exhaust tips in the back, something that is only relegated to true M models (as opposed to the M performance stuff).
Power, lots and lots of angry Power
That rumbling, snarling exhaust note comes courtesy of BMW’s Hot inside V (lingo for turbos nestled between the cylinder banks) 4.4 Litre twin turbo V8. The S63 as it is internally named has seen duty since 2010 in a variety of M cars, but it is best known for powering the world-beating M5 sedan.
Producing 567 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque at a low 2200 rpm this Bavarian power unit catapults this 5000lb SUV from standstill to 100km/h in a scant 4.2 seconds. My butt meter says it’s a bit faster than that and I wouldn’t be surprised if this thing cracks the 3-second barrier.
It really didn’t feel much slower than the M760Li I drove last year—that had a twin turbo V12 with 600 hp.
Helping the forward motivation is the whip crack fast eight-speed automatic transmission. Easily one of the best on the market today. There are three different shift ferocity settings to choose from. I left it in the lowest almost all of the time as it was more than quick enough. The more aggressive you make the shifts, the longer the X5 holds onto gears in anticipation of a corner. This might work well on a track but not so much on the street.
So much choice
Which gets me to another thing: the many, many different ways you can configure the car. There are 3 settings each for the steering, suspension, engine, and the transmission. And you can have any combination of them at any time. While you’re allowed to program your favorite setup to the M1 or M2 buttons on the steering wheel, the sheer number of combinations is a bit much. The technogeekery needs to be dialed down a couple notches.
And do we really need that much choice? We’re already bombarded with choices in our daily lives. Have you ever had to shop for a stroller? Or maybe you’re looking to try a new take-out place—and then you read some reviews and search some more. Suddenly a simple affair turns into frustration and possibly a poor decision.
While an M car is quite different than takeout, most know they are sporty track oriented affairs and they are expected to be sporty—pretty much all the time.
The typical 3 settings—Comfort, Eco and Sport—that we see on most Bimmers today would actually be appreciated here.
Slightly nutty, but endearing
Nevertheless, the X5 M is fast. Properly fast. Putting the car into its most ferocious settings unleashes the caged beast aching to get out. It snarls and snorts.
On a full throttle blast, upshifts are met with a series of loud pops that would probably scare the crap out of pedestrians. It had me giggling like a 3 year old.
This SUV is a bit nutty. Or is that SAV? Incase you didn’t know SAV is BMW lingo for Sports Activity Vehicle, probably called this to signal its intentions as a vehicle better suited to tarmac. This is not one to try rock crawling with.
Nutty cars are great though, especially in a day when so many are just plain vanilla eco boxes.
The X5 M tester I was driving was equipped with the Black Fire Edition package, that included special gloss black kidney grills, black side gills (air breathers in BMW speak), carbon fibre mirror caps and a contrasting black and Mugello red Merino leather interior.
Coupled with 21” forged black M wheels (not on our tester) and Black Sapphire Metallic paint, the look was diabolical and dark. It was a real head turner—dripping with attitude even when standing still.
This is definitely Batman’s Bimmer.
One the inside
It’s pretty much standard X5, but that’s a very good thing. You’re greeted with superb ergonomics, and thankfully a button to control almost every function save for things like the navigation and vehicle settings.
Those duties were relegated to the latest version of iDrive, which comes with touchscreen functionality, and the ability to connect to Apple Car Play wirelessly. It is easily one of the best infotainment controllers in the business.
The build quality and materials are on par with what you would expect when paying well over 100K for one of these bad boys. In other words, excellent. The M seats were a bit uncomfortable at first, but they had so many adjustments I was able to find a sweet spot.
They looked amazing however, with the same Mugello red accents seen throughout the rest of the interior.
It was a great cabin to spend time in. Apparently there is engine noise being artificially created and fed through the speakers, a trick of sorts, to enhance the drive.
I can’t say I noticed any of this, it definitely didn’t sound like it needed any artificial sound enhancement. A point easily demonstrated by driving under a bridge or through a tunnel with the windows down and downshifting a few times. Something I must confess I did way too many times.
I mentioned maybe scaring a few pedestrians earlier. If you happen to be reading this, I’m sorry not sorry.
Maybe it’s cause I’m the pedestrian who loves that sort of thing, but I digress.
On a long highway drive the somewhat stiff ride seems a bit smoother and the cabin is nice and quiet. Extra legal speeds are almost too easily attained and you have to reign in the beast every once in a while.
This is a heavy vehicle but it can actually corner. Turn in is accurate if a bit slow and there is virtually no body roll, uncanny in a vehicle this high. Even though you feel its heft the grip is enormous, even on winter tires. Mind you, the rubber was 295mm wide all the way around and basically painted on the rim.
The rear biased xDrive can route 100 percent of the power to either axle and between the rear wheels, offering even more grip and cornering capability. This thing is Nurburgring ready according to BMW and I believe them but not sure how many customers would track this.
This is no M5 (not that many track those either) and as long as you don’t expect it to be, it is truly one of the best handling SUV’s on the market.
If that’s what you look for in your SUV, or SAV if you will, consider your search over.
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Photography ©Kunal D’souza
2018 BMW X5 M Black Fire Edition
BODY STYLE: Four-door premium Sports Utility Vehicle
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, All-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 4.4 Litre V8, twin scroll-twin turbo, direct injection, valvetronic (Power: 567hp @6000-6500rpm, Torque: 553 lb-ft @2200-5000rpm)
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed Automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 650-1870 litres
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium) 16.6/12.1/14.6 L/100 km city/highway/combined.
PRICE: $110,900 as tested $133,000 not including $2,245 destination fee
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