Tested: 2010 BMW X5 M

The king of overkill

Do you enjoy fishing with dynamite? Does every bathroom in your house feature a shiny flat TV? Do you regularly use tens or twenties to light your cigars? If you’re the type of person who likes to gracelessly wallow in life’s excesses then I’ve got brilliant news for you. I found your next car.

Much like the mad professors at BMW’s M division you probably have a smug disregard for any news snippets elsewhere in this publication/website regarding that apparent recession gibberish. What the world needed was another ballistic SUV and the Bavarian M-people were only too glad to help.

The result of their latest efforts is the proper M-version of the successful X5 softroader, not that the platform was a slouch to start with. The X5’s dynamic handling is paired with various brilliant engines to make any X5 a fantastic driving experience.

I was decidedly sceptical about their attempts to beef up an already superb machine; especially after the X5 xDrive48i blew me and my garage card balance away last year. How can such a huge, powerful, nimble vehicle be possibly improved on?

My doubts were quickly punished with my first drive and the affirmation that the X5 M is another (possibly mad) step up, thanks to a power output of 555hp. Yes, five-hundred-and-fifty-five. After hours of heated monologue I discovered that the X5 M is the most powerful vehicle I have ever piloted. An X5. Honestly.

More discussion amongst myself was in order to determine if the X5 M is a ridiculously expensive ego extension or a blisteringly fast way of capturing the record for crossing Etosha. The debate ended in a tie, although I’m unsure if any owners will even venture off the tarmac. I wouldn’t.

Just a few reasons to keep it out of the scenery are the über-expensive tyres (275/40R20 front, 315/35R20 rear), space shuttle electronics, plus the rather blatant lack of low-range or locking differential drive-train components.

BMW does supply any X5 M with xDrive permanent all-wheel drive, hill descent control and Dynamic Performance Control for distributing the torque load, but with rear-axle bias and a Nissan GTR-esque display of this distribution I’ll safely assume they were aiming at race track grip rather than the Kalahari dunes.

The motive for all that gadgetry is a 4395ccm twin-VANOS twin-turbo petrol V8 which unleashes a monumental 680Nm of torque from 1500rpm onwards or an eye-watering 408kW (555hp) at 6000rpm. This translates into a 0-100km/h time of 4.7 seconds, 200km/h in just under 17 seconds, and a limited top speed of 250km/h. An X5. Honestly.

Its CO2 emission is 325g/km and BMW claim an average fuel consumption of 13.9L/100km. I came close to that on the open road, but usually approached 20 in town. I blame the car’s addictive power, crisp handling and that cursed “M” button on the steering wheel.

The X5 M’s steering, handling, braking and acceleration is sufficient to embarrass most sports cars, but the M button takes all these abilities to within an inch of lunacy. I reckon M stands for maniac mode, moenie, or “Mummy!” You decide.

The already crisp steering becomes razor-sharp, as do the reactions of the throttle and gearbox. A manual mode with steering-mounted paddles also assists the driver in scaring passengers and unsuspecting hot hatches. The X5 M is properly, drop-jaw fast.

No matter what gear you’re in, it ruthlessly reels in the horizon. In M mode the exhausts up their volume too, but the resulting growl, bark or pops sounded more like a well-tuned four cylinder than a V8 to me. Might be down to what BMW call a cross-bank exhaust manifold.

Oh snap, I almost forgot: it’s got a beautifully-made, spacious leather interior with every conceivable toy and safety gadget under the sun. A few niceties worth mentioning are the electric tailgate, automatic adaptive double-Xenon headlights, head-up display, rear and side view (optional) cameras, and a twin panorama sunroof.

Oh yes, and the ingenious iDrive system with 6 DVD changer, LOGIC 7 audio system, customisable buttons, Bluetooth, navigation and voice control. The electric and heated M sports seats are utterly comfortable and the X5 M’s ride is reasonably subtle, quiet and forgiving (in non-M mode).

I still maintain that building a super-fast SUV/4×4 is akin to fitting a Lamborghini with raised Old Man Emu suspension and BF Goodrich mud terrains. A wee bit ostentatious. But that didn’t stop me from smiling at the giant Porsche killer and enjoying its qualities.

Should you spare a few tens and twenties to fork out the N$1.255 million for a BMW X5 M you will also receive a 5 year 100 000km maintenance contract and a day’s worth of high performance driver training.

An X5. Honestly.


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