Purists may grumble about the revered M-badge being hitched to an SUV, but the new BMW X5 M is no ordinary SUV and, in true BMW style, it handles like a sports car.
Where there is money to be made, car companies will innovate and adopt change into their vehicles, especially category toppers like the high-powered X5 M. Starting at $85,400, my tester managed to jump to $92,125 with some upgraded audio and driver assistance packages. The X5 M proves there is a real market for huge horsepower and luxury utility space - enjoying it is going to cost you.
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Inside the cabin of the X5 M, you will find predictably high-grade materials and a classic gauge presentation on the dash.
The X5 M is not just the X5 with some badging; this 555-horsepower rocket-sled features a twin-turbocharged V-8 engine that can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds while delivering a 6,000-pound towing capacity along with its sports car moves. The M styling is more aggressive than the base X5 and it is blended into a classy BMW package.
The five-seat midsize crossover M version does not offer a seven-passenger third-row option like the X5; new M turn-signal indicators are integrated into the front fenders and signature quad tailpipes finish off the backend.
The standard X5 M has 20-inch wheels featuring high-performance run-flat tires; combined with the X5 M's 10-millimeter-lower suspension, they look great nestled neatly into the wheel wells.
Describing the X5 M experience is not about describing general tooling about town in BMW luxury, though I'm sure that is part of the life of an X5 M - it's just a waste of an opportunity to enjoy a thrill or two. When you jump on the highway, the M is nothing short of a monster gobbling up pavement as much as you push it.
And, boy, is it fun to push it.
Running south on Interstate 57, it was like seeing other vehicles in slow motion. While a manual transmission is not offered, the clutchless-manual mode incorporated into the X5 M's six-speed automatic transmission was impressive. Nudging the gear selector forward or backward results in a quick down or up shift. The X5 M gets an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 12/17 mpg city/highway and, of course, you have to feed this beast premium fuel.
I found the X5 M's ride quality to be extraordinarily forgiving despite the huge rims and low-profile tires. I encountered very little body roll running through hard turns, which is a BMW trademark characteristic and one that translates well to the X5 M.
The crossover's M Drive feature allows drivers to customize the characteristics of the throttle, transmission and electronic stability system through a menu on the standard iDrive system's screen.
Once you've made your selections, they can quickly be recalled by pressing the M button on the right side of the steering wheel. It's a quick and easy way to change the character of the X5 M if you find yourself in the mood to push the monster a bit.
Inside the cabin of the X5 M, you will find predictably high-grade materials and a classic gauge presentation on the dash. BMW is all about driving, so distractions of any kind are kept to a minimum.
The front M sport seats are finished in leather and include 14-way power adjustment and a memory feature for the driver's seat, steering wheel and side mirrors. The seat cushioning is firm and I liked the extra-wide leather-wrapped M steering wheel.
The back seat is spacious with generous legroom even with the front seat adjusted for a taller driver. The cargo area measures 35.8 cubic feet with the back seat up and 75.2 when it's folded. This cargo space is still smaller than most in the class, but this not so much for utility as it is for performance, so I don't think that will be a determining factor when a buyer looks at the X5 M.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for both rows and active front head restraints.
Overall, the X5 M is an amazing melding of luxury, performance and high-powered classy looks. The price puts this in a rather exclusive market, but those who appreciate 500-plus horsepower and the new M Drive system will no doubt find the extra cash somewhere.2010 BMW X5 MENGINE:
555-horsepower 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8TRANSMISSION:
four-wheel driveFUEL ECONOMY:
12 city/17 highwayBASE PRICE:
$92,125WEB SITE: www.BMWUSA.com