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Motoring: BMW X5M lacks the thrill of M class cars

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | April 19th, 2010

Question: How can one differentiate a good BMW from a great one?

The Answer: Just look for the “M” badge.

“M” stands for Motorsport, and these cars are specially prepared by BMW's in-house motor sports division to turn ordinary cars into ballistic missiles.

BMW has had “M” cars for 30 years now, a history that started with the M1 (which surprisingly is still the only “M” car that was fully purpose built and the only one to ever have a mid-mounted engine).

The X5M and the X6M are the newest additions to the “M” family, and they are the first production application of an “M” spec SUV.

However, don't expect this SUV to handle the rough stuff. These “M” machines might look like they can go up any mountain, but in reality they are best left to carve up the twisty mountain road.

It certainly has the power to go up any mountain, even if it's vertical. It's 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8 produces a truly colossal 555 hp and it also pumps out 500 lb/ft of torque, making this (and the X6M) the most powerful production vehicle BMW produces right now.

Transferring all this power to the road comes through a sixspeed automatic with paddle shifters, and goes to each wheel through a sophisticated all-wheel drive system.

Despite its 2435 kg weight, it will rocket from 0-100 km/h in just 4.7 seconds, and tops out at an electronically limited 250 km/h. Be in no doubt, this is one seriously fast machine.

Thanks to its “M” tuned suspension, it can handle well too, but push it hard into corners and its bulky weight starts showing its limitations. Plus the fact my press car was fitted with winter tires, not the high performance summer rubber, so its handling didn't impress as much as I was hoping. Plus sitting as high as you do in this vehicle, going quickly through corners feels very unnatural.

There is another downside to its “M” tuned suspension, and that is its ride quality. It is not uncomfortable by any means, but it does pick up more road imperfections than you'd like, so it's not the most relaxed driving experience ever.

No complaints about the interior though. It has excellent seats, like all BMWs, and it has plenty of toys to keep you amused. Plus the X5M now features the new generation of i- Drive system, which is much easier to use then it used to be.

So given its gadgets and abilities, it can easily handle your everyday chores, that is if you can afford to keep its gas tank filled. You see, it likes to only drink premium petrol, and during my week it averaged 16.4- litres/100km. So it is not cheap to run and it isn't cheap to buy either.

Prices start at $97,900, and my well-equipped tester was priced at $104,500. So if you can afford to buy one, I am sure you can afford to run one.

Personally, I don't think this is the best execution of an “M” model. It's fast but lacks the thrill of their other “M” cars. But if you have to have a truck and a fast one at that, this is about as good as they get.
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