M is short for OMG, in case you’re wondering.
When it comes to SUVs, the BMW X5 may be the ultimate: its sporty, muscular fun-to-drive experience reminds you that you’re a badass bosslady. But its fold-down rear seats, high ground clearance and truck-like capability make it great for errand running, seeing over traffic and long drives. The X5, which starts at $60,000 and tops out with the X5M Competition (the model we drove clocked in at $128,000), has all-wheel drive available, and it’s standard in the M models, so you don’t have to sweat the snow or fret over rutted unpaved roads.
But, BMW is a brand driven by passion, and its designers and engineers aren’t happy to just sit back and enjoy how popular their SUVs are. They are constantly upping their game, improving things that I’d never think needed improving.
That’s the magic behind the BMW X5 M and its more powerful sibling, the BMW X5 M Competition. This is the first time the Competition trim has made an appearance on the X5. These are basically the BMW X5 on high-intensity steroids, with more muscle, more tech and more badass capability.
Before diving in with what I learned during my brief test drive, I’ll dazzle you with some details:
- The BMW X5 M has a V8 turbo engine with 600 horsepower and 553 torque
- The BMW X5 M Competition increases horsepower to 617
- Turbo, which you might not think you need in a V8, gives you instant power
- 21” wheels are standard (the Competition has 21” front and 22” rear wheels)
- 8.3” ground clearance (8.4” in the Competition)
- $105,000 is the starting price of the X5 M
- $114,000 is the starting price of the X5 M Competition
- 15 MPG city/highway combined
- 7,200 lbs tow capacity
- This is one of the most powerful SUVs on the road
This is a powerful and pricey SUV designed for buyers who want it all. Every bit of it.
So, what’s it like to drive?
Related: 2020 Cadillac CT4 Review: A Little Less Power, but a Little Less $$$ In this Elegant Luxury Sedan
Putting All that Badass To Work on the Road
You might imagine, it’s fun. It’s elating to zip onto the freeway then power past slower traffic to the left lane where you can let the BMW X5 M do its thing: drive fast. It easily keeps up with faster traffic, so much so that you might want to keep an eye on your speed or set the adaptive cruise control to a reasonable speed. This is one of those “oh crap, I’m going 80” cars that don’t feel like you’re going as fast as you are.
But you can easily adjust the X5 M so you’ll never forget. First, tap the exhaust button on the center console, and that throaty growl will be more prominent. Then, put it into M mode, and you’ll feel the adaptive M suspension tighten and the transmission shift at a higher engine speed, putting all its power front and center in your drive.
But only do this when the road conditions are right. Snaking down busy canyon roads through Los Angeles in M mode was a waste; it felt like the X5 M never got past second gear (and it might not have). In comfort mode, the engine sound and feel were unobtrusive, exactly as you’d expect in a luxury SUV.
Related: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Review: The Innovative, Thoughtful Luxury 3-Row SUV That Considers How You Live
What is “M”? It Adds OMG to the Drive
Motorsport is actually what it stands for; BMWs with the M designation are designed and engineered by the company’s M division, where performance and racing vehicles are engineered and tested. Realizing that they can take what they learn on the track and apply it to everyday vehicles, BMW has started not only to add M trims to all its models, but to continue to push the limits of what these cars and SUVs can do. And buyers love it.
The M model increases performance and horsepower quite a bit and adds adaptive suspension and M drive mode for an even more competitive drive feel.
Related: 2020 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring Review: This Might Be the Most Luxury For Your Money, Ever
What is “Competition?” The Name Says It All
Taking the power and accomplishments of the M technology, BMW’s engineers continued to tinker, tinker tinker until… hello, Competition: an even more track-worthy version of the M. In this case, an SUV that is as fast and as capable as any sport sedan BMW builds — so say the experts. I did NOT try this on public roads, nor should anyone. These cars are designed for the track, and that’s exactly where all that power belongs.
In fact, for track hounds who love to spend their weekends mastering apexes and chicanes, the X5 M Competition’s track mode lets drivers optimize the X5 for track performance and record performance stats. And if you want to set multiple custom configurations, or your significant other is also a track hound, you can program those custom settings and, using one of the red M 1 or M 2 buttons on the steering wheel, instantly recall them.
If you invest in this car the answer is yes, you need to take it on the track — and you can. BMW offers a track day in your new car once you’ve made the purchase (it’s an extra $2,500). You can opt for either Thermal, California near Palm Springs, or Greer South Carolina, the company’s North American proving ground where engineers test out new models. I’ve had the luck to drive M series SUVs on both tracks, and it’s one of those experiences you’ll never forget— and may become addicted to.
Other Details Set the BMW X5 M Competition Apart
The 2020 BMW X5 M is a BIG SUV. BMW actually prefers to call it an SAV, or sports activity vehicle, but we’re not buying it; its capability for road, track, Costco and the school pick up lane is everything. Then, the X5 is sized in both ground clearance height and width similarly to any other full sized SUV; it takes up most of a parking spot, and you’ll have to learn the corners of this SUV. It’s big.
But, it’s luxury, inside and out. One of the things I truly loved the most were the interior details including the massaging white leather seats with contrasting navy X5 M panel inserts. These seats are gorgeous and comfortable. And, they have side bolsters designed to hug you, though shorter drivers may find that these encumber your range of motion and larger drivers may feel hemmed in by them. They are not for everyone.
Other interior details include carbon fiber trim,; layers of leather on the doors, dash and arm rest; integrated Bose premium speakers; and ambient lighting that illuminates and outlines interior details, making everything easy to see. Even the Bose speakers have an interior ambient light, giving the cabin a fun, chic feel at night.
Tech Improvements that Make the 2020 BMW X5 World Class
Technology has defined the modern era of BWM, both under the hood and inside the cabin, and now, in the cloud and in your hand – aka, your phone. Buyers can create and connect driver profiles via the BMW app so certain functions can be controlled via a phone, smart watch, Alexa or Google Home system, so you can sync your calendar and driving directions before you get into the car.
One of the features I loved the most, though, is that Apple CarPlay connects wirelessly, and BMW’s head up display picks up your Apple CarPlay map settings, displaying turn by turn directions. After establishing an initial connection to your phone the first time you use CarPlay, every time you get in the car your phone will connect wirelessly. Just tap your destination on your phone and it will pop up on the infotainment screen and head up display. This is a huge YAY.
I also loved BMW’s voice assistant. Just say “Hey, BMW” and the helpful lady is there to turn on your massaging seats, set the cabin temperature or change the radio station. She can even set navigation using the BMW navigation system; to change the CarPlay navigation you have to ask Siri. This feature can be turned on or off, I discovered, via the vehicle settings on the infotainment screen.
The center console is nicely configured so everything is at your fingertips, including BMW’s iDrive infotainment system which is displayed the 12.3” media touchscreen. I find that I go back and forth between the two, and the touch screen is easier to use from the passenger’s seat. But “Hey, BMW” works from all seats.
What also works from both the driver’s seat and passenger’s seat is gesture control. Not a new feature, I find it sort of gimmicky but also, a I’m a bit chagrined to realize just how useful it is to circle your finger in front of the media screen to turn down the music.
What This Car Costs
- BMW X5 40i with a V6 335 HP starts at $59,400
- X5 M50i V8 with 523 HP starts at $82,800
- X5 M, with a V8 600 HP engine, M drive, carbon fiber interior trim, leather seats, Alcantara headliner, wireless charge pad, personal assistant (“Hey, BMW”), 12.3” iDrive touchscreen, live cockpit driver information screen, gesture control, smart key, panoramic moon roof, power tailgate, front collision warning, blind spot monitors, lane departure warning, speed limit information, adaptive cruise control and a premium Harman/Kardon sound system starts at $105,100
- X5 M Competition with a V8 617 HP engine adds the M Competition package with M seat belts, sport exhaust, side air vents, Competition rear badge and 22” rear wheels, starts at $114,100
- Add the Executive package with remote start, heated and cooled massaging front seats, heated rear seats and heated or cooled front cupholders, $3,600
- Add M Driver’s Package, the day-long driving course at a BMW performance center, $2,500
- Add Driver Assist package with traffic jam pro, $1,700
- That beautiful Tanzanite Blue paint is $1,950
- Upgrade to the Bowers & Wilkins premium sound, $3,400
- Price of the model we test drove, including the $995 destination charge, $128,245
I feel privileged to be able to spend time in the BMW X5 M Competition; it’s an amazing SUV. But I also realize that it’s probably a bit like wearing YSL stilettos to back-to-school night when chunky-heeled Gucci pumps will get the job done just as fabulously. Like both the X5 M and M Competition, both make you stand a bit taller, feel more confident and a bit more badass. It’s up to you to decide the level of badass.
Disclosure: BMW provided the X5 M Competition for this test drive. All opinions are my own.