Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Don Cheng
“There’s such thing as an X5 M?” my friend asked me. “I thought those were just M stickers that people would put on their BMW to make it look faster and more expensive.” He has a point: there’s an X5 currently loafing around Markham with an M badge glued on the wrong side. I’m not kidding; the rear of his BMW actually says MX5. Strange isn’t it. Didn’t Mazda have a car like that?
For those that are unaccustomed to BMW-lingo, think of the X5 M as the M3 of the 3-series. It’s the steroid-induced gym buff in the SUV family. Take a standard X5 and inject it with larger front intakes, a rear diffuser, chromed side grills, and signature M mirrors. Top it all off with quad exhausts coming out the rear and you’ve got yourself a recipe to blur the lines between performance cars and SUVs.
But you could hardly tell. Wrapped in an understated tint of Donington Grey Metallic and with a box-like silhouette that even Solid Snake would lust for, this isn’t exactly a car that stands out. We won’t deny the fact that it’s a big car with huge road presence, but that extra muscle from the M treatment is almost invisible to the novice’s eye. To everyone else, it looks like any other X5.
By chance, we found a base model 2015 BMW X5 with the M Sport Package to park next to and guess what? We barely noticed a difference. Giveaway clues like the aforementioned exhaust pipes and flared fenders are easy to spot, but the rear spoilers look the same, the front hood looks the same, the trunk panels look the same, hell, even the side skirts are the same. Nothing about the exterior gives off the vibe of a mighty engine lurking under the hood. It’s like trying to show off your hard-worked biceps through the wool sweater your Grandma knitted you for Christmas.
So what does an extra $40,400 buy you over the base X5? The answer is a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 that also powers the M5, M6, and X6 M. In this example, the eight-cylinder nuclear reactor churns out 567 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, so don’t try to race one with your riced-up Honda Civic. Even though the X5 M weighs as much as two BRZs stacked on top of each other, it has launch control, all-wheel drive, and a 0-100 km/h time of 4.2 seconds. That’s frigging insane.
However, even on the most comfortable driver’s settings the X5 M delivers an unusually firm ride. Despite having an air suspension setup at the rear wheels and an adaptive configuration at the front, it’s stiffer than most SUVs on the market. In fact, the X5 M’s Comfort mode feels like the regular X5’s Sport mode. What the X5 M loses in comfort, it gains in pinpoint steering and curb-hugging theatrics that you’d never feel possible in a vehicle with this much mass. The sheer acceleration and controllability around hard corners is ridiculous and those sticky 21-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sports really prove their worth.
But the X5 M isn’t like that. There is no musical buildup or octave progression. Even at wide-open throttle, the X5 M just grunts in a deep but uniform tone. There’s no climax to the music, just a solid flat hum. It's only when you change gears at high rpms, that the X5 M will emit a millisecond fart-explosion of harboured up exhaust fumes. The noise is short-lived, but there's something rewarding about pulling the paddle at 6,000 rpm and having the X5 M rip a loud fart in front of the guy whos been tailgating you for the past hour.
Be that as it may, it’s not a noise that everyone would appreciate. When I think of M cars, the first thing that pops into my mind is the sonorous howl of the M3’s delicious V8. But BMW’s new turbo engines are much different. The pitch is much lower, and instead of four saxophones piping the exhaust, we now have four baritones.
The X5 M’s interior is quite a feast for the eyes. We always recommend the Full Merino Leather Package ($4,500) – it’s a pricey option but a bargain when you realize how upscale the cabin becomes. The Mugello Red seats are affair worthy and the abundance of curves and use of different materials on the dashboard will keep your eyes busy for hours. The instrument gauges are well lit and the white hue is a nice change from the traditional BMW orange colour.
Despite the overwhelming flurry of buttons that will babble BMW newcomers, the interior layout is fairly simplistic – audio buttons are where you’d expect them to be and a rotary dial makes you feel right at home. I just wish there was a little more storage area at the front. The center compartment is a little lacking in depth, and the side pockets are hard to reach when the doors are closed. And did anyone notice that the X5 has a SYNC button to synchronize the driver’s and passenger’s air temperature? It may seem like stone-age technology but not every modern BMW has this feature.
What about the X6 M? How could we possibly talk about the X5 M without comparing it to its coupe-like twin? The age-old debate between the two has always been one about practicality and peculiarity. They both ride on the same wheelbase, but the X5 M is a tad wider and taller. The X6 M costs $2,300 more but also sits lower to the ground and adorns a sloping roofline, the latter being the main reason why the X6 M is referred to as impractical. It has less cargo room than the X5 M, less rear passenger room, poorer ingress and egress, and inferior outward visibility. The tradeoff however, is a unique coupe-like profile and marginally better handling due to the lower center of gravity. I also think it looks better.
No, the X6 M is not as functional as the X5 M, but you could easily fit a flat screen TV or a large pet into the back of both SUVs without any difficulty. And unless you have to constantly lug around big cargo or tall rear passengers, there’s no reason not to consider either of them. People tend to exaggerate the X6 M’s impracticality a little too much - how often do you really load up your trunk to the ceiling? Furthermore, the X6 M’s jail-cell outward visibility is easily remedied with careful placements of the side mirrors and with the Blind Spot Monitoring System that detects if a car is lurking out of view. A rear view camera also comes standard, so there’s really no excuse.
In all honesty, life does get a bit easier with the X5 M. It adorns a Range Rover style trunk with two panels, one that folds up and one that folds down. You can also use it as a makeshift sofa at your local drive-in theatre. And thanks to a flat roof, getting in and out of the X5 M is much easier and more accessible. With the X6 M, you have to hunch and mind your head every time you hop in.
Both of the M variants of the X5 and X6 are remarkable SUVs that defy tradition. The differences between the two are significant, but not enough to warrant a clear-cut decision. If I won the lottery tomorrow and had to choose between the pair, I’d go with the X5 M. It’s slightly more practical, accessible, and conventional in appearance. If you can suck up the firm ride, big price tag, and abysmal fuel economy, you’re in for one hell of a treat.
型号 Model: 2015 BMW X5 M
顏色 Paint Type: Donington Grey Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $105,900
試車售價 Price as Tested: $119,000
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,933
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,851 / 1,994 / 1,764
車重 Curb weight (kg): 2,386
引擎 Engine: 4.4L TwinPower Turbo V8
最大馬力 Horsepower: 567 hp @ 6,000 - 6,500 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 553 lb-ft. @ 2,200 - 5,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 16.9 / 12.1 / 14.6
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Michelin Pilot Super Sport - Front: 285/35ZR21 - Rear: 325/30ZR21