2020 BMW X5 M Competition Review by Rob Eckaus +VIDEO
Sassy and Classy
By Rob Eckhaus
It's said that when the second car ever was made, the first thing done was race it against the first. Then the modifications began. It is also like that with SUVs. Although scoffed at by wagon enthusiasts since wagons do not have the compromised dynamics of height and weight, the SUV popularity inevitably leads to quicker and more powerful versions. BMW continues to compete in this segment.
Now in the fourth generation, the BMW X5 M Competition is new for 2020. Part of the Cluster Architecture (CLAR), this iteration is referred to the G05. US models are made at the Spartanburg, SC plant and the nearly 4.4 liter twin-turbo V-8 that is found in the M5 and M8 also sits in this beast-from- the-east, making the same 617 horsepower.
It is an opulent, big, tall, and capable vehicle. Despite weighing 5,245lbs per BMW, it has a planted feel wholly unexpected in such a high riding position. Despite being 6’ tall, it is still a reach to the driver’s seat. It is wide too, your leg will always touch the sill getting in or out, but holy cow it is a nice place to sit once you climb inside and feel the optional ivory and blue Merino leather on the doors, armrest, and seats.
The highlight of the week was driving around in this luxury powerhouse with co-workers, friends, and neighbors. Painted in the gorgeous Tanzanite Blue II Metallic for an optional $1,950 it got looks and thumbs from fellow drivers, casual observers, and BMW enthusiasts loved it at the local Cars and Coffee. The wheel have a sufficient gap between the spokes to show off the cross drilled rotors and blue calipers. Kudos to BMW for not settling with ubiquitous red calipers. But the best part was peals of laughter and giggles from the passengers at the violent acceleration.
Perceptible increases in speed are effortless with light application of the throttle, but starting from a stop, a brake torque applied, and its one word: Wow. I would think after a total of three days at the BMW M School that included lapping M5s, one would not be taken aback even a year later. I would be wrong. It squats, it roars, and rockets forward, seemingly unaffected by the number of passengers.
BMW says the 0-60mph is 3.8 seconds for the non-competition model. I would guess this one is more like 3.5 seconds. There is a slight bit of lag once releasing the brake pedal when performing a brake torque, also known as a brake stand, which seems more like programmed torque management than turbo lag, and then it is pulling, hard. When driving solo and at full throttle, there is that familiar anticipatory sensation of expecting the rear tires to break loose. It is that impressive. Push the toggle switch mounted on the shifter up twice for the firmest possible shifts from the eight-speed transmission. The end result on a group ride was well over 650lbs of three big dudes laughing and laughing at the absurdity of it.
With these frequent demonstrations of 0-60 mph glee, the remaining range indicator seemed to drop 5 miles at a time. Oh well. Demo rides also meant plenty of u-turns to head back home and the turning radius is surprisingly good as well. Normally adverse to desiring a large vehicle for driving daily, this one makes it all work. One thing you don’t want is to have the auto engine shut-off activated at a stoplight if that brutal acceleration is desired. The start-up process takes too long to take advantage of the throttle response and bogs it down badly.
Crisp exterior styling lines work well with the familiar SUV shape. Besides additional 17 horsepower with the Competition version, the package includes special wheels, blacked out interior trim, M badged seat belts, and sport exhaust. My wife gave it the nickname, “Ferdinand the Bull” due to the darker hue, large presence, and prominent open grill “nostrils”. With all those openings it does need cooling, everything past the front bodywork seems to be radiators and no matter how it was driven, the fans blow audibly for a while after parking and turning off the ignition.
The enthusiastic driver runs out of superlatives for it, but one weird thought is it is if an X3M had a man-child with a Hellcat Redeye, this was the result. The height also contributes to some wheel well gap above the massive Michelin PS 4s, 295 width and 21” front and 315 / 22” rear tires mounted on 10.5” and 11.5” wide wheels, respectively. To this day the phrase from many years ago for the first X5M published by Car & Driver holds true, “It looks like it sat on a Viper”. It if was lowered 1.5 inches, it would be visually perfect.
Driving the X5M Competition is a joyful experience, doing everything so easily. Despite having a long 117” wheelbase with plenty of passenger room for four, parking is easy enough, aided by the center display screen with an excellent simulated overhead camera view. If something so tall and large can handle well, this one does. It inspires confidence in turns with the lack of body roll and firm suspension. Unfortunately, it is sensitive to small bumps like lane markers, making more noise than one would expect.
Taking a wild guess at the duty cycle it will see, with an MSRP of $128,245 and a 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway rating, it will likely be used more for luxury recreation than traveling to client sites, even with the convenience of a 21.9 gallon tank.
Besides the near violent performance, the interior is utter luxury. The multi-adjustable, heated, cooled and massaging seats look sporty and are very comfortable. The illuminated X5M logo in the headrest is a great touch. Front console cupholders have both a cooling and heating function. All passengers who rode at night pointed out how much they like glowing light effect from the the speakers which are back from beautifully cut metals grills with the Bowers & Wilkins sound system.
Gesture control is standard and takes some practice to get the proper location of the hand and position of the fingers. But once used to it, it can be handy for the stereo volume, phone call acceptance or decline, change the rear camera view and select navigation. A clever concept that does not require visual confirmation nor an intrusive voice command.
During a boring commute, the driving assist package works extremely well. It would speed up during a manual-only lane change if signaled by the driver, maintain a three position adjustable following distance, start off from a stop by itself in stop-and-go traffic, and a neat feature of showing on the center driver’s screen what vehicles were in proximity in the other lanes. I swear the cars on the screen look like a bit like a Prius. It also distinguished between trucks with a graphical representation. The lane keeping assist defaults to a forceful but adjustable steering wheel setting and it may not be appreciated but when left to do its own thing, it worked well.
Cruise control had a neat feature where the second part of the travel of the toggle switch on the steering wheel changes the selected speed upward or downward to the nearest 5mph increment. The cruise control system peaks at 110mph, or so I heard. It has a driver attention monitoring system where if distracted for too long, a warning will beep, a red steering wheel icon will illuminate, and the brakes are applied.
Driver selected Sport mode from a dedicated button near the gear lever, has a different dashboard display for speed and engine rpm, one button push on the steering wheel will put it back in Normal mode and engage the cruise control at the same time. Come out of the twists and turns, blow away whomever lines up never to you at the light, then settle into relaxed, luxury commuting.
There is plenty of storage inside besides the generous rear cargo area such as the doors, center console, and under the center armrest . An unexpected yet clever touch is the rear tailgate has a lower part that drops or raises at a push of a button. It keeps the paint on the rear bumper protected and provides a perfect surface to sit while changing into steel toes or golf shoes. The cargo floor lifts with a handle to reveal a screw-in tow hook loop, and a moderate storage area that is accessible with both hands thanks to a clever pneumatic shock assembly that acts as a prop rod. It is a good laptop bag hiding space as well as anything that could fit in the glovebox.
The total MSRP of $128,245 includes a $995 destination charge, the paint and leather options mentioned, the $1700 Drivers Assistance Pro Package, $3400 for the Bowers & Wilkins sound system, and $3000 for the Executive Package which includes remote start from your phone, soft-close doors, rear manual side window shades, the aforementioned heating and cooling cupholders, the front ventilated, heated and massaging seats, and Icon Adaptive LED w/ Laserlight headlights.
The price also includes the $2,500 M Driver’s Package which raises the top speed from 155mph to 177mph and includes a day of driving instruction at one of the two BMW driving schools located in Thermal, CA and Greer, SC. While I prefer faster and greater variety of the tracks at Thermal, the Zentrum Museum and factory tour in Spartanburg are also highly recommended.
BMW hit it out of the park with X5 M Competition from a luxury, performance, and functionality perspective. The word “budget” has no place in a perspective owners vocabulary, but other words with less constraining meanings certainly do.