After a wait time of almost 5 months, I was very happy when I picked up my X5 M at my local dealer. The car looks stunning in my opinion, the black exterior is exactly how I expected it and the black front grille (optional) adds a more aggressive look to it. Overall I’m happy with the exterior, I just wish BMW would have made the backlights a tiny bit darker.

The interior (criollo brown) fits the black exterior perfectly, I haven’t seen it when I ordered it, so this is a very pleasant surprise.

Before you read this little review, please keep in mind that the car is new and not run-in yet. I will deliver an update to this report as soon as I run it in.

I don’t want to bore you will too many stories, so I cut it right to the chase:



The engine feels very powerful but throttle response is only sporty and direct when the „M“ button is active. Activating the „M“ button (which is situated conveniently directly on the steering wheel) doesn’t actually do the job, you need to configure the „M“ button functions in the Navigation System setup menue. I chose to use the SPORT setting for all functions and also activated MDM (M Dynamic Mode) which enhances the functionality of the DSC (ESP), making it less „intrusive“ when driving fast. I actually prefer driving with the „M“ button active all the time because even on slippery roads, the Sport/MDM mode is pretty safe, the DSC is still working but it allows the car to slide a little bit with the rear for example. I wouldn’t use this mode on snowy/icey roads though.

As powerful as the engine might be, the exhaust/engine sound is barely noticeable inside the car. Outside the car, things are different. When pressing the „M“ button, the sportier mode also activates the claps in the exhaust system, making the exhaust tone louder and throatier. This results in a pretty loud exhaust sound outside the car but if you expect this sound to be V8-like with a deep growl, you’re going to be very disappointed. Instead, the exhaust sounds like the one of a tuned 4-cylinder Turbo engine. Very disappointing. Not sure why BMW M GmbH chose this sound, maybe the twin-turbo system really doesn’t allow a better sound but maybe they didn’t want to have that deep V8 growl on a M model, I really don’t know. Fact is: it isn’t what many people would expect from a powerful SUV.

There is no real turbo lag but sometimes, especially when you accelerate only a little bit at a higher gear with a low rev figure, there is some sort of lag which is pretty noticeable. For track driving or very dynamic street driving, manual mode is more recommended to overcome turbo lag in certain driving situations.



The X5M automatic tranny is a treat, it shifts fast and in manual mode, it feels like DCG. Some people may not like the harshness of it’s very spontaneous shifting but I actually think that it fits perfectly for such a high performance SUV. The auto mode works very well, there isn’t really the need to use manual mode under normal driving conditions.


Only when you want to achieve record lap times, changing to manual mode could definitely help because this is the only way to avoid turbo lag under certain driving situations by keeping the rev figure high enough to provide sufficient turbo boost.




With „M“ active and all settings set to Sport, the steering feels very direct and sporty. Unfortunately it also feels a little bit „synthetic“, I can actually feel how it changes steering parameters from firm to soft and vice versa. The same feeling I had during my Panamera Turbo testdrive. I didn’t have the chance to drive the X5M very fast but during normal and sporty driving, there is no understeer, just a slight oversteer. As soon as the run-in is over, I’m going to be able to shed some more light into the steering behavior.



The chassis setup is firm, for some comfort loving people maybe a little bit too firm. The ride comfort isn’t very good, it is just acceptable and this comes from somebody who really loves firm rides. On normal streets, the suspension setup provides sufficient comfort but as soon as the streets get bad, so does the ride comfort. What worries me actually more than the ride comfort is some sort of a brake dive: when coming to a stop, the whole car bounces slightly forward and then backwards. It feels like being in a boat. It is a pretty subtle feel, not very strong but still feelable enough to be annoying. Otherwise, the chassis really allows high curve speeds and it feels safe and surprisingly sporty. Expect an update on the chassis setup as soon as I get over the run-in period.



The brakes seem to be OK, I didn’t have a chance yet to try them out in a more aggressive manner. The brake feel could be slightly firmer and more linear but I got used to it. No brake squeal so far. Apparently BMW uses more comfort oriented brake pads fort he X5 M, this could be one reason for the soft brake feel.



The navigation system (Professional) is really capable, the display is nice and the new system uses even a satellite view, unfortunately not as detailled as I wish it would be. This is definitely no Google Earth but the next best thing close to it. The software seems to be a little bit buggy though. When driving in reverse, the display sometimes doesn’t switch on the rear view camera. Sometimes the song/interpret names aren’t displayed, just the numbers. These aren’t major bugs but it is annoying. It is however a mystery why BMW doesn’t use 3G for it’s internet access through the Navigation System Professional but the much slower EDGE or even GPRS (when EDGE isn’t available) instead. We are in the year 2010, 3G is already a couple of years old. I also ordered the DVD changer in the glove compartment but to be honest, I’m not quite sure why I did it. Right now, I’m not using a single DVD in it and I wonder if I’m ever going to do that. Since the Nav System display turns off any video playback when starting to drive, it doesn’t make sense to use DVDs.

So the CD changer would have been the cheaper and more logical choice. The HiFi BMW Individual package for aprox. 1500 EUR sounds good but not as good as expected and definitely not as good as the Burmester sound system on the Panamera Turbo I testdrove. The X6 35d loaner I drove had the regular HiFi system and I’ll be damned if I can hear a real difference between the two sound systems. Maybe the BMW Individual system sounds better when turning it louder but thats it. A slight disappointment. The rear entertainment system is great but I wish the display would be larger.

The kids complaint about the viewing angle, it is good but they always need to turn their heads and this sucks on longer trips. A seperate display for each seat would have been the better solution.

Good thing: kids can watch movies and even digital TV in the rear, using headphones, while me and my wife can listen to music in the front. The digital TV reception is very good, even at higher speeds. The bluetooth connection to my iPhone 3GS works great, there don’t seem to be any compatibility issues so far. Voice command also works very well, nothing to complaint here.



As much as I try to like it, I don’t. Sorry. Nice gimmick and maybe useful on a fighter jet where the pilot needs to concentrate on the fight and not getting blown out off the skies but in a car, I just don’t get the point. The display actually distracts from driving, I can’t understand why BMW thinks that it improves safety. I don’t see that at all. It works well but I have no use for it, it is annoying.



There is only one word for it: HUGE, lots of space. There is even another deep compartment under the trunk floor, absolutely great. The lower part of the two part rear hatch can withstand up to 250 kg according to my salesperson. My kids love sitting on it and believe it or not but this could be a great feature for a picknick.



There is a lot of interior room in the X5 M. The rear passengers have lots of leg room too and the comfort seats in front are very comfortable but at the same time provide enough sidegrip for dynamic driving situations. The overall quality impression is good to very good and at least at par with the direct competition. The front dash doesn’t look as modern and sporty as the one on the new Cayenne but some people may actually like this.



The X5M is an outstanding performer, a wolf in a sheep’s clothing. Some people may not like the subtle look of the car but I love it.

Most people don’t have the slightest clue what this high performance SUV is capable of, the perfect understatement car for certain countries where you don’t want to show off your financial wealth.

Unfortunately the X5M is not perfect and while I’m willing to accept some flaws due to it’s attractive price tag (after rebate) compared to the competion, there are a couple of things BMW could have done better in my opinion. The „brake dive“ I mentioned is unacceptable for such a high performance SUV and the firm ride may not please comfort oriented drivers. The biggest disappointment however is the exhaust sound, the X5M sounds horrible and not how people expect a high performance SUV to sound like. Imagine a lion roaring a „meeoww“ instead of a „roar“, you get my point. The interior also looks a bit boring but it is functional and this is what counts. For those looking for a luxury SUV, the X5M might not cut it. For those looking for a high performance SUV with some minor flaws, the X5M is just perfect. It may not be the perfect performer or daily driver but it definitely is the perfect high performance family transporter. Daddy should be happy.


RC (Germany) - Rennteam Editor 997 Turbo, BMW X5 M (April 9th, 2010), BMW M3 Cab DKG, Mini Cooper S JCW