2010 BMW X5 M Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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BMW has launched the X5 M for 2010, joining the BMW X6 M as one of the first all-wheel-drive models to be built by BMW M GmbH, blending BMW xDrive and Dynamic Performance Control with all the specific requirements and qualities of a high-performance vehicle in typical "M" fashion.  The characteristic highlight of both new M models is their driving dynamics combined with driving stability and enhanced traction. Spirited driving enjoyment is further enhanced by a level of agility unparalleled in this segment and the unusually neutral steering behaviour. 

BMW's "intelligent" all-wheel drive system provides variable distribution of drive power front-to-rear, while "Dynamic Performance Control" varies power distribution between the two rear wheels, allowing dynamic acceleration when exiting a turn.  BMW xDrive, Dynamic Performance Control, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Servotronic and Adaptive Drive are all coordinated by Integrated Chassis Management as the central control unit, resulting in a high standard of driving dynamics and motoring safety in terms of agility, traction and driving stability. 

Motive force for both of the new X Series M models comes from a 4.4-litre, DOHC, 32-valve twin-turbocharged V8. The powerful V8 cranks out 555 horsepower while generating an impressive 500 pound-feet of torque spanning 1,500 to 5,650 rpm. The engine is coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic manumatic shifting, featuring an electronic gear select lever and steering wheel mounted shift paddles. 

As one would expect, the X5 M takes on the basic styling characteristics of the more mundane base X5, just as the X6 M's basic form is derived from its base stablemate. In addition to special "M" badging, the M model exhibits more specific and aggressive cues that allude to its enhanced performance nature – the proportions are more upright, while the stance manages to display a lower, bolder persona, with unique ground effects fore and aft, as well as extended rockers. The front side panels feature distinctive "gill" vents with an integrated side turn indicator and "M" logo. The vehicle's athletic character is communicated at the rear by a diffuser and quad tailpipes. 

The power of M is to BMW what AMG is to Mercedes-Benz, and the S (and RS) lineup is to Audi.  The first mainstream M version was created in 1985 by transplanting a race-bred inline six-cylinder from their M1 supercar into a 5 Series BMW sedan along with enhanced suspension and brakes, resulting in the M535i, which redefined sedan capabilities.  The 2010 BMW X5 M and X6 M represent the latest chapter in the history and progression of M-powered BMWs.  Note that the X5 is categorized as an SAV – Sports Activity Vehicle, while the X6 is referred to as an SAC or Sports Activity Coupe, thanks to its coupe-like roofline. 

My test X5 M wore an exterior finish of Monte Carlo Blue metallic along with an interior in Bamboo Beige Extended Marino and Black, partially executed in Carbon Leather Weave cloth.  The base price tallies $97,900, which was the way that my tester came.  To be fair, a base X5 M is extremely well equipped, with the only options available being a full leather package (in various colours) at $4,500, the Premium Package, which includes a pearl leather instrument panel, a rearview camera with top view, soft-close doors, and Sirius satellite radio for $5,500, and a rear entertainment system at $1,950.  Fully loaded the final sticker would register $109,850. 

The BMW X5 M is a spirited performance machine that delivers outstanding characteristics across the board in normal settings, but takes on supercar attributes when the M Dynamic mode is activated.  The new M Sports Automatic is commanded by an electronic selector on the center console offering the driver not only the Drive mode, but also Sport and M Manual modes for absolute control of gear selection. 

Aluminum shift paddles on the steering wheel allow manual shifting (right for upshifts, left for downshifts).  In the M Manual mode, each chosen gear is held up to the redline giving the driver perfect throttle-steering control of the vehicle in demanding driving conditions.  The transmission will not upshift or downshift automati¬cally in this mode.

An added feature of the M Manual mode is Launch Control, which enables the driver to accelerate from a standstill with maximum performance.  To activate Launch Control, the driver must stop the vehicle, move the gear selector into the M/S position and activate the Sports Power mode, as well as the M Dynamic mode, or respectively, the DSC-Off mode.  Then, with the transmission in stage M1, the driver must depress the brake pedal and press the accelerator to at least 60% throttle, setting Launch Control to standby.  Standby status is confirmed by a "starter's flag" symbol in the instrument cluster.  As soon as the driver releases the brake pedal, the vehicle will accelerate with full power.  In the process, the M Sports automatic transmission upshifts at the ideal points, with the fastest possible shifts and optimum wheelspin control.  Launch Control may be terminated at any time by reducing the throttle position. 

X5 M ride quality is firm, but comfortable.  The technology level is state-of-the-art, but unless driven to extreme levels, such technology will probably never come into play – and, if it does, the driver and vehicle occupants are not likely to notice it. 

Inside, controls and switchgear are well placed for optimum user friendliness, and seating is both supportive and comfortable. The clamshell opening glovebox and the folding and removable rear cargo cover both offer added convenience. 

Bottom-line: the X5 M's exterior styling gives just enough of a hint at its performance capabilities, and is just what the racing enthusiast might order.  The design form of the X5 M is less radical than that of the BMW X6 M, and will perhaps appeal to a broader audience.  It is possible with either to satisfy one's need for heightened performance and handling. 

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, BMW, 2010, X5 M, $75,000 - $99,999,

Organizations: BMW

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