There's no reason the 2020 BMW X5 M Competition should exist. It's a too-fast, needlessly complicated, six-figure middle finger of an SUV that only exceptionally well-to-do BMW shoppers will buy for their live-in nannies. And yet, we're enamored by it.
Five minutes behind the wheel and the X5 blew us away with its world-class engine and supercar-tuned suspension. This is a genuinely good performance vehicle, not just a good performance crossover. And after five days with it, we realized that the X5 M Competition is actually a good crossover, too, with an ultra-luxurious cabin, advanced active safety features, and a usable trunk.
The problem with the X5 M Comp, though, is that it starts at $115,000 (and has an as-tested price of $126,295) – so you do have to pay to play. And while its absurd performance appeals largely to our enthusiast side, the harsh ride and thirsty engine probably won't make the rest of the family too happy.
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The BMW X5 M Competition isn’t as pretty as the Jaguar F-Pace SVR or the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, but there’s a certain attractive, brutish quality that works. Something about the BMW’s tapered edges and aggressive aero catches the eye.
The dual kidney grille, for example, doesn’t offend us here as much as it does on some other models. It’s still big, but the blacked-out slats and surrounds look more natural accompanied by three other in-your-face front vents. The fascia X5 M’s fascia is definitely overloaded with elements, but it’s both aggressive and attractive, and against the Mineral White paint job of our tester, it provides the crossover a striking presence.
The massive 22-inch M Sport wheels may be terrible for ride quality – but hey, they look great. The LED taillights are simple but clean, there’s a nice shiny black diffuser in the rear that envelops the quad exhaust tips, and all of the X5 M Competition badges and trim pieces are blacked out, because aggressive.
But it’s the X5 M Comp’s interior that really sells us on this vehicle’s overall styling. The beige leather buckets, with quilted beige inserts and colored “X5 M” badges in the headrest, are very good looking. The standard 12.3-inch central touchscreen flows (almost) seamlessly into the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, the two massive screens giving off a very high-tech look. And among the beige leather, black accents, and aluminum trim pieces, three red buttons stand out: M1 and M2 drive modes on the upper part of the steering wheel, and the red ignition button – the latter looks like something designed for a missile launch. It’s this attention to detail that makes the inside of the X5 M Competition so alluring.
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If you want a BMW crossover with a cushy, cloud-like suspension, look elsewhere. We wouldn’t say the X5 M Competition’s ride is “back-breaking,” but it is genuinely uncomfortable over long stretches. And that’s when driving in the most-comfortable “Road” mode. We blame those massive 22-inch wheels, low profile tires, and the adaptive M suspension’s failure to, well, adapt for the rough ride. The front leather buckets we like so much aren’t totally supportive, either, and the bolsters are way too big; turning the wheel takes contorting your elbows around them. But it’s not all bad.
But unlike the X6, with its dramatically sloped roof, the X5’s traditional body style affords lots of cabin space. The X5’s 40.8 inches of front headroom is more than plenty for your six-foot tall author and bests both the Stelvio (40.2 inches) and F-Pace (37.8). The X5’s 39.8 inches of front legroom is decent, too, beating the Alfa (36.6 inches), and the rear bench offers a decent 38.7 inches of headroom and 37.4 inches of legroom.
And hey, the X5 M Competition is actually capable of crossover stuff, too. The 33.9 cubic feet of space behind the second row makes for one of the most spacious trunks in the class. Plus there’s a neat split tailgate function – but only the top portion opens electronically, for some reason.
On the surface, the BMW X5 M Competition is a technological tour de force. Sporting the latest BMW iDrive 7.0 infotainment system and two massive 12.3-inch screens, the X5 M has navigation, Wi-Fi, gesture control, a head-up display, the “Hey BMW” voice assistant, wireless charging, and wireless Apple CarPlay all standard. And though we’ve dinged BMW’s voice recognition and gesture control in the past, the two are almost flawless here.
But we ran into some of the same issues with wireless Apple CarPlay here as we did in the X7 and 3 Series – both of those products running the latest iDrive 7.0 software. Sometimes CarPlay doesn’t connect to our iPhone, and takes restarting the car or disconnecting the phone to fix it. It’s frustrating. When it does work, though, CarPlay looks flawless atop the massive 12.3-inch screen and is very easy to use.
And the drive mode selectors aren’t any less annoying. The “M Mode” button next to the infotainment controller changes the drive mode from “Road” to “Sport.” A second “Setup” button below that changes just the engine and chassis from “Sport” to “Sport Plus.” The steering and braking, meanwhile, stay in “Sport,” but there’s also a “Track” mode if you long press the “M Mode” button, which turns off traction control. And if you toggle the red “M1” and “M2” buttons on the steering wheel, you can configure the drive modes however you want. Nice and confused yet? Us too – it’s a needlessly complicated “fix” to something that wasn’t even broken in the first place.
Think about this: The BMW X5 M Competition weighs 5,450 pounds, sits 8.4 inches off the ground, and carries five passengers plus cargo. And yet, against all natural laws and reason, the hulking crossover drives like a full-fledged sports car. It has no right to be this good. Notably, the BMW X5 M Competition is on our list of the Fastest SUVs for the 2021 model.
At the heart of the X5 M Comp is BMW's sublime twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8, good for 617 horsepower (17 more horses than the standard X5 M) and 553 pound-feet of torque. All that power gets the X5 to 60 miles per hour in a hilarious 3.7 seconds. And this SUV is absurdly quick; it rockets off the line with the ferocity of a six-figure sports car, moving its massive body in a straight line at a physics-defying pace. The quick-shifting ZF eight-speed automatic, meanwhile, does a good job of keeping that power on-hand while the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system offers lots of grip.
But the X5 M’s stellar suspension setup is what stands out most in our mind. This big BMW corners like a sports car: tight, flat, and fast as hell. The dynamic duo that is the M adaptive suspension and Active Roll Stabilization work dutifully to keep the big SUV’s body movement in check, and understeer to a minimum. The Sport Plus driving mode, meanwhile, keeps the RPMs high in the rev range and the steering firm-ish. Less electronic boost in the steering rack would be nice, but that’s a small consolidation all things considered.
The BMW X5 M comes standard with parking distance assist, a 360-degree camera, and Parking Assistant Plus, which enables the vehicle to pull into a predetermined parallel spot with the click of a button. But it’s the optional Drivers Assistance Pro Package ($1,700) that gives the X5 M Competition its perfect score.
As we learned in the 3 Series and X7, BMW’s Drivers Assistance Pro package is one of the most advanced active safety suites available anywhere today, on par capability-wise with Mercedes-Benz’s Intelligent Drive, and just a half-step below something like Cadillac Super Cruise and Tesla Autopilot. Drivers Assistance Pro keeps the X5 perfectly centered in the lane, brakes it smoothly in stop-and-go traffic, and even navigates the big SUV around turns, all while displaying traffic onto the digital instrument cluster. We found no faults using BMW’s active safety equipment on the highway.
With 13 miles per gallon city, 18 highway, and 15 combined, the BMW X5 M Competition’s twin-turbocharged V8 isn’t the most efficient. But did you really expect it to be? The six-cylinder Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the fuel-sipper – obviously – at 19 mpg combined, and V8-powered alternatives like Jaguar F-Pace SVR (18 combined) and Porsche Cayenne Turbo (17 mpg combined) are both a bit better, too. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 and Maserati Levante Trofeo, meanwhile, match the BMW with 15 mpg combined, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk (13 combined) is the least efficient. Unsurprisingly, the X5 M Competition requires premium fuel, the expensive stuff.
There’s no way around it: This BMW X5 M Competition costs $126,295. The Competition model starts at $114,100 ($9,000 more than the standard X5 M), but our tester gets pricey quickly with options like the $3,600 Executive Package, the $3,400 Bowers & Wilkins sound system, the $2,500 M Driver’s Package, the $1,700 Drivers Assistance Package, and a few others.
Compared to some of the X5 M Competition’s closest rivals, the BMW is pretty pricey. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio costs $80,500, the F-Pace SVR starts at $80,600, the Trackhawk costs $87,400, and even the GLE 63 S asks $113,950 – just undercutting the X5. And compared to the base X5 ($58,900), our tester is $67,000 more expensive.
Gallery: 2020 BMW X5 M Competition: Review
2020 BMW X5 M Competition