When you think of the M division, there are a few iconic names that will immediately stand out. Whether being the M3 or the M5, the “Most Powerful Letter In The World” has mostly been synonymous with compact and extremely dynamic cars. But that changed in 2020 when BMW unveiled their first ///M SUV.

Along with the X6 M, the E70 X5 M was the brand’s first foray into the high-performance market of crossovers. It was a brute with a lot of power and driving dynamics that not many thought it would be possible. Five years later came the F15 X5 M generation which built upon the successful formula of the first M SUV to deliver even more power and further defy the laws of physics.

In 2020, BMW is now ready to continue the success story of the X5 M. The latest generation F95 X5 M was introduced late last year and it was recently made available to us for testing. So we flew to Scottsdale, Arizona, for some fun under the sun with the new beast.

A Bold And Brash Design

Admittedly, when you first look at the F95 BMW X5 M, lightness and driving dynamics are not what comes to mind. Without sugar coating it, this is a big car. A brute, if you may! It is imposing from the moment you lay your eyes on it until you push it hard onto a smooth asphalt.

The aggressive styling will immediately remind you that this is not your ordinary X5 and will steer clear of certain associations with “soccer mom cars.” It’s more of a straight-line bruiser and it looks it.

But don’t take that as a bad thing. The new BMW X5 M has a delightfully brutish charm. The standard X5 on which its based is already a very handsome SUV. Add a more aggressive front bumper, M-style mirrors, a rear roof spoiler and quad exhausts and you have an SUV that’s simply badass.

It looks like it was ready to brawl from the moment its design was put on paper.

But don’t be fooled by its fluid design lines. This heavyweight champ still weighs in at over 2.3 tons (5,070 lbs), making it one of the heaviest BMW cars on the market today. And certainly, the heaviest ///M vehicle ever made.

A Charmer On The Inside

On the inside, it looks very much like a standard car, just with some M Division bits thrown in. For instance, the BMW X5 M gets seats that look like they’ve been pulled straight from an M5. That’s a welcome addition, as the M5’s thrones are superb.

It also gets the same new M-style shift lever that’s found in the BMW M8, which is much nicer than the ones in the M5 and X3 M. Of course, there’s some carbon fiber trim and an M steering wheel with two red “M1” and “M2” buttons.

There is also a choice of ROAD and SPORT settings, plus TRACK in the Competition models. The latter reduces intervention from the driver’s-aid systems.

So basically, a bunch of powerful tools at your disposal, if you’re in the mood to control and domesticate this beast.

To satisfy my taste for high-performance M cars, BMW M thought it would be a good idea to hand me the keys to a Mineral White 2020 BMW X5 M Competition. And since no race track was available around me, the M folks did me one better – they closed off some roads so I can wrestle this beast.

Before heading out for a long and fun day of driving, the M engineers gave me an overview of the X5 M/ X6 M project. Immediately, I noticed how proud they were of their achievements. Naturally, every car engineer wants to work on small and nimble sportscars, but the true challenge lies somewhere else – in the heavyweights.

To make a 5,000 lbs BMW feel like a BMW, is not an easy feast. So they set on this journey of defying the laws of physics through progress and forward thinking.

Furthermore, for the new 2020 BMW BMW X5 M to handle better than its predecessor, it received a comprehensive chassis and suspension overhaul. It’s not just some shorter springs and stiffer shocks. M-specific kinematics, even more rigid mountings for the suspension and subframes, higher negative camber and increased torsional stiffness all add up to make the X5 M much sharper than anything I’ve seen before.

On top of the new suspension, the BMW X5 M gets new M Servotronic variable steering, which is designed to be sportier and more precise than before. Its ratio is variable based on steering angle, so the more steering lock you add the sharper it gets. The weight of the steering is variable and speed sensitive, so at super low speeds — such as parking lot speeds — it’s nice and light. But at higher speeds, the weight builds to make it less nervous.

Stopping the big Bavarian brute are massive 395 millimeter discs with six-piston calipers at the front and 380 millimeter discs with single-piston rotors at the rear.

The engine has also been revised, but it’s essentially the same one used in the M5 and M8 Competition. So compared to the previous generation, it gets both hardware and software upgrades. The familiar 4.4 liter twin-turbocharged V8 makes 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque (750 Nm) in standard guise.

However, the X5 M Competition makes a whopping 625 hp (617 hp in the US) and the same 553 lb-ft (750Nm). That makes it the most powerful M product in the lineup and the most powerful production BMW in history. In fact, the only production BMW engine to ever make more power was the McLaren F1’s V12, which made 627 hp.

According to BMW, the 2020 BMW X5 M Competition runs the standard 0-62 mph in 3.8 seconds, with a top speed of 177 mph (285 km/h). While we weren’t able to test the top speed, we were indeed able to verify the standard run claims. Our non-scientific test – read no Vbox – gave us a time of 3.86 seconds.

In addition to the increased power and top speed, the Competition-spec X5 M and X6 M also get M-branded seatbelts, an M Sport exhaust system, blacked-out exterior trim, and a full leather interior.

In the end, it’s fair to say that the BMW engineers have not rested on their own laurels. The predecessor was already a highly dynamic and entertaining SUV, so to improve that formula was a monumental challenge.

Have they succeeded?

A Beast On The Road, But Easily Controllable

An early morning in Scottsdale calls first for a cold start. That has become a staple of mine when it comes to testing M cars since it gives me the opportunity to hear the enhancements in acoustics. And boy does this X5 M Competition sound great. The deep growl and notes from the exhaust system was the perfect morning wake up call for some of the hotel’s guests.

Fired up by the feisty sound, I am now ready for a 400 miles journey through the canyons and deserts surrounding Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Paired to that monster V8 is an eight-speed automatic gearbox and xDrive all-wheel drive. Much like the X3 M, the BMW X5 M gets two all-wheel drive modes; 4WD and 4WD Sport. However, unlike the BMW M5, there’s no rear-wheel drive mode in the X5 M.

From the moment I get rolling, one thing is clear – this is a heavy car. But that heft is mostly felt in city traffic with the often stop-and-go. But as soon as you head onto a highway, the beast is unleashed. In any of its driving modes, the 2020 BMW X5 M Competition is a competent car. It easily overtakes and fluidly changes lanes.

There is a huge amount of torque from low rpm and compared to the previous generation, there is more room to play with the torque. Now, the full torque range is 1,090 rpm wider. Peak torque comes at 5,690 rpm.

As with every modern BMW car, you can flip between the driving modes to match your mood or driving scenario. If you’re tired of the bouncy and super sporty suspension in an M car, simply adjust the car to the Comfort settings and you’re getting a calm ride.

It’s not as comfortable as in the regular X5 SUV, but that’s exactly the point of an M car.

The engine and exhaust sound are sublime, especially when you open the valves and the engine has warmed up. Downshifting gives you those nice blurbs which, in my opinion, are even more ear pleasing than in the M8 Competition models.

In Love With Curvy Roads

But it’s not until I get onto some curvy roads to see the “beast mode” of this car. So how do you activate that mode?

  1. Switch to Sport Individual
  2. Set all engine, transmission, steering and suspension to Sport Plus
  3. Rub the BMW roundel on the steering wheel
  4. Let go of your fears

Number four on this list is the most important one. You simply need to trust the car which despite its heavy weight, it’s easy to maneuver. Thanks to the BMW scouting team, The Beast and I are now onto some curvy and trafficless roads.

My first instinct is to be conservative and to learn the car. But that’s just silly. The 2020 BMW X5 M Competition was engineered to offer an effortless, yet extremely fast drive. This Power SUV simply makes me a better driver.

I throw the car into the tightest corners possible, but it doesn’t give up on me. It’s extremely well planted on the road with an amazing amount of traction and grip. The M xDrive rear-emphasized system and the Active M Differential almost trick me into believing that this is a much smaller M car. They also allow me to slide the rear every time I want to, but without getting me into trouble.

The differential simply keeps the rear-end planted and  stable through corners, and it’s the best I’ve seen in any BMW so far.

The slides are controlled, as long as you keep the nanny controls on. And I certainly recommend that. There is way too much power in this car and only a highly experienced driver can swiftly drift with DSC OFF. For me, the TRACK mode was more than enough to have fun and still get home in one piece.

Speaking of tight corners. The BMW X5 M Competition exhibits no understeer, no matter how sharp the attack angle is. Cornering speeds are astonishing, but, of course, the laws of physics are still unbeaten – there is a little body roll present, but not enough to take away from the M engineer’s accomplishments.

Have I tried to beat the physics? Sure, did! And it almost tricked me into believe that I can beat them. The massive power when accelerating out of a bend and its cornering stability can fool you. For a second.

Of course, you will slightly feel the weight, especially if you ride in the back seat, but that’s hardly an issue for me since my preferred seat is behind the wheel.

Furthermore, let me emphasize this again – the traction is unbelievable and the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires are the perfect match for the X5 M.

The steering rack is also worthy of a sportscar. It is heavy and responsive, with a lot of feedback coming through from the wheels. It can, of course, be adjusted for more comfort, and in city driving, that will be my choice. When it comes to the engine, all I could think of was that one day I will be missing these marvelous V8 TwinTurbo units.

It is the most refined V8 I’ve driven, with a great sound and pull from low rpm, and tons of top power. Sure, it does come with the Active Sound, but that’s mostly a compliance requirement than a failure on the BMW’s part. There is still plenty of sound coming from the outside and I highly doubt it that many customers will complain about its loudness.

The M brakes get a special mention. Bringing the BMW X5 M Competition to a stop is a brake-by-wire system with six-piston calipers. They have 15.6-inch rotors up front, and single piston calipers with 15-inch rotors in the rear. The new braking system is adjustable for pedal feel, with Comfort and Sport modes.

During a run to 185 km/h (115 mph) – on a closed section of the road – the braking system came in handy when I had to quickly slow down the car. They’re absolutely fantastic and they have no problem handing a 5,000 lbs high-riding car.

Plenty Of Tech And Gizmos

BMW’s investment in their cabin tech has certainly paid off in the recent models. From the M Head-Up Display and large LDC screens, to the iDrive 7 and gesture controls, this 2020 BMW X5 M Competition has everything you’d need in a premium and luxurious car.

The infotainment system is highly configurable, the sound system is of the highest fidelity and the dashboard and center console are equally luxurious and sporty.

Is The 2020 BMW X5 M Competition For Me?

In a nutshell, yes. I’ve never been a fan of SUVs – mostly because I don’t need the practicality and size – but this new 2020 BMW X5 M Competition might have changed my mind. If money no object, this is the M car I would buy today. If you have a small family and you’re ready to let go of your “single man ego”, then the BMW X5 M will be the smart choice.

It is beautiful and practical, it is high tech and luxurious, and most importantly, it’s a beast on the road. It will never be as fun as an M2 Coupe, but it doesn’t even try to be that. These new M SUVs play in a segment of their own with a different target demographic.

Naturally, my European friends find them obscene, especially in Germany where being lowkey is embedded in their culture. But in America, they’re on the small side and widely accepted everywhere.

In conclusion, I’m willing to bet that majority of M drivers will never reach the limits of the 2020 BMW X5 M Competition. The Power SUV is more than competent and worthy of an M badge, despite not being as pure as an M2, M3 or even M5.

BMW has packed so much of their M DNA in the X5 M, that it makes me wonder if they can beat this in the future. Maybe only with an M hybrid setup.