BMW X4 VS BMW X5
- Fabulous engine
- M-spec interior/seats
- 4WD Sport setting
- Confusing combination of style and substance
- Not pretty
- Aggressive styling
- Genuine practicality
- Ferocious performance
- Half-baked exhaust system
- Far from fuel-efficient
- Substandard warranty
Launching new cars must be an endlessly repetitive job, and trying to keep over-fed, overly feted and ostentatious motoring journalists entertained would strain the will to live of any human being, or even a house elf. So it’s easy to see why the people at BMW tried something different when it came time to launch its new X4 M Competition.
They were also dealing with a very strange car; not just an M version, but a Competition variant of a mid-size SUV (or SAV, as they prefer) with a kind of quirky coupe roofline that makes it look like it would prefer not be an SUV (or SAV) at all.
While the idea that someone might use this car for any kind of motorsport “Competition” seems as likely as Clive Palmer running for the bus, what it means is that this X4 gets an absolute rocket of an engine and all kinds of go-faster bits.
So, BMW decided to create a place called M Town - “a place where too much is just right”, as they put it - where we could experience this car in what you would have to call its unnatural environment.
M Town, in this case, was a giant clay pan hidden in the middle of the South Australian outback, with a rally circuit laid out on it, where we would be invited to drive the X4 M Competition as no one intended.
Cue much hilarity, and a highly unconventional non-road test.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Way back in 2009, the X5 was the first SUV to get the go-fast treatment from BMW’s high-performance M division. At the time, it was a crazy thought, but in 2020, it’s easy to see why Munich went down the (then) road less travelled.
But just exactly how good is the X5 M Competition? We had the unenviable task of putting it to test to find out.
|Engine Type||4.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Clearly it is hard to give a verdict on what car generally bought to be driven on public roads 99.9 per cent of the time is like to drive when you've only smashed it around a clay pan like a (very) amateur rally drive.
What we can tell you is that the X4 M Competition is a far more serious, exciting version of the (small) family friendly/cool and trendy young couple mid-size SUV, the basic X4. It also has a very exciting engine, and lots of polished gloss black bits on it and, for some reason, seems slightly more fun than the X3 it is closely twinned with.
It is not a car that will attract, or makes sense to, everyone, and its high price will scare a lot of sensible people away. But clearly BMW believes there is a niche market of people who will want one, and will pay top dollar for one. There's no doubt Aussie buyers do love an M badge, and they may well warm to this one.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
After spending a day with the BMW X5 M Competition, we can’t help but wonder if it’s the ultimate vehicle for families.
On one hand, it nails the practicality brief and is loaded with standard equipment, including the key advanced driver-assist systems. On the other, its performance in a straight line and around corners is otherworldly. Oh, and it looks sporty and feels luxurious, too.
That said, we could absolutely live with the high fuel bill if this was our daily driver, but there’s only one problem: does anyone have a spare $250,000?
Is the new BMW X5 M Competition the ultimate family vehicle? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
It only seems reasonable to give the X4 M one more point out of 10 for deign than its X3 non-identical twin sister, because at least the designers have had a bit of a go at the rear.
The idea of a coupe SUV has always seemed like something a hunchback came up with so that people wouldn’t only stare at him, but it obviously appeals to some people.
And yes, parked next to an X3, this version looks better, with sleeker tail lights and a more stylish rear altogether. The more pronounced swoop of the roofline is also an improvement.
But my argument remains that BMW calls this X4 M Competition “bold and functional”, which tells you all you need to know. When a marketing department can’t come up with a better term than “functional” when talking about design, for a BMW, it’s just not hat exciting to look at.
In fact, it looks like a shopping trolley with bigger wheels and go-faster stripes.
The non-M X4 is not exciting to look at it, either, it’s even more… functional, and this version is delineated as being M special by covering as many things as possible with “black high-gloss bits”, so black mirrors, black side gills, black chrome tail pipes, you get the picture.
BMW might have also used the word “tough” to describe this X4, and they did keep talking about how people might track it, which seems as likely as me entering a rocking horse in the Melbourne Cup, but I think they’re having a lend of themselves.
The interior feels like a proper M car, though, with the big red, programmable M buttons on the chunky steering wheel particularly eye catching, and a very cool looking gear stick. The M Sport seats also both look and feel fantastic, and the Merino Leather is lovely.
In our humble opinion, the X5 is one of the best-looking SUVs on the market today, so it’s no surprise the X5 M Competition is a knockout in its own right.
Up front, it cuts an imposing figure thanks to its version of BMW’s signature kidney grille, which has a double-slat insert and is finished in gloss-black like most of the exterior trim.
That said, it’s the front bumper that sucks you in with its large air dam and side air intakes, all of which have honeycomb inserts.
Even Laserlight headlights add a touch of menace thanks to their integrated dual-hockey-stick LED daytime running lights, which look plain angry.
Around the side, the X5 M Competition is a little more restrained, with the 21- (front) and 22-inch (rear) alloy wheels the obvious giveaway, while the more aggressive side mirrors and air breathers are a lesson in subtlety.
At the rear, the visual aggro is most apparent thanks to the sculpted bumper, which incorporates a chunky diffuser that plays host to the bi-modal exhaust system’s black chrome 100mm tailpipes. Utterly delicious, we say.
Inside, BMW M has put its best foot forward to make the X5 M Competition feel that little bit more special than the X5.
The eyes are immediately drawn to the multifunction front sports seats, which manage to be super supportive and super comfortable at the same time.
Like the middle and lower dashboard, door inserts, armrests, knee rests and door bins, they’re covered in supple Merino leather (Silverstone grey and black in our test vehicle), which even has honeycomb insert stitching in some sections.
Black Walknappa leather trims the upper dashboard, door shoulders, steering wheel and gear selector, with the latter two unique to the X5 M Competition, alongside the red start-stop button and M-specific seat belts, scuff plates and floor mats.
A black Alcantara headliner adds some more luxury to the equation, while our test vehicle’s gloss carbon-fibre trim ensures there’s some sport in it, too.
Technology-wise, there’s the 12.3-inch touchscreen, which is powered by the now-familiar BMW Operating System 7.0, although this version gets M-specific content. That said, it still has gesture and always-on voice control, but both fall short of the rotary dial’s greatness.
The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and windshield-projected head-up display get the biggest M makeovers, though, with the new M Mode giving them a focused theme (and turning off the advanced driver-assist system) for spirited driving.
In practicality terms, the X4 loses the gains it made on looks against the X3, because you’re obviously getting less headroom in the rear, and slightly less boot space as well.
For a vehicle of its mid-size, the X4 isn’t too badly sorted for interior space, however. The rear seats, in particular, are impressive, in terms of knee room at least, although headroom is not fabulous.
I’m 176cm tall, and I could comfortably sit behind my own seating position without my knees even touching the seat in front, and headroom is also excellent, front and rear.
Those sporty front seats do make things feel slightly squeezed in the front, and the width of the headrests effects forward visibility for those in the rear, but they’re so great to sit in that you’d put up with that.
The rear seat splits 40:20:40, giving you access to the boot, which is 525 litres in the X4 M with the seats up, because you’ve chosen the more practical option (the X3 gets 25 litres more).
Drop the rear seats and you’ve got a useful 1430 litres of loadspace when you’re driving two-up, although you’d have 1600 litres if you’d chosen the cheaper X3 M.
There’s plenty of space for your phone, on its wireless charging pad, and you also get two cupholders for the front chairs, with another two in the rear armrest.
Measuring 4938mm long, 2015mm wide and 1747mm tall, the X5 M Competition is well and truly a large SUV, and that means good things for its practicality.
Cargo capacity is generous, at 650L, but can be increased to a truly massive 1870L with the 40/60 split-fold rear bench stowed – an action that can be done via the boot’s manual-release latches.
The boot has six tie-down points for securing loads, as well as two bag hooks and two side storage nets. There’s also a 12V power outlet, but the best part is the power-operated parcel shelf, which stows itself underfloor when not in use. Awesome!
There are plenty of genuine in-cabin storage options, too, with both the glovebox and central bin of the large variety, while the front door bins can carry an astounding four regular bottles. The rear door bins can fit three apiece.
The two cupholders at the front of the centre console actually have heating and cooling, which is pretty hot/cool (bad pun intended).
The second row’s fold-down armrest has a pair of basic cupholder as well as a shallow tray, which joins the small driver-side cubby as the two most random storage spaces on hand, while map pockets are attached to front seat backrests.
Given the size on offer, it’s no surprise the second row is nice place to sit in. Behind my 184cm driving position, more than four inches of legroom is on offer, while headroom is also generous, at two inches, despite the standard fitment of a panoramic sunroof.
Better yet, the transmission tunnel is quite short, meaning there’s plenty of footwell to go around, which will come in handy given the rear bench can accommodate three adults abreast with relative ease.
Child seats are also a cinch thanks to the outboard seats’ top-tether and ISOFIX anchorage points – and the generous aperture of the rear doors.
Connectivity-wise, there’s a wireless smartphone charger, a USB-A port and a 12V power outlet ahead of the aforementioned front cupholders, while a USB-C port is found in the central bin.
Rear occupants only get access to a 12V power outlet, which is below their central air vents. Yep, the kids won’t be happy with the lack of USB ports to recharge their devices with.
Price and features
It’s a tricky thing to evaluate such a weird beard of a car as this in terms of value, because normally when you’re being asked to spend $164,900 for a BMW you’re getting something that’s all sports car, wrapped in sexiness.
To be fair, the X4 M has a more coupe-shaped roofline than the X3 version it shares its M Competition badging with, but this is a case of being less unattractive rather than better looking.
And, on the downside, you’re paying $7000 more than you would for the ever-so-slightly more practical X3 version, which would be hard to justify even if the X3 M wasn’t already very expensive.
What you are getting for the money is an engine that will blow you away, so that’s worth a bit.
The car only comes with the Standard Competition Package in Australia (it’s the top option elsewhere), due to the popularity of that kind of thing in our market, apparently.
That gets you the amazing engine plus a standard M Sport Exhaust, connected to four, black-tipped tailpipes, an eight-speed sports automatic, xDrive with 4WD and 4WD Sport modes, and an Active M Differential.
You’ll also score “Professional” satellite navigation, Comfort Access, a Panorama sunroof, M Head Up Display, Driving Assistant Plus with semi-autonomous functionality including Active Cruise Control and Parking Assistant Plus, plus Hill Descent Control.
And don’t forget 21-inch light alloy wheels, Adaptive LED headlights, ambient interior lighting with six colour options, and alarm system, very sexy M Sport seats (the M logo on the headrests even glows at night when you open the door) with Extended Leather Merino trim, a 16-speaker harman/kardon stereo system, tyre-pressure monitoring, lane-keeping assistant, wireless charging, individual roof rails, rear roller sunblinds and BMW Connected Drive.
Are there any options you could even want on top of all that? Have you ever seen a BMW offered without them?
Strangely and uniquely, BMW asks you to pay for Apple CarPlay, which everyone will, at $623, and you can have your seats ($700), or steering wheel ($500) heated for winter mornings. Active seat ventilation is $1600 more, and metallic paint will sock you $2000, or $2350 for Individual Metallic (you can have Alpine White, non-metallic, for free).
Priced from $209,900 plus on-road costs, the new X5 M Competition is $21,171 dearer than its non-Competition predecessor and commands a $58,000 premium over the M50i, although buyers are compensated for the extra spend.
Standard equipment not already mentioned includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, auto-folding side mirrors with heating, soft-close doors, roof rails, a hands-free power-operated split tailgate and LED tail-lights.
Inside, satellite navigation with live traffic, wireless Apple CarPlay support, DAB+ digital radio, a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon surround-sound system, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable front seats with heating, a power-adjustable steering column, four-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and ambient lighting feature.
Our test vehicle is finished in stunning Marina Bay Blue metallic paintwork, which is one of several no-cost options.
Speaking of which, the options list is surprisingly short, but a highlight is the $7500 Indulgence Package, which bundles in some features that should be standard at this price point, such as cooled front seats, a heated steering and heated rear seats.
The X5 M Competition’s main rivals are the wagon versions of the yet-to-be-released second-generation Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S and Porsche Cayenne Turbo ($241,600), which has been kicking around for a couple of years now.
Engine & trans
No matter what you think of the X4 M Competition - its looks, its very existence - there’s no denying that its engine is something to be very excited about.
The 3.0-litre in-line six with M TwinPower Turbo technology is 90 per cent new, according to BMW, and will soon see action in the new BMW M3 and M4, and it is a rip snorter. The folks at M have thrown everything at it, using 3D printing to make the cylinder head, a forged crankshaft, and two new mono-scroll turbochargers, which are obviously different from the twin-scroll versions in the M5, and lift direct fuel-injection pressure from 200 bar to 350 bar. Apparently they’re even better. It also gets an electrically controlled wastegate for maximum efficiency.
The goal was an impressive 500 horsepower, or 375kW in our lingo, and they’ve achieved it. They’ve also made magic by combining both traditional BMW free-revvingness and savage turbo torque. With all of its maximum 600Nm available from 2600rpm to 5950rpm, it has the highest torque bandwidth of any BMW engine.
The screaming six can rev all the way to 7200rpm, at which point it sounds truly Wagnerian in its magnificence, and that 375kW peak point arrives at a dizzying 6250rpm.
This really is an engine that wants you to belt the hell out of it, and when you choose its most aggressive modes, and turn the adjustable M exhaust to its noisiest setting, it’s a joyful experience.
It’s also a weird one, because there’s just something so out of place about an engine like this in a car like this - it’s like finding out that your mum has secretly been cage fighting - but still, in pure engine terms, it’s a cracker.
The ZF eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission is also silky smooth and seamless, as you’d expect.
The X5 M Competition is motivated by a monstrous 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine, which punches out a formidable 460kW of power at 6000rpm and 750Nm of torque from 1800-5800rpm, with the former up 37kW, while the latter is unchanged.
Once again, a near-perfect eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) is responsible for swapping gears here.
This combination helps the X5 M Competition sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in a supercar-scaring 3.8 seconds. And, no, that is not a typo.
There’s no official Australian figure as yet, and we certainly didn’t do any testing that would be helpful, so all we can tell you is that the claimed figure is 10.6 litres per 100km. Which would be good, if you could actually achieve it. Good luck with all this temptation on board.
The X5 M Competition’s fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 12.5 litres per kilometre, while its claimed carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 286 grams per kilometre. Both are a little keen considering the level of performance on offer.
In reality, though, the X5 M Competition really likes a drink – a very large drink. We averaged 18.2L/100km over 330km of driving, which predominately took place on country roads, while the rest was an even split between highways city and traffic.
Yes, there was plenty of spirited driving, so a more balanced real-world figure would be lower – but not by much. Indeed, this is a vehicle you buy if you don’t care how much it costs to fill up.
Speaking of which, the X5 M Competition’s 86L fuel tank takes 95RON petrol at minimum.
In theory, the X4 M Competition shouldn’t be very different to drive at all from the X3 M Competition with which it shares an engine, and just about everything else. At the same time, it would be nice if was more fun to drive, because that would help to justify the fact that it costs $7000 more than the (slightly more practical) X3 version.
The differences are mainly about looks, of course, but those aesthetic changes also make the X4 ever so lightly longer, wider and lower than the X3.
That really shouldn’t make a difference you can feel, yet somehow, every time I switched into the X4 and began another wild, hooting, dusty circuit of the rally course set out for us be foolish on at M Town, I found myself having slightly more fun than I’d been in the X3.
An actual rally driver who was in attendance, mainly to laugh at our ineptitude and because their diet consists largely of dust particles, told me he’d also found the X4 ever so slightly more chuckable, and stable, also.
So perhaps there are two reasons for choosing to spend $7K more on an X4 - the rear end, and the fun, but then again, this is probably only a factor if you attend to take your new BMW on some kind of mad motorsport adventure.
Certainly, in the unreal environment in which we tested these cars, they were hugely fun - overly powerful, playful, sporty in terms of steering feel and cabin ambience - but we will have to wait and see what they’re like in the real world.
Reports from overseas have hinted at overly firm ride quality, even in Comfort mode, and other foibles for the new X3 M Competition - like the fact that it doesn't actually feel all that fast, thanks to the 1970kg it's carrying.
What we do know is that the engine is a crackerjack, the (adjustable) steering gives fabulous feedback, and, if you happen to be on a clay pan, it’s just the vehicle you need to plaster a huge smile across your face.
I recommend the video footage highly.
One touch of genius that was beautifully highlighted, though, was the combination of the properly sports-car spec M Differential with an M version of xDrive, which allows you to choose between two 4WD modes, normal and 4WD Sport, which “pretty much does become rear-wheel drive”, as BMW admitted to us.
This is such an M move it’s hilarious. Force us to make an all-wheel-drive car will you? Ha, we’ll put a button on it that turns it back into a proper BMW M car.
On a clay pan, where you can drive almost entirely sideways, sawing at the wheel and using that gorgeous engine to carve beautiful arcs in the Earth via the throttle,4WD Sport is a work of genius.
In the real world, in this car, it’s… still a bit weird.
The chassis feels super stiff as well, and the big strut braces under the bonnet show you how seriously they’ve taken that.
There’s no denying the how, or the know-how on display here, it’s just the why that’s hard to get your head around.
Surprise, surprise: the X5 M Competition is an absolute hoot in a straight line – and around corners.
The level of performance on tap is unhinged, with the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 serving up body shot after body shot.
Off the line, the X5 M Competition hunkers down and then delivers its 750Nm just above idle (1800rpm), holding it all the way to 5800rpm. That’s a staggeringly wide torque band, one that ensures it will relentlessly pull in any gear.
And just as the torque curve springs back into action, peak power arrives at 6000rpm and reminds you that you’re dealing with 460kW underfoot. Make no mistake, this is a truly epic engine.
A lot of the credit has to go to the eight-speed torque-converter automatic, though, as it is almost flawless. We particularly like its responsiveness – it literally kicks down a ratio or two before you think you’ve pushed the accelerator pedal hard enough.
That said, it often has a hard time recognising when the fun is over, holding onto lower gears for longer than required before eventually upshifting.
And while it’s smooth, it is still quick in operation. Just like the throttle, the transmission has three settings, which progressively up the ante. For the latter, the softest setting is too soft, while the medium setting is just right, and the hardest setting is best left for the track.
Needless to say, we adore this combination, but one word of warning: the bi-modal sports exhaust system doesn’t serve up enough aural pleasure. There’s no mistaking this for anything but a booming V8 soundtrack, but characterful crackles and pops are absent.
Now, put your hand up if you assume every M model has a bone-crunching ride… Yes, us too… But the X5 M Competition is surprisingly the exception to the rule.
It comes with Adaptive M Suspension Professional, which consists of double-wishbone front and five-link rear axles with adaptive dampers, which mean there’s bandwidth to play with, although BMW M usually targets sportiness over comfort, even for their softest setting.
Not this time, though, as the X5 M Competition rides a lot better than expected, no matter the setting. Simply put, it’s compliant when other M models are not.
Does this mean it deals with all road imperfections with aplomb? Of course not, but it’s more than liveable. Potholes aren’t nice (but when are they?), and its firmer tune makes speed bumps more challenging to deal with as a passenger, but they’re not deal-breakers.
Despite the apparent focus on in-cabin comfort, the X5 M Competition is still an absolute beast through the bends.
When you’ve got a 2310kg kerb weight, physics are well and truly working against you, but BMW M evidently said, ‘To hell with the science’.
The results are mind-boggling. The X5 M Competition has no right being this agile. In the twisty stuff, it feels like a much smaller car to drive.
Yes, there’s still body roll to contend with in the corners, but most of it is cancelled out by the stunning active anti-roll bars, which do their best to keep things balanced. Handling is also improved by the chassis’ increased torsional stiffness.
Of course, the X5 M Competition’s electric power steering also deserves a shout-out here. It’s super direct, so much so that it’s almost twitchy, but we really love how sporty it feels. Feedback through the wheel is also excellent, which makes cornering even easier.
As always, the steering has two settings, with Comfort well-weighted, while Sport adds a little too much heft for most drivers.
This set-up goes a step further with all-wheel steering, which adds a lot of the agility. It sees the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to their front counterparts at low speed to improve manoeuvrability, and in the same direction at high speed to optimise stability.
And, of course, the rear-biased M xDrive all-wheel-drive system provides prodigious grip alongside the Active M Differential, which makes the rear axle a better performer when powering out of corners with earnest.
As we found out on some very icy country roads, the electronics let the driver get away with just enough fun (or terror) before stepping in and keep things on track. M xDrive also has a looser Sport setting, but needless to say, we didn’t explore due to the prevailing conditions.
Given the outputs on hand, the X5 M Competition comes with an M Compound Brake system that consists of massive 395mm front and 380mm brakes discs with six- and single-piston callipers respectively.
Braking performance is strong – and it needs to be – but of greater interest is this set-up’s two pedal-feel options: Comfort and Sport. The former is relatively soft from the get-go, while the latter gives plenty of initial resistance, which is right up our alley.
The X4 M Competition has not been crash tested yet but the standard X4 previously received a five-star ANCAP rating. It comes with six airbags - driver, front passenger, head airbags for both rows, side airbags with seat occupancy detection for driver and passenger and side-impact protection for the front seats.
You also get DSC, ABS and DTC and driver-assistance systems including Driving Assistant Plus, Parking Assistant Plus, tyre-pressure monitoring and a speed limiter.
ANCAP awarded the diesel versions of the X5 a maximum five-star safety rating in 2018. As such, the petrol X5 M Competition is currently unrated.
Advanced driver-assist systems impressively extend to autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep and steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, speed-limit recognition, high-beam assist, driver attention alert, tyre pressure and temperature monitoring, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, park assist, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, among others. Yep, there’s not much missing here…
Other standard safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain plus driver’s knee), the usual electronic stability and traction control systems, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and brake assist (BA), among others.
As is typical for BMW, the maintenance requirements for the X3 M Competition are controlled by a Condition Based Servicing system, which constantly monitors the car, and the way it’s being driven, to determine when annual inspections or oil changes are required.
BMW is offering two service-inclusive packages, a five-year/80,000km Basic level for $3685, or the Plus, for $8173, which you should choose “if you drive spiritedly and you go through brakes a fair bit”, because it includes brake pads and discs over five years.
BMW seriously seems to think people are going to track this thing. Go figure.
Like all BMW models, the X5 M Competition has a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is well behind the five-year standard set by Mercedes-Benz and Genesis in the premium segment.
That said, the X5 M Competition also comes with three years of roadside assistance.
And its service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, whichever comes first. Several capped-price servicing plans are available, with the regular five-year/80,000km version costing $4134, which, while expensive, is not surprising at this price point.