What's New for 2012
Only minor changes take place for the 2012 BMW X5 M. New standard equipment includes a power tailgate and a USB port. A new BMW app for iPhones also debuts.
Rationalizing most high-performance cars is usually an exercise in futility. Certainly the question of "why?" was asked repeatedly during the BMW X5 M's development. As in, "Why would we give a road-going SUV an engine with supercar specs?"
"Because we can," must have been the likely answer from BMW's famed M division -- the same group of performance-minded engineers who have sharpened numerous sedans and coupes into track-worthy weapons. But how would this translate to something bigger? In the case of the 2012 BMW X5 M, it translates quite well.
The X5 is no slouch in its own right, with athletic handling and a choice of potent engines. The V8-powered X5 produces an impressive 400 horsepower. The X5 M, however, turns the dial up a few notches to make a shocking 555 hp. All of this grunt gets this luxury SUV up to 60 mph in a scant 4.5 seconds. That's 0.1 second quicker than the M3.
Yes, the X5 M is incredibly fast -- not just for an SUV, but for cars in general. But the M division's bigger task proved to be in the realm of handling. After all, getting a 5,300-pound crossover to handle like a sport sedan seems more like a fool's errand than a challenge. Performance tires are a good start, but it's the sport-tuned suspension with adaptive dampers that permits the X5 M to out-handle just about anything else with four doors.
Despite all of its sporting intentions, the 2012 BMW X5 M is still a slave to the laws of physics, and from behind the steering wheel, there's just no escaping its physical size. A tight twisting mountain pass will still make the X5 M feel like the SUV it is. Then again, when it comes to SUVs, you'd have a tough time besting it. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo is also a stout performer and the X5 M's closest competitor, but it will set you back at least $20,000 more. The Land Rover Range Rover Sport and Mercedes' redesigned ML63 AMG are certainly worth consideration as well, with more of an emphasis on luxury than sport.
In the end, the 2012 BMW X5 M ranks highest among these very specialized SUVs. And if anyone asks why you decided on it, you need only respond with a resounding, "Because I can."
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 BMW X5 M is offered in one well-appointed trim level. Standard features include 20-inch wheels, summer tires, a power tailgate, a self-leveling electronically adjustable active suspension with M-specific sport tuning, M customized driving settings, automatic and adaptive bi-xenon headlights, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming mirrors, a panoramic sunroof and rear privacy glass.
Also standard are heated 10-way power sport seats with driver memory functions, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, BMW Assist emergency telematics, Bluetooth, the iDrive electronics interface, a navigation system with real-time traffic and a 16-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface, CD player and HD radio.
The optional Premium Sound package adds a more powerful 16-speaker sound system, satellite radio and a six-CD/DVD changer. Along with this package, buyers can add the BMW Apps option, which brings added iPhone functionality, control and video via the iDrive system. The Active Ventilated Seat package adds automatically adjusting driver seat bolsters, front ventilated seats and 14-way multicontour front seat adjustment. The Cold Weather package adds a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and a ski bag for the backseat pass-through. The Driver Assistance package gets you automatic high beams, a head-up display and a multiview parking camera. The Rear Climate package adds manual rear side window shades and four-zone climate control.
Several of the above features are available as stand-alone options along with keyless ignition/entry, a sideview camera, soft-close automatic doors, roof rails, a leather dashboard and a rear seat entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 BMW X5 M is powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 that produces 555 hp and 501 pound-feet of torque that is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. In Edmunds acceleration testing, the X5 M went from a standstill to 60 mph in a staggering 4.5 seconds. That's quicker than an M3. Should you care, fuel economy is an estimated 12 mpg city/17 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined.
Standard safety features for the 2012 X5 M include ABS with brake assist, stability control, front side airbags, rear side curtain airbags and front active head restraints. In crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the structurally identical BMW X5 received the highest rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests. In Edmunds brake testing, the X5 M came to a stop from 60 mph in a very short 116 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
With the unique M sport seats and plenty of "M" badges throughout the cabin, the X5 M has just enough of a sporting appearance to make it feel as special as it performs. Otherwise, the interior is just as refined as the rest of the X5 lineup. The construction is precise, the materials are high-quality and the instrumentation is crystal-clear. As expected, those M sport seats provide superb support and comfort.
With the addition of the BMW Apps option, the already user-friendly iDrive interface becomes even more intuitive. Besides presenting music controls using the familiar iPod interface, BMW Apps also integrates Pandora, Web radio and simplified Facebook and Twitter functions.
BMW's less intuitive joystick-like gear selector is also present, which drivers may find confusing at first due to its separate "Park" button and odd reverse-drive layout. With the rear seatbacks folded, the X5 M offers 75 cubic feet of cargo space. Unlike with the regular X5, there is no available third-row seat.
BMW's M division has made the X5 M astonishingly quick, and once you lay into the accelerator, you'll be at extralegal speeds in no time. Thanks to a bevy of high-tech bits, the X5 M also handles better than any midsize crossover SUV has a right to (and doesn't suffer a choppy ride because of it). There's "Active" this and "Dynamic" that in just about every area of the X5 M's operation, a battalion of high-tech aids designed to hold the laws of physics at bay. The results are truly astonishing. Even seasoned professional drivers will be amazed at this BMW's athletic character and prodigious cornering grip.
All that doesn't make the 2012 BMW X5 M a sports car, however. Despite its impressive ability to shrink around you on the open road and behave as if it were a much smaller vehicle, it balloons right back up to larger-than-life-size dimensions any time the going gets tight and twisty.