Although SUVs have their strengths, pulse-quickening performance and razor-sharp handling are generally not among them. One major exception to that rule is the 2017 BMW X5 M, an SUV that puts the "sport" back in sport-utility.
In fact it's best to think of this midsize five-passenger luxury crossover as a sport sedan in SUV clothing. Sure, the standard X5's top-of-the-line xDrive50i model is no slouch, thanks to a 445-horsepower V8 that helps deliver claimed 0-60 mph acceleration in just 4.7 seconds. Yet the BMW X5 M ups the ante with a mind-boggling 567 hp that helps this sizable sport-ute make the same run in an astonishing 4 seconds flat. To put this number in perspective, it makes the X5 M just a hair faster than the vaunted BMW M4 sport coupe.
That neat trick aside, we should point out that the xDrive50i and the X5 M don't actually feel that different in everyday driving. Make of this what you will, but it's something to keep in mind before you decide to pay the $16,000 price premium the X5 M commands.
For that extra dough you do get a host of other upgrades that might help balance the equation, including distinctive bodywork, 21-inch alloy wheels, huge brakes and an adaptive sport suspension with active body-roll control. Inside the cabin, X5 M also adds 18-way-adjustable sport seats in front and an M-branded knob for the shift lever.
Even so, there are some other downsides to the X5 M's high-performance calibration besides the price, including a touchy gas pedal that actually makes it hard to pull away from a stop without feeling as if you're launching at the drag strip. The firmer sport-tuned adaptive suspension also produces a slightly less comfortable ride quality. And don't expect to carry more than five passengers; a third-row seat isn’t even offered on the X5 M.
Not surprisingly, there are only a few competitors to choose from in this niche of the SUV segment, which emphasizes a street-oriented high-performance calibration. The list starts with the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, which offers outstanding handling albeit at an even higher price, especially once you start adding options. The Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE63 features a gutsy exhaust note and an impressively turned-out interior. And then there's the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR, which offers solid street performance yet still retains off-road capability.
Even among this elite crowd, however, the 2017 BMW X5 M still stands out as one of the few SUVs that's a real alternative to pricey, full-size high-performance sedans.
The 2017 BMW X5 M comes standard with high-performance antilock brakes with automatic drying, stability and traction control, hill descent control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
Also standard are the BMW Assist eCall and BMW Remote Services emergency communications systems, which provide automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery, remote locking and unlocking, a smartphone app with remote vehicle functions, and on-demand emergency response via an SOS button.
The optional Driver Assistance Plus package bundles active blind-spot monitoring, a side- and top-view camera system, lane departure warning and speed limit info. The X5 M further offers an infrared night-vision system with pedestrian detection.
In Edmunds testing, an X5 M required just 104 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph, which is an impressively short distance for a heavy SUV.
trim levels & features
The 2017 BMW X5 M is a high-performance midsize luxury crossover with seating for five. It's offered in a single trim level.
Standard equipment includes 21-inch cast-aluminum wheels with summer performance tires, sport-tuned adaptive suspension dampers, rear air suspension, active body-roll stabilization, torque-vectoring sport differential, special M-type brakes, adaptive xenon headlights, LED foglights, power-folding and auto-dimming heated outside mirrors, automatic wipers, a panoramic sunroof, roof rails for cargo, a hands-free power liftgate with a foot sensor, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and ignition, quad-zone automatic climate control, extensive leather upholstery, 18-way power-adjustable and heated front sport seats (with four-way power lumbar adjustment), front-seat memory settings, 40/20/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a synthetic-suede headliner, adaptive cruise control, hill descent control, ambient interior lighting, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with wheel-mounted paddle shifters and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Cabin technology highlights include a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the iDrive infotainment system with a 10.2-inch central touchscreen and a touchpad-equipped controller, a navigation system, online services (including weather and news), smartphone-app integration, voice controls and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with a CD player, satellite and HD radio, a USB port and an auxiliary audio input jack.
With all of that included as standard, the X5 M has a short options list. The Driver Assistance Plus package adds a variety of advanced safety features. The Executive package throws in adaptive LED headlights with automatic high-beam control, power-closing doors, a head-up instrument display, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, manual rear-window sunshades, wireless cellphone charging and a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Stand-alone options include 20-inch wheels, aluminum-look exterior trim, an automated self-parking system, a 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, and a rear-seat entertainment system with dual 9.2-inch screens.
The all-wheel-drive 2017 BMW X5 M is powered by a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 rated at 567 hp and 553 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic with launch control.
In Edmunds performance testing, an X5 M sprinted from zero to 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds, a tenth of a second quicker than the mighty Porsche Cayenne Turbo. EPA fuel economy estimates are 16 mpg combined (14 city/19 highway).
From behind the steering wheel, it's clear that the 2017 BMW X5 M is an SUV that thinks it's a sports car. In fact, its handling prowess is such that you'll need to take it to a nearby racetrack to fully understand just how hard the sticky performance tires, huge brakes, adaptive suspension and rear-biased all-wheel-drive system will allow you to push it this monster-size vehicle. Simply put, the X5 M's driving dynamics are impressive. That said, we feel obligated to point out that the ride is firm enough even on the adjustable suspension's most comfort-oriented setting that you might question whether the über-responsive handling is worth the comfort trade-off compared to the standard X5.
To no one's surprise, the X5 M's 567-hp turbocharged V8 produces the quick acceleration you'd expect. But here too, it might be a bit too much of a good thing because the throttle pedal is calibrated to deliver an aggressive power punch even if you're just trying to calmly pull away from a stoplight. Though this much power so readily available can be fun at first, many will find it grows tiresome over the long term.
If there was one word that could sum up the passenger cabin of the 2017 BMW X5M it would have to be "posh." From the leather-trimmed dash to the simulated-suede headliner, there can be little argument that this is a classy space. It's also generally a pretty quiet one, save for the intrusion of a fair amount of tire noise on rough pavement.
Up front, you can expect to be coddled by the comfortable and supportive sport seats that make it easy to find an ideal driving position, thanks to 18-way adjustments and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. The rear seats aren't as spacious as you might expect given the vehicle's imposing size, but they're fine for two adults.
The M-spec gauges add another touch of class. Similarly, the X5 M's infotainment system features an oversize 10.2-inch touchscreen display with sharp graphics and quick response times. The iDrive user interface is better than ever, but it still requires you to spin the knob and click the built-in touchpad more than we might like just to accomplish simple everyday tasks. The system also integrates smartphone apps and includes a web browser that offers access to Yelp reviews and more.
The X5 M's cargo area offers a decent amount of space — 23 cubic feet, to be exact — behind the 40/20/40-split rear seats. Fold all three of those sections down and you end up with 66 cubic feet of cargo room. To put these numbers in perspective, they're on par with those of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Range Rover Sport SVR but fall short of the space offered by the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE63.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.