You sit lower in the X5 M – more cocooned, but with a poorer view around you. And the X5’s fascia looks more business smart than high design.
The XD3’s, meanwhile, lacks the material richness to lift it much above the level of a fairly ordinary German premium-branded family 4x4. Alpina’s leather seats and Alcantara surfaces are lovely, but there’s too much moulded plastic on display to make the car feel seriously plush.
The Porsche Cayenne Turbo has warped the dynamic development of this particular niche a bit. Well, someone had to bring up the elephant that is – or in this case, isn’t – in the room. You’re not reading about the Cayenne in this test simply because Porsche declined to supply a test car at the last moment, not because it doesn’t merit a place.
Thankfully, we know the Cayenne Turbo well. And what the arrival of a fully competitive Range Rover in the performance SUV arena has shown is that the Cayenne probably belongs farther towards the margins of the class than many of us ever realised. The Porsche has always been dynamically skewed towards sporting performance and handling at the expense of some luxuriousness and likeability. Sure, it’s popular – and desirable. But somehow, it’s a bad influence.
It has evidently been a misleading influence, you’d say, on the X5 M. This BMW was always going to be a more single-minded performance machine than the SVR. And yet, in the way the
X5 M conducts itself on the road, it’s pretty clear that BMW set out to make what amounts to a super-saloon on stilts with this car. It should, we’d argue, have been aiming to achieve much more.
Read the full BMW X5 M review
There’s a sort of Teutonic reserve to the way the 4.4-litre V8 in the X5 whinnies into life and subsequently expresses itself over your first few miles in the car. Oddly, up until the last 30% of the rev range at least, it sounds little more charismatic than the Alpina’s 3.0-litre turbodiesel straight six.
Meanwhile, the SVR’s 5.0-litre lump is as extravagant as they come – a heart-on-the-sleeve kind of engine, willing to suffuse every minute of every journey with gargling noise and richness.
On your favourite road, the SVR becomes instantly familiar to drive – like a big SUV that has learned some very special party tricks. The M car’s first transgression comes as you realise that it’s trying to feel like something else altogether.
Like so many other recent M cars, it has an automatic gearbox without an initial creep function. Engage first, ease off the brake pedal and… nothing happens. That’s fine, perhaps, in something smaller and lighter, but I reckon most owners will want their 2.3-tonne, 567bhp luxury SUV to look after them better than that.
Those owners will likewise probably want that performance SUV to be usable and easy to drive – just like the SVR. The Range Rover gives you one dial to flick when you want to really stretch its legs: Dynamic mode. There are lots of off-road modes, too, but given that the BMW has no answer for most of them, we’ll leave them to one side.
Instead, the X5 M has a whole panel of buttons to individually tweak steering weight, gearbox and engine response, damper setting and traction and stability control sensitivity. Configurability is the
M division way of things, of course. That’s fair enough, but a car that puts equal emphasis on luxury and performance – as a performance SUV surely should – ought to integrate its technical sophistication more discreetly in our book.