Sometimes it’s a struggle to get one’s head around the messages car companies send with their products, and the BMW X5 M Competition is a perfect case in point.
Here we have a 617 horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8 missile that can easily be hurtled around a racetrack as eagerly as any track-day sports car with a beautifully rear-wheel biased, all-wheel drive system. Yet it’s being pitched to us as an all-road family SUV made for the school run.
Make no mistake, the X5 M Competition is bred for hot laps. But you might have a boot full of football kit or shopping rolling around the back, and there may be a booster seat — hopefully empty — plugged into the rear Isofix restraint as you hurtle past 100 kilometres per hour in 3.7 seconds, vainly chasing down a top speed of 285kph.
So it’s an easy car to love and ticks all the right boxes. While the neighbours may carry a Lamborghini badge on their family SUV, you can rest assured they won’t be getting away from the lights much quicker than your subtle, yet muscular-looking X5.
A shiny black diffuser at the rear that envelops the quad exhaust tips, a black kidney grille at the nose and blacked-out X5 M Competition badges — all these elements tell this apart from a regular X5 and give it an almost sinister stance.
As if the 600hp X5 M weren’t a decent unit on its own, adding the Competition package brings an extra 17hp, a slightly wilder exhaust in Sports mode, an added Track mode, an engine strut tower brace for added rigidity and larger 22-inch diameter rear wheels to offset the 21-inch rims on the front.
On the comfort side, you get a premium leather fit-out. From first-hand experience, the additional padding on the sides of the centre console really does stop bruising to the knee during vigorous cornering.
The variable all-wheel-drive system lets you choose between maximum traction on all four wheels or go full rear-biased for the track. On this test drive, I kept with the surety of having power and grip on each wheel and, with that, the cornering grip and stopping power were phenomenal thanks to 396mm discs on the front and 386mm brakes on the rear.
Seeing is believing or, in this case, experiencing, because its tall ride height and family-sized configuration undersell the car’s performance capabilities. Have enough faith to throw it into a corner and it rewards with prodigious grip, giving you the confidence to let it run through a mountain pass as though it were a vehicle a quarter of its size and weight. Once you’ve settled into a rhythm, it inspires confidence and is an exceptionally easy car to manage even when near the limit.
A 12.3-inch digital display sits behind the leather-wrapped sports wheel. This houses the M Drive mode buttons that are anodised red, tempting you to set up your own bespoke sports settings.
The infotainment system features BMW’s iDrive software that can also be controlled by hand gestures, voice commands and a rotary controller on the centre console. While Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a Harman/Kardon audio system are standard, The National’s test car featured the outstanding Bowers & Wilkins optional sound system.
Ambient interior lighting, a large head-up display and cooled seats are all standard, and there’s no shortage of passenger space in the rear even with a sizeable cargo area behind the back seats.
There is no reasonable justification to own the BMW X5 M Competition, yet that’s where its allure lies, in that it is such an insanely over-the-top solution in a fairly modest shape.
It comes at the expense of its pay-to-play fuel consumption that drops dramatically the harder you press the gas pedal yet, despite this, it is now logged as one of the most desirable cars I’ve driven in 2022. As unlikely as it looks, it provided a truly inspiring drive.