2020 BMW X5M Competition: A step up from the Volvo XC90?

Price: $128,245 as tested. Drivers Assistance Pro Package added $1,700, and M Driver’s Package $2,500. Blue paint was $1,950. You’d think I’d remember such a color weeks later, but no. More mentioned below.

Marketer’s pitch: “Performance in its prime.”

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “time-warping acceleration, the grip and handling to match its massive power, still a BMW X5 underneath,” but not the “stiff-at-the-knees ride, lofty price, it’d be even better if it were a station wagon.”

Reality: Well, certainly, it’s beyond the Volvo — it’s ready for the track — but a $40,000 step up?

What’s new: You’d think if BMW sends a guy a vehicle costing an eighth of a million dollars, he’d be a little grateful and just give it a swell review.

But I serve you, the reader, and I don’t want you guys accidentally buying the behemoth when in reality a Volvo XC90 (see last week’s review) would have done just fine. It’s a few extra dollars — almost $40,000 of them.

Up to speed: Well, there’s this. There sure is. Here’s a hulking behemoth that goes from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds, thanks to the 617 horses from the 4.4-liter biturbo V-8 — an additional 17 over the boring and slow X5M non-Competition. It’s fast enough to make the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat cry out.

Anyway, that 0-to-60 time is BMW’s reporting, but I believe them. Who has time to wait 5 or 6 seconds to get to 60 mph? It’s just Too Much to Ask.

On the road: And this is where the X5M has failed me the last couple of tests. Even my dear devoted spouse could feel the bit of sway in everyday driving. The three modes — road, sport, and track — are so tightly wound that there’s just too much feedback required for cruising on the roads. Highways seem fine, but every little bend in older Pennsylvania roads sent the X5M for a bit of a wiggle.

Of course, it tackles winding roads at speeds far greater than advisable, and that’s fun.

Shifty: Just when I’d started to figure out the previous high-tech shifter from BMW, the company tosses a new one my way. This time, Reverse is a hard push left and forward, Neutral is to the left, and Drive and Shift modes are toggles to the right. Shifting, of course, is handled by push-pull, or through the paddle shifters.

Note that the swaying nature of the X5M means the paddle shifters are better used for these actions. But the 8-speed M Sport transmission is smooth and minds its business.

BMW knows how to make drivers and passengers feel comfortable while going really, really fast. Space in the X5M is commodious as well.
BMW
BMW knows how to make drivers and passengers feel comfortable while going really, really fast. Space in the X5M is commodious as well.

Driver’s Seat: The heated and ventilated seats also offer a massage feature (part of the $3,600 Executive Package, which also adds LED headlights, soft-close doors, and more) for maximum comfort. But I never found the massagers until the last day, and found the seats a complete delight without them.

Friends and stuff: The rear seat accommodations are not nearly as nice — and they’re only heated — but they are comfortable and fairly roomy. There’s not a lot of wiggle room for feet, but the legroom and headroom are nice.

The X5M does not offer the third row found in the X5, so cargo space is cavernous — 33.9 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 72.3 with the seat folded.

Play some tunes: While BMW futzes around with the shifter every couple of years, the infotainment peeps are standing firm. The dial and buttons work well, I don’t see a lot of attempts to mess with them, and so it’s easy to get around. You go, infotainment peeps. Keep those feet up.

Sound is about an A-, which is less than I expected from the Bowers & Wilkins ($3,400) sound system. I’m really starting to think it’s me, but nothing I’ve tried in a long while matches the sound from the cheap-o boombox I have in my basement exercise quarters.

Keeping warm and cool: Fussy little chrome buttons on the dashboard adjust temperature and fan speed for each half of the cabin, and another button changes the source. Complicated moves require a trip to the touchscreen, and here the handling gets you again.

Fuel usage: Nothing economical about this piggy; I averaged 14 mpg in a less socially distant realm of travel (one trip across the border into Delaware County even!). Feed it the best, and maybe strain the fuel before putting it into this fancy tank.

Where it’s built: Spartanburg, S.C. (This really ruins the cachet of the vehicle for me somehow.)

How it’s built: The regular X5 gets a Consumer Reports rating of 1 out of 5 for reliability, even with the XC90, sadly.

In the end: Sure, there’s some speed and extra toys here, but if you’re paying $2,000 for paint, I should be managing your money for you.

Next week: 2020 Mercedes GLS580 4Matic

Volvo touchup: Last week’s review of the 2020 Volvo XC90 fed readers some bad infotainment data. The touchscreen measures 9.3 inches, and the stereo features 19 speakers and 1,400 watts. A Volvo representative reports bass and treble functions are accessible by swiping the screen down.