We published two stories last Saturday on PH. Brave Pill ran with a Mirage replica of the Lamborghini Countach, one wearing a bold £69,995 pricetag, which received a welcome in the comments about as enthusiastic as one that would be given to an unidentified brown object floating in a swimming pool.
But that was a gentle round of applause compared to the response to our review of the new BMW XM, one which earned a critical reaction similar to that which would be given to a rapidly spreading brown slick in a swimming pool carrying a tide of rabid rats. At the time of going to pixel there are 387 comments and close to a record low PH rating of 1.4 on our online version of the Opportunity Knocks Clap-O-Meter. And while a few brave souls voiced enthusiasm for the XM’s design and mission, it would be a fair summary to say that approximately 98.5 percent of those who expressed opinions did not.
Which is why we’ve opted to start this weekend with proof that it is possible to buy an M-branded BMW SUV which hasn’t fallen through a whole forest’s worth of ugly trees. And also to save the small matter of just over £130,000 into the bargain. And while this first-generation X5M might still not be an exemplar of the qualities that made M great, it is certainly promises to be easier on both eye and wallet than the XM. It’s also faster, too – at least for any XM buyer not prepared to fork out extra for the M Driver’s Package that lifts its top speed from a lowly 125mph. Even an elderly X5M should be able to reach its 155mph limiter without struggling too hard.
To be fair, speed was something that the E70-generation X5M was never short of. The first decade of the millennium saw what history is already regarding as a morally reprehensible power race between the makers of big, expensive SUVs. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo kicked things off in 2002, when it reached a slightly shocked market with 450hp and the ability to sprint off the line faster than most genuine sports cars. An arms race quickly developed, and by 2008 rivals for this unlikely crown included the upgraded 520hp Cayenne Turbo S, the 510hp Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG – the first-gen ML55 hadn’t really been that quick – plus the 420hp Jeep Grand Cherokee and, clear winner for outright lunacy, the Audi Q7 V12 TDI which combined its peak 500hp with 738lb-ft of torque and a six-figure pricetag.
Having seen all that, somebody senior in BMW’s M Division said “halte mein Bier!”
The E70 X5M was the result, the first SUV to carry an M badge – this being the days before they were devalued by 218i styling kits and the like. The X5M and its X6M sister, both launched in 2009, were hardly traditional M cars by the standards of the age; they were first road-going M cars to feature turbocharged engines, all-wheel drive and torque converter gearboxes. The X5M’s 2,380kg weight was also some way outside the previous frame of M-reference, but a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 making 560hp meant there was more than enough muscle to move the mass. BMW claimed a 4.4-second 0-62mph time, but one of the U.S. magazines managed to blast it from 0-60mph in four flat and through the quarter mile in 12.2-sec, making it the quickest thing in its segment.
Critical love for the rest of it was muted, to put it mildly. M-ification had given the X5 rock hard chassis settings far removed from the compliance of the regular X5 of the period, and – when pushed – the handling balance was as front heavy as a Ferrari PCP deal. It was jagged and unpleasant when driven over on a bumpy road, with speed just making it worse. Plus sides, beyond bragging rights, were imperious high-speed cruising ability, with the continent-shrinking abilities dented only by the need to frequently stop to refill the 85-litre tank which was drained at a terrifying rate by faster progress.
While 14 years of hindsight won’t have improved the ride or thirst, our Pill now looks both svelte and dainty when compared to the XM, if maybe nothing else. It is a 2009 car that has covered 125,000 miles in the charge of just two owners. The dealer selling it promises both what appears to be a full kitchen sinking on the spec front, but also a service history including a recent £10,000 engine rebuild. Which can either be taken as welcome reassurance that such radical surgery is unlikely to fall due again soon, or alternatively a warning as to how spendy even an apparently well maintained X5M is capable of becoming.
Enzo the hamster had dug up the registration plate to summon the MOT history. This shows a predictable appetite for tyres, with multiple advisories and a couple of fails for wear. It also features that old Pill favourite “oil leak, but not excessive” back in 2018. There were no MOTs between July 2019 and March 2022, possibly while the last owner saved up for the necessary engine remedials.
For the performance the £17,985 asking price doesn’t seem outrageous given it was north of £80,000 new – especially when you consider that the X5’s V8 is actually chucking out a fair bit more power than the one in the XM that serves alongside the electric side of the powertrain. You could spend more than half of the cost of our Pill just adding 23-inch wheels, grey metallic paint, Merino leather and the M Driver’s pack to an XM.
I already know the answer, but which would you rather have?
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