BMW's M badge previously was only affixed to sedans and coupes, but now it has been extended to the X5, marking not only first time it goes on an SUV, but also the first time it gets applied to an all-wheel-drive vehicle.
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Externally, the X5 M distinguishes itself from the standard X5 mainly through the front body work. On the M version, big vents filled with black honeycomb grilles stand ready to suck in air to feed the twin turbos.
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BMW's M division tuned up the twin turbo 4.4-liter V-8 to put out 555 horsepower. It's extreme power, but comes at the cost of extremely poor fuel economy.
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In M form, the X5 body gets lowered a little, and rides on an air suspension.
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Other suspension gear includes electronically controlled antiroll bars and electromagnetic dampers, all working together to keep the X5 M flat in the corners.
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As an SUV, the X5 has plenty of interior room, and a clamshell rear gate that offers ease of storage for grocery runs.
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Leather abounds in the cabin, but BMW eschews excessive luxury notes, focusing on driving performance.
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The handling is really impressive in the X5 M, delivering true sport cornering. This big SUV rotates in tricky turns, maximizing its ability to get through quickly.
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In M mode, this head-up display shows engine speed in the colored band, vehicle speed, and the current gear.
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Although just a six-speed automatic transmission, this transmission shifts well, eliminating any torque converter slushiness.
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The new iDrive controller includes quick access buttons to call up major cabin tech functions, such as stereo, navigation, and phone. The Option button is a little confusing, as there is a separate settings menu available on the car's LCD.
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The main menu shows all the major cabin tech areas. The iDrive controller lets you select entries.
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The street view maps in the navigation system suffer from a poor color scheme, making it hard to tell road from surroundings.
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With route guidance active, the head-up display shows turn directions.
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We were very happy with the traffic reporting feature, which helped us avoid a number of traffic jams.
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This interface for music selection from an iPod isn't the most intuitive.
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The 600-watt, 16 speaker stereo system offers this seven band equalizer for really fine tuning the music.
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Along with the top-down parking view, there is also a rearview camera that includes overlay lines for trajectory and distance.