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Review: BMW X5 Competition — A Frankenstein tale come true

ON THE ROAD

At some point, in the haze of swinging its two-tonne frame around a bend, it might dawn on you that the X5 Competition is an absurd piece of machinery. This is Frankenstein’s monster of motoring: the product of a deranged scientist who lifted a V8 out of the carcass of an M8 and sewed it onto a respectable family car. Legend has it that he still roams the streets of Bavaria burdened by the guilt of what he has brought into this world.

For those who prefer their information more factual: the X5 M, now in its third generation, is the performance variant of the popular BMW SUV. Generally It comes in two variants, the regular and the slightly more powerful Competition, but South Africa only gets the latter – anyway at this level what’s a few kilowatts and R100k or so between friends (assuming your friends can look at this price range without blinking rapidly)?

It almost feels sinful arriving at the Gerotek test facilities at 6am to test its credentials. The pale orange sun is barely peeking beyond the rocky Hennops hills; the air is calm and silent bar the few birds that have started singing early. This serenity is violently ruptured as soon as the engine is sparked awake. 

Like any good story we start at the beginning … of a straight line. Only a kilometre of open track, after all, can help us grasp exactly what we’re dealing with here under the hood. Right foot flat on the accelerator, left foot squeezing the brake; release; and the eyeballs go searching for a new home at the back of the skull. The power in the propulsion is crazy, the result of 617 horses yanking you by the toe (460kW/750Nm).

A few runs later and the times we measured were in keeping with the advertised 0-100km of 3.8 seconds.

At the end of the session there was an audible hissing of brakes cooling off and the random clanking of the engine returning to normalcy. Gazing over it in this state you really do get the sense that its designers did everything they could to imprint the driving experience onto you. 

We could tell you about the subtle, yet stylish, additions to the bodywork, or how the interior retains the class of the highest-end “regular” X5s. But you don’t care about that, not really. At R2 775 658, over a bar more than the next vehicle in the range, any interest in this will stem from its freakish nature, not the “ordinary” trappings.

Its grunt reminded us of this as we took onto the speedway – an oval resembling a Nascar track. If its short burst acceleration was a rush, then this was sustained cranial pressure. You can feel the G-force pummelling down as you force the Competition’s massive chassis to stick on the road and go around bends. It’s exhilarating and tiring all at once. 

Again, very few people will take this as practical consumer advice. But then some of us just like to be warned that monsters do walk among us.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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