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Awesome as it is, the BMW X5 M has never really been an attractive machine. Big and bulgy are the themes here, and that's only more pronounced with the X5's most recent refresh. But no matter, the X5 M has never been about looks – for this machine, it's all about performance, and BMW's hi-po crossover absolutely delivers in this regard.

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The second-generation BMW X5 M and X6 M have officially made their arrival for the speed-obsessed, crossover-loving masses that aren't willing to turn to Mercedes-AMG or Land Rover Special Operations.

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It's no secret that crossovers are one of the key vehicle types driving today's auto industry profits, and nowhere is that more true than among the world's luxury brands. BMW became one of the first players in the luxury CUV segment when it launched its original X5 in 1999, and buoyed by that model's runaway success, it followed up with the X3 in 2003, the X6 in 2008 and the X1 in 2009 (though the latter didn't make it to the US until late 2012). It's replaced the X5 twice since then and the X3

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BMW is getting ready to launch the third-generation X5 next year, and not wanting to make performance-minded customers wait too long, the X5 M is expected soon after the standard models. As seen in the video we posted last week, the new M-powered X5 is putting down some punishing laps at the Nurburgring. Now we're happy to supplement that video with some new spy photos of that test car.

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The engineers at BMW's M Division have their magical finite element analysis machines working on the next-generation high-performance version of the company's popular X5 crossover, and they've taken a disguised X5 M prototype to Germany's Nürburgring to run the numbers. According to forum user Jason at Bimmerpost, the impetuous BMW CUV will begin the trend of M vehicles arriving more quickly after their progenitors. A pedestrian airbag and iDrive Touch Controller could be inaugurated with t

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It's nice to see that someone at BMW apparently has a wry sense of humor when it comes to the X5 M. We are not shy about admitting that we find it hard to take the 550-horsepower SUV seriously – we famously called it a "2.7-ton Miata with a lampshade on its head and a serious coke habit," when we reviewed it back in 2010. But this little 30-second spot pairing it with the M3 has us tickled with nostalgic memories of the 1996 CART finale at Laguna Seca.

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The BMW X5, old and new – Click above for high-res image gallery

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Most factory tours cost a lot less than $99, but BMW has more up its sleeve than a short walk down the production line. BMW's Spartanburg, South Carolina facility is home to a new enthusiast attraction called "The Ultimate BMW Experience." The tour starts out with a trip to the Zentrum museum followed by a tour of the assembly line, where you're likely to see products like the new X5 M get pieced together. That's not exactly worth parting ways with 99 bucks, but there's more to the deal. After t

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2011 BMW M5 testing at the Nurburgring – Click above to watch video after the jump

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Click above for the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes, RSS or listen now!

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BMW Concept 1 Series Tii – Click above for high-res image gallery

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BMW M3 Competition Package – Click above for high-res image gallery

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Why the whole world loves Top Gear - click above to watch the video

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G-Power Typhoon X6 M - click above for hi-res image gallery

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BMW 1 Series Tii Concept - click above for high-res image gallery

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The BMW X5M and X6M are all about excess. Excess power (if that's possible), excess girth, and, as we already knew, excess cost. BimmerFile is reporting that the X5M will ding your budget to the tune of $85,400 ($86,225 after $825 destination charge), while the X6M will set you back $88,900 ($89,725 after destination charge). And anyone that has ever priced out a Bimmer with options knows that those prodigious figures are only the baseline of what will no doubt be two even more expensive BMWs.

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BMW X5 M – Click above for high-res image gallery

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click above for a high res gallery of the X5 M

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