This is the story of a big, fat, high riding wagon who had always dreamed of becoming a dancer. To give wings to the dream, it joined the M academy, where it met a big, fat, high riding coupe and fell in love. Today, with the M magic galvanized deep in their soul, together they represent BMW’s finest handling, and quickest, all-wheel drive vehicles.
The all-new X5 M and X6 M are addressed as Sports Activity Vehicles and Sports Activity Coupes respectively. With 575 hp, twin-turbocharged, V8 hearts and unfathomable dynamic character given their girth, they are the second generation of its kind, with the original X5 M startling the world way back in 2009.
Well, now they’re in India, and we get a first-hand experience of how they feel around a race track, where they have been honed to perform. This is a bit of an irony, because in normal guises, these cars, especially the X5, are toned to perform on the road with a family of five inside, along with their dog and luggage. The dog has to go if it’s the X6 we’re talking about, but you get the gist.
Together, they look like role models of athleticism in the realm of utility vehicles, and when we whipped them later around a sultry Madras Motor Race Track, we found out that they possess the go to match the show.
An everyday X5 and an X6 is shamelessly stripped, widened and kitted up with assorted M parts. The M specific front bumpers feature a large, trapezoidal, central air dam flanked by gaping air inlets on either side. And each of those shapely cut outs in the bumper are there for a reason – to feed air to a combination of low-temperature and high- temperature radiators, which collectively chill the turbochargers, front axle brake and transmission oil, maintaining an optimum temperature, even with all the high-performance components working flat out in a place like Chennai.
The rest of the visual adornment comes courtesy the signature kidney grille, now with twin slats in M mode, side gills with a model badge and “Air Breathers”, M-specific exterior mirrors in twin-stalk style, and a four-tailpipe exhaust system, along with a subtle rear spoiler for the BMW X6 M. Both the cars run on chrome licked, M-specific 20-inch light-alloy wheels with mixed tyres or optional, forged 21-inch M light-alloy wheels. The wider track and a 10 mm drop in ride height as compared to a regular X5/X6 also account for a squatter, more powerful stance.
The interiors are not too different from a regular X5 or an X6, but certain embellishments make the innards look like a million bucks. Leather trim comes as standard, and we grew a fondness to the fine-grain Merino kind used inside these beasts, hued in red with contrast stitching and embossed M logo in the backrests of the sports front seats. The multifunction, electric seats themselves deserve a special mention, because they offer terrific lateral support when the cars are hustled around the track. What’s more, one even gets leather trimmed knee pads on the center console.
Other highlights include carbon fiber trim on the dashboard, door panels and center console, leather covered, M steering wheel that feels orgasmic to hold, a different, M-specific instrument panel with clear and legible dials, door sill strips with model lettering, aluminum interior trim strips and anthracite-coloured or Alcantara roof liner.
Standard equipment includes an alarm system, automatic tailgate operation, automatically dimming rear-view and exterior mirrors, a headlight washer system for the standard LED headlamps, automatic climate control, a Harman Kardon Surround Sound speaker system, iDrive with an updated navigation system, front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera. The optional Executive package adds a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, rear window shades, head-up display, and more.
When I meant dancing, it also included sprinting like Usian Bolt on the straights. With 575 hp on tap between 6,000 and 6,500 rpm from their 4.4-litre petrol V8 engines boosted by a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers, both the X5 M and X6 M leap forward with snarling ferocity. So much so that both reach 100 km/h in just 4.2 seconds, all 2.2 tons of them. (X5 M – 2265 Kg; X6 M – 2275 Kg). Peak torque has also been boosted by 70 Nm over its predecessor, which equates to a rise of 10 per cent and now stands at 750 Nm between 2,200 and 5,000 rpm.
Those quad exhaust tips produce aural accompaniment like no other utility vehicle on the road, interrupted with a sharp, crisp bark, as the 8-speed, dual clutch automatic transmission goes about its shifting business. Shifts are clean and precise, especially when the steering mounted paddle shifters are put to use. With both the cars sharing the same underpinnings including the engine, chassis and transmission, along with weighing almost identical, straight line performance is equally brutal.
Both the cars are alarmingly responsive to throttle inputs and sheer tug experienced inside when given the full beans on a straight is comparable to a true sports car. When compared to competition, and there are few, polarizing vehicle characteristics notwithstanding, the X5 M and X6 M are the present kings of the luxury SUV drag strip.
Handling and Braking
Turn the steering wheel when approaching one of Madras Motor Race Track’s many technical corners, and both the X5 M and the X6 M turn with stupendous alacrity that’ll make you want to question your high-set seating position. The rack-and-pinion steering system with electric power assistance and M-specific Servotronic function provides substantial feedback. We knew exactly what those fat 285/35 front tires were up to, especially with the steering set-up in SPORT+ mode*.
As compared to the regular cars, their M siblings benefit from firmer bushings, stiffer springs, modified upper wishbones with revised geometry, and an aforementioned 10 mm drop in ride height. This partly endows them with amazing, almost unnatural grace around the corners, with the rest of the grace coming from the complicated electronics surrounding an xDrive all-wheel drive system. Body roll is heavily negated due to the heavily revised suspension setup coupled with the Dynamic Drive active roll stabilization system, and both the high-riding cars corner like a rogue locomotive on rails.
Mid-corner, both the X5 M and the X6 M rely heavily on the xDrive system, Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Damper Control and Dynamic Performance Control to keep their wits around and follow the intended trajectory set by the driver. While xDrive continuously allocates up to 100 percent of the available torque to the front and rear axles as needed; Dynamic Performance Control is focused on ideally distributing the torque between the two rear wheels, helping to keep under steer and over steer in check, along with optimizing traction.
The Dynamic Damper Control offers a choice of three modes of for the standard, self-leveling air suspension set-up – COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+. Considering the track we were belting on was a slightly bumpy one, SPORT proved to be the ideal aid, providing the ideal balance between soft and firm. COMFORT is more suited for the road, while even the steering set-up features these familiar modes*. Everything turned to COMFORT dials in the character of everyday usability, while SPORT+ sharpens and tautens steering inputs or damping by a noticeable margin, indicating fun times.
Of course, there’s none of the agility, poise and balance that’ll reward the keener driver in say, the M3 or the M4, but both these cars offer a distinctive dynamic experience that’s quite enjoyable as well. It’s amusing to see such heavyweights with a relatively high center of gravity fling their girth into a corner and come out unscathed. With both the cars sharing identical underpinnings, it was hardly a surprise that both performed exactly similar to each other on the track. There could be negligible alterations, but our brief track drive wasn’t enough to gauge that.
Furthermore, there’s DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), which counteracts understeer and oversteer with measured brake inputs. It offers a choice of three modes – on, off and the M Dynamic Mode (MDM), which offers a fine balance between the rest of the modes. While DSC employs electronic nannying of the highest order, MDM allows greater wheel slip for some mild drifts. With the DSC off however, you’re looking at some cinematic, smoky sideways action, as robotic braking inputs are few and far in between. We were advised not to indulge in the latter, so we can only vouch for the MDM mode; getting 650-litres of boot space (X5 M) wiggling on the track.
The high performance, perforated and inner-vented disc brakes offer progressive, yet sharp braking with the DSC and Cornering Brake Control making the braking set-up sweat all the time when hustling around a track. Braking is assisted by ABS and Brake Assist. The brake callipers are painted in Dark Blue metallic, and marked at the front wheels with the M logo. The Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (285/35 front, 325/30 rear) provide excellent grip and are the final piece of the puzzle that make these cars negotiate bends like they were not supposed to.
While there are a gazillion reasons for these cars not to exist, most of them coming from a purists’ camp, they do. That’s one massive reason alone to love them. And what’s more, they perform unnaturally well, especially dynamically, given their family hauling credentials. Priced at INR 1.55 Crore and INR 1.60 Crore respectively, the new BMW X5 M and the BMW X6 M are true performance utility vehicles combining everyday usability with blistering performance, be it on the road or the track. Competition comes in the form of the Range Rover Sport SVR (INR 2.2 Crore), Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG (INR 1.5 Crore) and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S (INR 1.8 Crore), with both the X5 M and the X6 M undercutting two of them by a fair bit. So there, in billionaire paradise, they’re value for money propositions too. With the X6 M, it has no Indian competitors for now, until the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe comes along.