Beauty of the beast

Teu­tonic twins com­bine bru­tal per­for­mance with high-tech gad­getry

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowl­ing@news.com.au

IMAG­INE a ship­ping con­tainer that could out­run a Porsche.

That’s the best way to de­scribe the new BMW X5M and X6M high-per­for­mance SUV twins.

They each weigh more than 2.2 tonnes and yet can reach the speed limit faster than a 911 sports-car — 4.2 sec­onds if you don’t mind — and slice through cor­ners with the tip­toe pre­ci­sion of a bal­le­rina.

It’s noth­ing short of a sci­en­tific marvel that BMW en­gi­neers have man­aged to trans­form fos­sil fuel into such rapid propul­sion of such a large lump of metal, glass and rub­ber.

At this point, peo­ple may well ask why the world needs such an in­sane ma­chine. The an­swer, of course, is money.

BMW Australia sells about 200 of th­ese most con­spic­u­ous forms of con­sump­tion to cashed-up cus­tomers each year, but it reck­ons the SUV boom is hum­ming along so strongly that it will eclipse this fig­ure with th­ese just-re­leased new mod­els de­spite their near-$200,000 price tags.

The BMW X5M, for all its sins, is the eas­ier one of the two to ex­plain. It’s a BMW X5 fam­ily SUV that’s been to cage­fight­ing school and learnt to have the re­flexes, stamina and bru­tal strength of a kick­boxer.

The BMW X6M (the SUV try­ing to dis­guise it­self with a coupe-shaped roof) is the slightly more un­hinged of the two.

It’s 10kg lighter be­cause BMW has chopped off the ex­cess fat at the back but the story doesn’t end there.

BMW en­gi­neers will tell you the X6M’s body might be only marginally lighter but the weight dis­tri­bu­tion is su­pe­rior; a lower cen­tre of grav­ity equals sharper han­dling.

What BMW mar­keters will tell you is much more in­ter­est­ing. Ap­par­ently BMW cre­ated the X6 (they’re twins un­der the skin, only the bod­ies are unique) be­cause the X5 was start­ing to be seen as “a bit mumsy”.

The BMW X6 bodystyle is sup­posed to tell the out­side world: “I don’t have kids. Se­ri­ously, have you seen the lack of space in the back of this thing? I am young, sin­gle and have no room in my life for grom­mies”.

That may be what the X6 bodystyle says about you, but what about this su­per-duper X6M?

“(BMW X6M own­ers) are the guy who wears the loud­est shirt, has the loud­est voice in the room, tells the loud­est jokes,” says the head of BMW Australia prod­uct plan­ning Shawn Tice­hurst. “They like to stand out in a crowd”.

At least this goes some way to ex­plain­ing why there is a 70:30 split in favour of the slightly more con­ven­tional look­ing X5M over the X6M.

Con­ven­tional look­ing? Only just. You see, BMW had a ma­jor prob­lem on its hands when it cre­ated so much power from its twin turbo 4.0-litre V8 — the most pow­er­ful en­gine BMW has ever fit­ted to a road car, let alone an SUV.

It gets a lit­tle hot un­der the col­lar when the driver ex­ploits its po­ten­tial.

The ter­ri­ble two­some each have four cool­ing ra­di­a­tors (two for the en­gine, one for the trans­mis­sion and an­other for the two tur­bocharg­ers nested in­side the V shape of the V8) and a mas­sive gap­ing bumper and grille mouth.

Air flow was such a pri­or­ity BMW didn’t have enough room for a small radar bea­con in the bumper that could be used for au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing or dis­tance-keep­ing cruise con­trol.

That said, there are plenty of other gad­gets to keep you amused.

For starters, the X5M and X6M let you choose be­tween three dif­fer­ent set­tings each for the steer­ing, trans­mis­sion, sus­pen­sion and ac­cel­er­a­tor.

In a move sure to de­light math­e­ma­ti­cians you can mix and match all of the above. For ex­am­ple: com­fort steer­ing and trans­mis­sion shifts, race ready throt­tle and mid­dle-of-theroad sus­pen­sion.

You can also store two of your favourite com­bi­na­tions on two but­tons on the steer­ing wheel to save you faffing about while on the move.

If you’re a tech geek or like driv­ing, do not leave the deal­er­ship be­fore be­ing shown by an ex­pert how this works. Not do­ing so would be like own­ing an iPhone to use it as a clock.

On the road both the X5M and X6M are epic. You will read re­views where jour­nal­ists think they can feel the dif­fer­ence. To be hon­est, I thought I could feel the dif­fer­ence too, but I’m sure it was a placebo ef­fect.

The re­al­ity is they both ac­cel­er­ate much quicker and cor­ner much more nim­bly than physics ought to al­low.

The brakes (50 per cent larger than be­fore) thank­fully are up to the task.

But I re­ally can’t get over the in­stant re­sponse and thun­der­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion, punc­tu­ated by a sub­tle “blat” from the ex­haust as you step up through the eight-speed au­to­matic.

The big­gest im­prove­ment is that it at least sounds like a V8

now, and not like a nasally six­cylin­der as the pre­vi­ous V8 did. But it still doesn’t sound as an­gry as a Mercedes AMG V8.

The ride has im­proved markedly, too, de­spite the mas­sive 21-inch wheels (the largest ever fit­ted ex-fac­tory on a BMW) thanks in part to a switch to regular tyres, a su­perb Miche­lin Su­per Sport tai­lored to the car.

The pre­vi­ous X5M and X6M mod­els ran run­flat tyres which had stiff side­walls and made their im­pact felt on your chi­ro­prac­tor bills.

There is a gi­ant space saver spare in the boot should you get a flat. Be care­ful not to get a punc­ture, though, as a new set of tyres is more than $4000.

Each model is be­tween 30kg and 40kg lighter than its pre­de­ces­sor, and at least 20kg of that is be­cause each wheel is 5kg lighter. The fin­ish­ing touch: the steer­ing wheel rim — be­hind the bulging leather grip — is made from su­perlightweight mag­ne­sium in an ef­fort to trim weight from this 2.2-tonne mon­ster.

VER­DICT

You could be for­given for think­ing the world doesn’t need a car like this — un­til you drive it. You’ll want to take the long way home ev­ery time.

The X6M is the head­turner of the duo, but most buy­ers favour the more con­ser­va­tive looks of the X5M

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