Big, burly and so fast
BMW’s M division has seen fit to drop its 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 into some SUVs. Nile Bijoux checks them out.
The X5 M and X6 M are the biggest, beefiest vehicles BMW’s M division has to offer. New Zealand is only taking the full-fat Competition specification of the pair and we took them for a spin.
Make me an instant expert: what do I need to know?
This is what happens when M decides it has had enough of Audi and Mercedes-AMG hogging the German super-SUV spotlight for the past five minutes. The X5 M and X6 M are now in their third generation, and they’ve been duking it out with the RS Q8 and GLE 63 S for the past 11 or so years.
So which is the best BMW M-car again?
They represent the cream of the crop in their respective X-zones. The 5 is the normal boxy SUV shape and the 6 is the slopier ‘‘coupe-SUV’’, as it’s called.
Adding the M suffix means these family movers have had the kitchen sink thrown at them to make them as fast as possible.
Where did you drive it?
Our drive started in Auckland’s morning traffic before venturing east towards the windy roads of Maraetai and Clevedon. Here, we were able to sample what these sorts of vehicles will be doing most of their lives – going a bit too fast on roads a bit too bumpy.
Playing with the adjustable settings (you can change things like the engine and gearbox characteristics, suspension stiffness and traction control within the iDrive system) quickly revealed that Sport Plus suspension is far too stiff for public roads around Auckland.
Dialling it back to Sport means the shocks have enough give to absorb the harshest bumps, instead of bouncing occupants around the cabin.
Pushing the powertrain settings to their pointiest means feathering the throttle can be jerky but that’s sort of the point. This is, at heart, a really heavy track car. And no, chances are it won’t ever actually see a racetrack.
But it does mean that, should you want to, there’s a button that ratchets everything up to the max and makes you feel like a racing driver, discomfort and all.
Good thing too, because the east Auckland run led us right to the doorstep of Hampton Downs, where we set about doing some ‘‘acceleration and braking demonstrations’’ over a distance of about 200 metres.
Turns out, a 4.4-litre twinturbo V8 is quite a powerful donk, even in a 2.3-tonne SUV.
The X6 M is slightly lighter, tipping the scales at a claimed 2295kg, compared to the 2310kg X5 M, and as a result passed the speed trap at 138kmh, compared to 136kmh.
The scariest part of these cars isn’t the initial acceleration. It’s the fact that they just keep pulling, no matter what the revs are or which gear you’re in. Thankfully, the brakes are very good and brought everything back to a stop in just over 50 metres from 130kmh-plus.
A few hot laps later to confirm that these are still hefty vehicles and don’t take too kindly to stomping the loud pedal before the wheel is straightened and it was back on the highway to Auckland.
Dial everything back down and the result is a comfy, luxurious SUV, though the suspension is still quite hard and the low-profile tyres generate some road roar.
What’s the pick of the range?
In my opinion, the X5 M. Yes, the Sixxer is lighter and therefore a smidgen faster, but the SUVcoupe styling just doesn’t gel with me. You also get quite a bit more boot space in the 5 – 650 litres compared to 580 litres (expandable to 1870L and 1530L respectively), the sloping roof hurting the X6’s storage. However, the swoopy X6 M will still have its buyers.
Why would I buy it?
You want a $220k five-seat SUV that can also (sort of) handle the track.
Why wouldn’t I buy it?
You can get better track-oriented cars for less, like the forthcoming M3 and M4 refreshes or the older M2, and better SUVs for less. Chances are, if you’re spending this sort of money, you probably already have multiple cars. Why not have a comfy X5 30d as the daily and a hardcore M2 for those sunny Sundays?
The V8 brawlers known as the X5 M and X6 M.