Test Driving the BMW X5 M and X6 M

Two large luxury SUVs with a twin-turbo V8 each, handed over to Bavaria’s high-performance M division gives a healthier supply of power

The funny thing with cars is, no matter how good you think one is, there’s someone who always thinks there’s more that can be done. Thankfully, that’s BMW’s philosophy too.

Let’s start with the basics, though. The X5 is a big car, and it was probably the first big off-road ready vehicle in the world that actually behaved like a car on the move. The new X5, a fun car by any standard, has been fettled by the M people and the result, the second-generation X5 M, is something anyone with the heart of a racer will enjoy.

Butch, beefy and very BMW, the X5 looks the part. The X5 M adds more racy elements, or rather takes away from anything that adds more weight and restricts aero. The front bumper and lower air dam have more gaping intakes and sport a sharper finish, and there’s a revised kidney with the M garnish. The new X6 M also gets similar treatment with a sportier front bumper and air dam.

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(Left) The X5 M is for those who need space, comfort, safety and practicality — and that M V8 — every day.
PICS/Sanjay Raikar

The new X5 M and X6 M are the second-generation M versions, with 575 PS. Of course, it’s more than just putting a more powerful engine in a car; it’s about setting up the car for dynamic performance in every aspect.

The seats in the X6 M are more supportive than in the X5 M
The seats in the X6 M are more supportive than in the X5 M

Thus, the X M twins get sportier suspension, adaptive damping and steering, as well as M Dynamic Mode (MDM) which limits the stability and traction control to allow for more spirited driving. Even with a running weight of 2.3 tonnes, the X5 M and X6 M are meant to be extremely sharp, agile, and belie their weight by a noticeable margin. So, how well do they do it?
We were at the Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) in Chennai to find out. First up was the X6 M. Still big, tall and well-built like its less powerful diesel twin, the 40d, the X6 M is remarkably comfortable, with the M sports seats being the major difference in the interior. Funnily enough, the pace car was an X6 xDrive 40d. Interesting.

Both the X5 M and the X6 M have an M TwinPower Turbo 4.4-litre V8 with high-precision petrol direct injection, tuned to produce 575 PS between 6,000 and 6,500 RPM, with a hefty 750 Nm of torque peaking from just 2,200 RPM and staying until 5,000. That’s enough for a claimed 0-100 km/h time of 4.2 seconds. The X6 M puts down the power well and makes disputing that claim very tough indeed. All that output goes through the eight-speed Steptronic automatic and xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive; making them the only M cars with it. The top speed is limited to 250 km/h.

The choice of three modes — Efficient,SportandSportPlus— separately configurable for the steering, suspension and engine response, together with the selectable shift types also makes for very sharp and precise handling. All in all, there is little to fault on track.

The X6 M gives you a commanding view of what lies ahead. Even so, you’re not really that high up and it’s very car-like to drive. Even in the long, tightening right-hander, the X6 M held its line well thanks to the smart xDrive system and had enough grip to power out, perfectly set up for entry into the next corner. The suspension, aided by advanced roll countering, does well to keep the fat rubber sticking to the ground, with the sport mode allowing for the best possible grip.

Next up, the X5 M. Same platform, driveline and mechanicals. Major differences being the seat height and feel. While the X5 M is sharp, the seats are not as supportive as the X6 M, and the added height makes going round corners more evident because human body-roll well exceeds that of the car. Let’s not forget, this is on track, and the X5 M is a magnificent option for those who need the space, comfort, safety and practicality — and that M V8 — every day. It can handle cities, highways and racetracks with aplomb and keep that smile plastered on your face, and that’s what BMW M are mostly about, aren’t they?

Claimed efficiency is 9.0 km/l combined, which isn’t half bad considering what they weigh, what their output is, and how they feel to drive. At Rs 1.55 crore for the X5 M and R1.6 crore for the X6 M (both ex-Delhi), they aren’t cheap. What’s important is that the M Division range just got two new exciting additions — as right as it can get considering balanced nutrition for a petrol-head.

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