What’s hot: Totally awesome power and performance, race-car grip, a technological tour-de-force.
What’s not: Tight rear seat in X6 M, drinks like a sailor if driven hard, no ‘city-stop’ function.
X-FACTOR: Bone crushing performance and the on-road presence of a bull - the X6 M and X5 M will be loved and loathed in equal measure.
Vehicle style: High-performance premium SUV
Price: X5 M - $185,900 | X6 M - $194,700
Engine/trans: 4.4 litre twin-turbo V8; 8-spd M Steptronic sports automatic
Power/torque: 423kW @ 6000rpm | 750Nm @ 2200-5000rpm
Fuel consumption claimed: 11.1 l/100km | tested: 19.1 l/100km
These twins, one whacked with a brick at birth, are packing the most powerful engine you will find in a series production BMW M car. A twin-turbo V8 marvel hammering our 750Nm and 423kW.
That’s more power and torque than you’ll find in the revered M5, and more, incidentally, than in any other SUV you can buy in this country.
As a point of reference, those power and torque figures are as near as damn to exactly the same as the first-gen V12 Lamborghini Murciélago.
But these are masterful cars, in every way. Each, X6 M or X5 M, is considerably more than just a muscular ‘powered-up’ SUV.
Driving them is like flying, a laser-guided bombing raid searing the tarmac, and changing direction as if the 2.3 tonne sitting over the wide, fat 21-inch alloys simply does not exist.
And like twins, though each is slightly different in character and personality, I can’t pick between them. The X6 M is supposed to “not make any sense”, but how can you not love a car that drives like this?
And the X5 M, a family bus with the performance of a supercar? It too is irresistible; with a race car dynamism that is nothing like an SUV, and an experience that can only be found at the wheel.
We hammered them both through Tasmania, top to bottom and in-between, two days of relentless pursuit.
If there are flaws in the way they drive or shortcomings in the way they pound those Newton metres to the road, we didn’t find them.
- Merino leather upholstery, carbon fibre highlights (or aluminium)
- Heated driver and passenger front seats with multi-function electric seat adjustment
- Automatic air-con with four-zone climate control
- Anthracite roof liner and leather instrument panel trim
- High-resolution 10.25-inch colour screen display
- Reversing camera, surround-view, park distance control
- DAB+ radio, USB audio interface, voice control system, smartphone connectivity
- Programmable head-up display (HUD)
- Premium HarmonKardon surround-sound system
- Cruise control, auto stop/start function, brake energy regeneration
- Standard premium satellite navigation with real-time traffic information
- Automatic tailgate, remote central locking
- Adaptive LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and a host of premium safety technologies
Leather everywhere, even without the optional ‘full leather’ package; both the X5 M and X6 M drip with quality and premium surfaces.
The seats are simply superb: electrically adjustable - even under-thigh and for the upper back - they are sumptuously trimmed in fine-grained Merino leather.
They grip in all the right places and provide just the right support for a sporting drive. My larger, taller driving companion and I had no trouble quickly changing seats and getting set comfortably at the wheel.
And around central Tasmania’s beautiful, sometimes tight, sometimes sweeping mountain roads - and through a number of legs of Targa - we found them effortlessly comfortable even after long hours of intense driving.
It is expected now in a modern premium car, but the communications platform and entertainment systems are first class.
The HarmonKardon sound system will banish the rude noises of the hoi polloi, and the easily navigated sat-nav sits in a crystal clear high-res screen.
The switchgear for the intelligent drive settings and the various transmission and steering modes is placed right at the fingertips, on the wheel and on the centre console, and it too is easily nutted out.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel is simply superb. Electrically adjusted, it is just the right size and provides just the right feel for the road.
The wooden numbness of BMW’s first electric-steering systems is now gone, and you will love the way the X6 M and X5 M steering feels on the road.
In the X5 M, there is ample room for the legs of rear-seat passengers, and they too sit in cosseting, beautifully shaped leather.
The X6 M is a tad tighter: it has the same legroom but the flattened beetle-back roofline intrudes on head-space.
The boot in both is wide and deep and, with 650 litres (X5 M) and 550 litres (X6 M, rear seats in place) easily capable of swallowing multiple golf-bags. The X5 M comes with a sliding tie-down system, absent on the X6 M.
Each has a 2.9 tonne towing capacity (braked trailer) should you wish to terrify the neighbours, or your horse, by hitching a caravan or horse float to either, and 750kg (unbraked).
ON THE ROAD
- 4.4 litre multi-valve V8 with twin twin-scroll turbo chargers
- 423kW @ 6000-6500rpm; 750Nm @ 2200-5000rpm
- 8-spd M Steptronic transmission with selectable ‘drivelogic’ modes
- Suspension - front: double-joint sprung strut axle with negative steering roll radius
- Rear - integral rear axle with air suspension, auto self-levelling, with anti-dive, anti-squat
- Brakes: front, six piston fixed-caliper vented discs; rear, six-piston floating caliper discs
- Steering: Electric power steering with M-Specific ‘servotronic’ function
Under the bonnet and below the floor of each of these cars is a mechanical tour de force.
They are immensely powerful, immensely safe in the way they grip the road, and equally immensely enjoyable at the wheel.
Suspension, transmission, steering; all are configurable through Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes, and each can be configured independently.
In other words, you can dial up ‘Comfort’ on the suspension, while putting the transmission into the angriest mode.
The configurable nature, and the way it changes the responsiveness and ‘feel’ of the dynamics, is that these cars can be driven as docile as a puppy on a lead, or you can release the hobs of hell.
And yes, the gates of hell do open if you tap the shoulder of the 4.4 litres of V8 and twin-scroll twin-turbos under the X5 M and X6 M’s bullish snout.
With 750Nm and 423kW, the power off the line is face-melting and the singing rising bellow from the 4.4 litres a sheer neckhair-tingling joy.
All of that torque unloads in a hammer-blow. Each of these twins positively bolts - the X5 M and X6 M will scorch past 100km/h in a matching time of just 4.2 seconds.
These are very rapid cars.
And in the angriest Sport+ setting, each gear shift of the eight-speed transmission is accompanied with a rapid rippling volley - like T-Rex farting at full gallop (ok, we’re guessing) - and a thump at the shoulder blades with each surge of acceleration.
AWD down below, traction is biased 70:30 to the rear.
Select ‘full beserk’ mode, and the traction control releases the rear - not entirely, it will still catch the ham-fisted or an errant rush of blood - but enough to use the power to bring the back around while you think about lining up the next corner.
Turn-in is electric, each can be placed with laser precision into a line through an apex, and each will absolutely spear out of it. The grip, and the way the X5 M and X6 M get the power down, simply defies logic.
These, both, are astonishing performance machines.
What, then, at the wheel, are the differences between them? Well, very little it has to be said.
The X6 M is perhaps slightly more stable on a winding road; it is fractionally lighter, and lower, and seems to tuck-in a little more tightly.
It may have just been the differences in the stretches of road, but we felt more ‘aware’ of the ‘square box’ shape, and higher centre of gravity in the X5 M. (I won’t put the house on that though, they feel so much the same.)
Our fuel consumption was a woeful 19.1 l/100km. At one stage it rose to 20.7 l/100km. But this is the worst it can be: we were hammering these cars without let-up all day.
Whether you will achieve the claimed 11.1 l/100km will depend on your driving, but it will need a light foot.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Yes, there is something supernatural - the "scale of dragon” and “tooth of wolf” thing - about the mind-enveloping performance engineered into these two new ‘M cars’ from BMW, the astonishing X5 M and X6 M.
They grip the road so well, scorch its surface, and turn so sublimely, that even the briefest drive will leave you intoxicated.
In the more practical X5 M (if there isn’t something of a logical impossibility in the notion of such performance and that word “practical”) it is hard to imagine a more complete and engrossing car.
After all, in this car, you pile the family and the dog on board, drive them in cosseting safety and comfort to the race track, then line up on the grid, blow nearly everything into the weeds off the line, and clean-up the rest on the first corner.
And, incidentally, BMW has engineered them to withstand the rigours of the track. That’s what all that cooling, the race-track capable oil-supply and race car engineering is all about.
Sure, there won’t be change from $200k once you put either of these on the road (and the X6 M slightly dearer), but these cars are - in the purest sense - bargain buying at the moment.
The M5 is quite a bit more, and the closest similarly-powered Porsche Cayenne, the 4.8 litre twin-turbo, is around $50k more.
Most of us will never afford, nor ever justify, such a purchase (I would need to rob six banks to even contemplate it).
But, if you’re among the lucky few, BMW has given you the ultimate SUV.
Choose either wicked twin, the X5 M ‘family bus’ or the slightly deranged X6 M, and you will be driving home in one of the finest cars money can buy.
By the pricking of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- BMW X5 sDrive25d -$82,900
- BMW X5 xDrive25d -$87,900
- BMW X5 xDrive30d - $99,900
- BMW X5 xDrive35i - $106,900
- BMW X5 xDrive40d - $115,900
- BMW X5 xDrive50i - $133,900
- BMW X5 M50d - $147,900
- BMW X5 M - $185,900
- BMW X6 xDrive30d - $115,400
- BMW X6 xDrive35i - $120,700
- BMW X6 xDrive40d - $128,400
- BMW X6 xDrive50i - $151,600
- BMW X6 M50d - $157,900
- BMW X6 M - $194,700