Review: BMW’s new X5 M and X6 M are Magnificent sports twins
Pretoria - Another day, another SUV you may think.
This pair, however, are very different from your average run of the mill family vehicles because there’s an M moniker that makes them a bit special.
Meet BMW’s X5 M Competition and X6 M Competition twins which it respectively describes as a Sports Activity Vehicle and a Sports Activity Coupé. Either way, sports is very much what they are about because under the impressive exteriors beats the same heart as the M5.
South Africa will again only be getting the Competition versions and believe me, that’s not a bad thing.
Under the bonnets is a 4.4-litre V8 twin-turbo that pushes out a hulking 460kW, a 37kW improvement over the previous model, and maximum torque of 750Nm.
All of that power is transferred via an eight-speed M Steptronic transmission with BMW’s Drivelogic and the M xDrive all-wheel-drive system with a rear-biased set-up. It’s fitted with an Active M Differential to optimise traction and dynamics by sending power to the rear wheels as needed - and trust me, when you’re giving it a heavy right foot, it’s needed.
So with that in mind, the pair manage to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 3.8 seconds, 0.4 seconds faster than their predecessors. It’s limited to a top speed of 250km/h and when you start driving hard it feels as though it would gladly keep going until there’s no more tar left to chase down.
Both are fitted with M suspension and drivers can adjust settings for dampers, engine, brakes and steering. Two individually composed overall set-ups can be selected using M buttons on the steering wheel.
There’s just one thing. The sound. As the eco army creeps more and more into our visceral vices, gone is the loud snap, crackle and pop, taken away by legislation. Instead there’s the meaty, pleasing grunt of a V8 also piped in through the car’s speakers.
It’s not hard to tell the difference between the two from the outside, the X5 M with its more box-like shape and the X6 M with its distinctive sloping roof. While the X5 presents a traditional SUV appearance favoured by larger families that need more rear space, my preference is the X6 with its sleeker lines and more aggressive stance.
Around the tight Zwartkops Raceway, its lower profile handles corners exceedingly well and here the engine and gearbox combination form an almost perfect combination, especially when driving hard out of the bends.
Large air intakes, the signature BMW kidney grille with double bars, M gills on the front side panels, a rear spoiler, rear apron with diffuser elements and an exhaust system with two sets of twin tailpipes complete the design. Both stand impressively on 21-inch alloys in front and 22-inch at the rear.
Our first drive was in the X5 M Competition. I know it’s a top-end luxury BMW, but you can’t help but be impressed by the interior. It’s what would probably in days gone by be called decadent.
Merino leather and soft-touch surfaces abound, and electric heated seats can be set to perfectly mould around you. Then there's BMW’s live cockpit professional with satnav, intelligent personal assistant - which managed to ask us how it can help during normal conversation - and a head-up display with M-Specific readouts make the cockpit in both variations a place you want to spend more time in than is strictly necessary.
The only distraction was wind noise from the side mirrors even at the speed limit and, despite it having been around for a while now, I still can’t get used to the digital rev counter facing the “wrong” way around.
It took a while to get to grips with the digital settings where you can choose between road sport and track or individualise to your liking, but once you’ve spent some time with the cars, it should become second nature.
Fitted with adaptive cruise control, we had an interesting encounter with Tshwane’s finest when he pulled us over for doing 96km/h in an 80 zone. We showed him clearly that it had been set at 80km/h and proceeded to explain adaptive cruise control as best we could through face masks.
He insisted that his device had been calibrated only last month but we eventually convinced him that a brand new Bavarian tech-loaded machine probably wouldn’t be over-reading by 19km/h.
South Africa bought the third-most M cars in the world, compared to overall sales figures last year, and no doubt both the BMW X5 M Competition and X6 M Competition will strike a chord with buyers - and for good reason.
They’re not cheap, especially in an economy struggling to keep afloat. But again, not everyone is suffering that fate in a niche market.
I’ve always maintained though that X5 xDrive30d equipped with an off-road package presents serious value in that segment. You have space, decent enough performance, respectable consumption, towing is a pleasure and you manage to see sunsets in difficult to reach places far from the madding crowd.
The X5 M Competition is priced at R2 632 258 and the X6 M Competition R2 733 420.
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