The new third-generation, Competition-spec BMW X5 M and X6 M was all set to be launched just as the nation-wide lockdown was announced in late March 2020. So customers had to wait over a month or two to take delivery of their new hyper-Sports Activity Vehicles from BMW. Unofficial sources within BMW have told us that, such was the pent-up demand for this magnificent performance vehicle that some 40 examples have already been sold since the lockdown restrictions were relaxed to allow controlled motor trade!
Those figures may not seem huge, but when one considers that pricing of the new X5 M Competition and X6 M Competition ranges between R2,63-million and R2,73-million, you begin to grasp some idea of just how powerful the BMW M badge is in this country!
The Numbers: Power, Torque, Acceleration
Talking of numbers, we might as well get to the meat of the M matter, and detail the key numbers regarding these two vehicles. Incidentally, in case you have been snoozing for the past decade or so, the X5 M is the regular 5-door SUV, while the X6 M is essentially the same vehicle but with a coupe-like silhouette, giving it less load space but a much racier profile.
The latest version of the 4,4-litre twin-turbocharged V8, developed by BMW’s M Division in Munich, produces a new high of 460 kW and 750 Nm of torque. This is sufficient to give this huge vehicle hypercar-like acceleration. The 0-100 km/h sprint time is dealt with in a mere 3,8 seconds, which is some 0.4 seconds quicker than the Previous X5 and X6 M model. Top speed is in excess of 280 km/h
The new models in more detail
The X5M and X6 M can be easily distinguished from each other. Apart from the direct silhouettes from side-on, there are number of detail differences. The X5 M has a smaller, blacked-out variation of the larger new grille first seen here on the X7, while the X6 has a more stealth-like grille treatment, slightly smaller in size. From the rear, apart from the X6 M’s sloping rear glass, there is a rear spoiler on the tail, while the X5 has a high-mounted spoiler mounted at the top of the boot lid.
Both have bold-new wheel designs and it is interesting that the wheel sizes on both vehicles differ between the front and rear axles. The rear wheels are 22 inches in diameter, while the front wheels are of 21-inch in diameter. The rear wheels are also wider with 315/30 R22 rubber fitted, while the front tyres have a 295/35 R21 sizing.
The X5 M and X6 M are only available here in Competition spec.
Speaking at this week’s media launch, the BMW Driving Experiences’s brand specialist and race-driver, Genarro Bonafede, praised the BMW South Africa product planners for opting only for the top-spec Competition versions of the X5 M and X6 M. He said that customer research had shown that in this category of car buyer, most customers would opt for the very top specification available.
The Competition versions give sportier suspension settings, and all BMW M cars now come with the new M-Compound brakes, which still use steel discs but have much better heat-dispensing properties. The M Competition spec also sees a very sporting interior used, with special sports seats. These are multifunction seats with BMW Individual fine-grain Merino leather upholstery.
In the new X5 and X6 M there are special buttons on the steering wheel to change the set-up on engine response, dampers, steering, the M xDrive all-wheel-drive system, and the braking system. Drivers can also easily select Road, Sport or Track configurations, with appropriate suspension stiffness and traction control intervention for the specific modes. The anti-roll bars on the new M SAVs are also “active”, offering varying degrees of stiffness according to conditions. And keeping those high-centre-of-gravity vehicles firmly planted on all four wheels.
Quick track impressions
At the media launch in the second week of July at Zwartkops raceway, small groups of motoring journalists were invited in a strictly-controlled, social-distancing sequence to get a brief track and road experience of the new M cars. Strict hand-sanitising and mask rules were imposed, as well as social distancing at all times.
I drove the X5 M Competition first. Being familiar with the Zwartkops track I was immediately impressed by the way the big X5 turned into the first hairpin after exiting the pits. This X5 (like its X6 sibling) is a big heavy car. Both have an official un-laden weight of 2 295 kg in M form, and the way this car easily hit the apex of the tight corner made a huge impression.
Speaking to some of the BMW driving instructors at the track, they said one of the big factors in this new-found agility was the fitment of small wheels at the front and larger wheels at the rear.
On the gently-curving section between the hairpin and the first high-speed sweep, the X5 M built speed effortlessly and massively; yet I was impressed that there was no serious drama in the way that 460 kW was applied to the tarmac. It was easy to modulate the throttle to avoid any wheel slip on the exit of the hairpin and the brakes were impressive for hauling the big car down in speed for the approach to the fast right-hander.
I felt a distinct shift in power transference between the front and rear axles as I turned into the sweep, where my entry speed was perhaps a shade too quick. That power transference instantly tightened the X5’s line, and I was able to squeeze on the power with no fear of running over the left-hand curve on exit. Then it was a great big blast up the hill to the Zwartkops Clubhouse section.
Again the X5 impressed hugely with the way it turned into the corner. One would expect some inertia wash from such a big car, but it simply tucked its nose in, made the apex, and made dealing with the second, fast-approach right-hander child’s play.
The engine sound
I loved the V8 rumble from within the cockpit. Funnily enough, from certain angles when listening to the car from the outside, the engine sound is akin to that of a four-cylinder, and this is due to the special cross-over exhaust system BMW uses on its X5 M. From some angles, by-standers can still hear that gorgeous V8 rumble, but from others, it has a rather flat sound.
Out on the road
After a product presentation, where all the delegates sat with masks affixed and keeping prescribed social-distancing gaps between the chairs, it was time to experience this huge 5-seater sports car on the road. We had the chance to drive both the X5 and X6, and it has to be said that dynamically it is almost impossible to differentiate between the cars. Choose the one that best suits your sense of style or practicality.
On the road I found the Sport suspension setting a bit too harsh for bumps, and felt that overall the car was much more composed in the normal Road setting. Acceleration in such a big car is mind-blowing, and one of the factors you have to keep in mind is that, because you are perched relatively high in this Sports Activity Vehicle, it is easy for a sense of remoteness to road conditions to set in. Speed builds so quickly that you may often be travelling much quicker than you think you are. Fortunately, that braking system, with four callipers up front and two at the rear, is superb and scrubs off speed effortlessly. And high-seed directional stability is exceptional.
This BMW is definitely right up there with the likes of the top-spec Porsche Cayenne Turbo in terms of its effortless ability to cruise at high speeds. And in terms of responses to driver inputs, I think the BMW X5 M and X6 M may be the sharpest of any SUV that I have driven. One would have to conduct a back-to-back comparison test to be certain, but I can’t think of any other 2,2-ton SUV that feels as nimble as this one.
That responsive handing is perhaps even more impressive as an overall impression than its huge horsepower offering! Nice one, BMW.
By Stuart Johnston