First Drive Review: 2015 BMW X5 M & X6 M

  • Oct 22, 2015
[caption id="attachment_18405" align="alignnone" width="1024"]BMW X6 M and X5 M Track Test BMW X6 M and X5 M Track Test[/caption]

Regardless of how terribly dull or excellent you were in high-school, odds are that you might know a thing or two about some basic laws of physics. That’s because everyone is made to learn, or forced to mug up, these lessons as a student. The reason why our minds are fed with these intriguing and complex mathematical expressions so early in life is to make us understand that certain phenomenons or rules of the nature cannot be defied no matter how long our species stays on this planet. For example, you must have learnt that mass remains constant everywhere; ice cannot sink in water; gravity is not a force; pigs can’t fly, and if you’re into cars you must also know that SUVs can’t behave like sportscars on racetracks!

At BMW, a bunch of overzealous engineers thought they’d like to bend these rules. So, back in 2009 they gave it back in the face of physics as their highly acclaimed motorsport division introduced high-performance ‘M’ derivatives of the high-riding X5 and X6 models. To driving purists, that’s a ridiculous idea to even think of, but for the bright lads at BMW M GmbH it must have been a typical fun-day-at-work scenario when they approved of this project.

Also read: BMW X5 M and X6 M launched in India

[caption id="attachment_18388" align="alignnone" width="1024"]BMW X6 M and X5 M launched in India BMW X6 M and X5 M have been launched in India[/caption]

The project gave birth to the X5 M and X6 M, making them the first all-wheel drive M models since the inception of BMW’s in-house motorsport division in 1972. While the first generation ‘M’ iterations of both the vehicles were not brought into India, BMW has now launched the second-gen models of the X5 M and X6 M in one go in the country.

A day prior to the launch, BMW flew a select few journalists into Chennai, and asked us to pound these hefty beasts around the Madras racetrack along with their other ‘M’ siblings available in India - the M3 sedan, M4 Coupe, M5 sedan and M6 Gran Coupe. While we had a heck of a lot of fun thrashing all the cars around the MMSC racetrack, we were quite impressed, and mostly surprised, by the sheer lunacy and the breakneck speeds achieved by the new M duo. All physics lessons were immediately blurred into oblivion...

Engine, Transmission and Performance

[caption id="attachment_18456" align="alignnone" width="971"]Powering the newly launched M duo is a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 Powering the newly launched M duo is a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8[/caption]

To make the new BMW X5 M and X6 M stay relevant around a racetrack, both the vehicles continue to feature the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol unit. In the new models, the V8 motor has been tweaked and it now comes with a significant bump in power and torque figures. Maximum power output is at 575PS, which is 12PS more than the earlier version, while the peak-torque has been increased by 70Nm to 750Nm. The old models’ six-speed automatic gearbox has also been junked in favour of a new eight-speed steptronic transmission, feeding power reserves from the engine to all four wheels. BMW claims the four-wheel drive system can send up to 100 per cent of drive to either axle.

When you put the aforementioned power and torque figures to work, the results are scintillating to say the least. Stomp on the throttle pedal and irrespective of these cars’ near 2.3 tonnes of bulk, both the X5 M and X6 M dart ahead with sportscar-like urgency. Performance claims suggest the duo will hit 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds, meaning they are a tenth quicker than the M5 sedan! Sensibly enough, the top speed is limited to 250km/h.

[caption id="attachment_18410" align="alignnone" width="1024"]The straightline speed of the X6 M is simply mind-boggling The straightline speed of the X6 M is simply mind-boggling[/caption]

Even though the MMSC’s tighter layout did not allow us to exploit these cars’ straight-line performance to the max, 150-160km/h on the heads-up display was clocked effortlessly on the longest straight of the racetrack. The performance is simply mind boggling, and when you are sitting so high off the ground, it is actually a gross assault on the senses!

Another remarkable highlight of the twin-turbo powertrain is its near undetectable turbo-lag as the power delivery is almost instantaneous. This could be attributed to the linear torque delivery of the engine since even at idle rpm there’s in excess of 500Nm available on tap. As the revs go past the 2,200rpm mark, the peak-torque of 750Nm comes gushing in and stays put till about 5,000rpm. The peak power is produced between 6,000 - 6,500rpm, and that’s when you feel a sudden kick from the motor before the needle finally slap bangs the limiter at the 7,000rpm redline. The exhaust note could have been louder though. It’s not that it does not bark enough, but compared to the AMGs and RS models from its rival brands, the vocals of the M cars are a bit subdued.

[caption id="attachment_18440" align="alignnone" width="1024"]BMW X6 M gearlever BMW X6 M gearlever[/caption]

The eight-speed steptronic gearbox needs a special mention, too. Despite being a torque-converter, the gearshifts in sequential ‘SPORT’ mode using paddle-shifters felt quite aggressive as it instantaneously responds to driver inputs. In some aspects, I’d actually prefer the new steptronic transmission over dual-clutch automatic offered in other M models since it can downshift cogs and blip the throttle in an equally rushed manner, albeit a lot less violently. In ‘D’ mode it’s relaxed and silk smooth to operate, but robs you of some fun.

The cooling system of the X5 M and X6 M has also been upgraded by incorporating a newly devised combination of low- and high-temperature radiators. The high-performance cooling system lived up to BMW’s claims since even after a whole day of constant abuse by us over-enthusiastic lot, both the cars maintained their cool - quite literally.

Ride and Handling

[caption id="attachment_18407" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Accompanying the X6 M and X5 M were M3 sedan. M5 sedan, M6 Gran Coupe and M4 Coupe on the track Accompanying the X6 M and X5 M were M3 sedan. M5 sedan, M6 Gran Coupe and M4 Coupe on the track[/caption]

Say what you may but this is one department where BMW has always pipped the competition, especially on the handling front. And for BMW cars that come with M badging, well, that’s when things get even more magical. So, does the newly launched pair do justice to the M badge? Given BMW’s decision to let us drive the X5 M and X6 M back to back with other M cars (that too around a highly technical racetrack) is a brave move in itself! That’s because cars like the M4, M5 et al are not just the best performance cars that BMW makes, they are in fact engineering masterpieces in terms of pure driving dynamics.

[gallery ids="18416,18414,18413,18412,18404,18390,18397,18437,18446,18433,18398,18400" orderby="rand"]

As we have already established in the engine and performance section, the V8 powertrain is a gem in its own right. However, that is not enough to help these behemoth of cars keep up with their low-slung M siblings around a racetrack. At least not around a tight layout marred with a coarse and grit-ridden track surface as of the MMSC. However, like BMW points out, the M-Division does not serve half-baked attempts. The chassis and suspension components of the both the models had to go under the knife so as to qualify as ‘M’ cars.

[caption id="attachment_18430" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Mixed-size tyres along with 20-inch M wheels look phenomenal Mixed-size tyres along with 20-inch M wheels look phenomenal[/caption]

Upgrades over regular models include a firmer suspension system with anti-roll bars, anti-dive and anti-squat (rear-axle). Both the cars also come fitted with automatic self-leveling air suspension at rear as standard. To minimize understeer, improve ‘lateral stability’ and traction, the front and rear wheel tracks have been have significantly increased using mixed-size fat tyres. The front axle employs 285/40 R20 Y rubber whereas the rear wheels come shod with 325/35 R20 Y as standard fitment.

Between the X5 M and X6 M, I got my hands on the latter first. But that doesn’t make much of a difference since both the cars are almost identical to drive. The drive position is commanding, the seats are comfortable, visibility all-around is brilliant, the interior feels every bit special with all the leather touches...but wait, I was on a racetrack! And the only bit that mattered then was to ensure that all the components work in the most aggressive way possible. Thankfully, all of that can be done at the press of a button (or two, actually) placed around the gear lever.

[caption id="attachment_18425" align="alignnone" width="1024"]You can choose damper and steering settings at the press of a button here You can choose damper and steering settings at the press of a button here[/caption]

You can choose between three settings - Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus - each for the dampers and steering. As you’d have guessed, I dialed up the most extreme ‘Sport Plus’ for both and elected ‘Sport’ manual mode in the gearbox settings.

Next on the options list is DSC or traction control settings. It has three modes on offer- DSC ON, MDM and DSC OFF. Simply put, when it’s ON, the system does not allow you to fool around like a lunatic. It will brake automatically when it detects understeer or oversteer. The MDM or M Dynamic Mode lets you have some more fun allowing a fair bit of wheel slip. But act foolish behind the wheel, the DSC will kick back in and take control of the vehicle. In the DSC OFF mode you are left on to your own. The system will not intervene unless there are some significant shifts in ‘lateral acceleration’. We were asked to keep it in ‘ON’ all the time since BMW wanted all of their cars back in one piece. We sincerely obliged.

[caption id="attachment_18394" align="alignnone" width="1024"]BMW X6 M in action BMW X6 M in action[/caption]

Before driving the high-riding M duo, I was able to clock some hot laps in the M3 and M4 Coupe to get myself acquainted with the track and its tricky sections. Still, jumping out of the M4 Coupe and then setting off in these models was an eye-opener on many counts- both in good and bad ways.

First off, the raised height and immense proportions of the latest M cars were clearly felt as I turned in the wheel around a corner enthusiastically.The tweaked suspension geometry, all-wheel drive system and clever electronics ensure that the X6 M does not lose its composure. Body actions were very well controlled with minimal roll, but then, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there’s an ongoing battle being fiercely fought between the laws of motion and road-holding components of the car. Run too hot into a corner like in a sportscar, and you will be understeering wide. However, before you try to save your face by correcting the lines, the electronic aids would have already sorted it for you (remember, the DSC is ON).

[caption id="attachment_18381" align="alignnone" width="1024"]The BMW X5 M feels a wee-bit better around corners than the X6 M The BMW X5 M feels a wee-bit better around corners than the X6 M[/caption]

The steering is direct and offers delicious feedback. The Pirelli P Zero tyres on both ends offer excellent grip and breaking traction will need pure skill (or none at all!) on the driver’s part. Braking performance is excellent, too.

All things considered, the BMW X6 M and X5 M are phenomenal cars to drive for their body type. I must also add that while both the cars offer identical performance in a straight-line, the X5 M felt a wee-bit more composed and stable around corners. Only a wee-bit though...


[caption id="attachment_18418" align="alignnone" width="1024"]BMW X5 M BMW X5 M[/caption]

Compared to their respective counterparts, the X5 M and X6 M have a 10mm lowered ride height and a wider track courtesy mix-sized and fatter rubber at front and rear. The result of that is a hunkered down and quite intimidating stance. Apart from that, you are likely to have trouble differentiating the X5 M from X6 M if you view them dead on from the front since both the vehicles share the same front-end design.

Both the vehicles also get larger kidney grilles with twin-slats so as to allow large volume of cooling air to the engine, transmission and front brakes. In addition to the familiar X6-derived LED headlamps, both vehicles also feature four large air-intakes and flaps to channel surplus air to the motor and reduce lift at higher speeds, respectively.

[caption id="attachment_18391" align="alignnone" width="1024"]BMW X6 M BMW X6 M[/caption]

Exclusive M-Specific style elements like exterior mirror with twin-stalks, side gills with respective model badge, massive 20-inch M alloy wheels (21-inch optional) all around with dark metallic brake calipers (front), rear diffuser and M quad-tailpipe exhaust system complete the list of visual/functional add-ons on the newly launched M models. The X6 M also gets a rear spoiler which helps in reducing rear-axle lift during hard cornering.


[caption id="attachment_18423" align="alignnone" width="1024"]BMW X6 M interior BMW X6 M interior[/caption]

Step inside and the interior of both the cars follow a sporty theme with all the ‘M’ bits now dominating the cabin. Like any other BMW M model, the new models also have a cabin layout that is ergonomically focused towards the driver. There’s an abundance of M monikers inside the cabin as you get a chunky M leather steering wheel with aluminium paddle shifters clubbed with M gearshift lever, M instrument cluster with gear-display, system status, drive-mode display, compass, etc. It is also equipped with a M-specific heads-up display that shows speed, selected gear, engine rpm and shift-lights.

[caption id="attachment_18431" align="alignnone" width="1024"]BMW X5 M interior BMW X5 M interior[/caption]

While stepping in or stepping out, the door sills with model badges at both front and rear along with ‘M’ embossed leather seats further remind you of the maddening amount of horsepower lurking under the bonnet.

The X5 M and X6 are not sportscars, and thankfully, neither pretends to be one. That’s because given the firepower and performance each of these cars pack, they will be smoking most of the sporstcars black and blue, be it on public roads or at racetracks. And while most of the sportscars will have to be taken utter care of under normal Indian driving conditions with roads that are riddled with potholes and speed-breakers, the X5 M and X6 M will simply glide over these undulations with no problems whatsoever!

[caption id="attachment_18451" align="alignnone" width="971"]BMW X5 M and X6 M BMW X5 M and X6 M[/caption]

Which one to pick between the two then? If you just intend to scare the living daylights of road-users or lesser mortals in their sportscars during trackdays, get yourself the X5 M. However, if you want to look ridiculously cool and uncivil while doing all that, we suggest you get yourself the whole deal and take the X6 M!

The X5 M is priced at Rs 1.55 crore, whereas the X6 M could be yours for Rs 1.60 crore (prices are ex-showroom, New Delhi and Mumbai).


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