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BMW X6 M and X5 M - First Drive

What is it?

BMW X6 M and X5 M - First Drive

The ‘M’ badges on these two cars are a bit confusing. In my head, a BMW with an M emblem stands for supercar performance and handling in a subtle looking family friendly body. A brief glance at the X5M and X6M makes you think, how in the world both these fat and intimidating SUVs will justify being  sporty or fun to drive. But on closer inspection there are hints at what’s cooking under the skin. The large front air intakes and bigger kidney grille gives both these cars an added sporty element and in profile the large beautifully crafted wheels dominate. The X6 M looks even more sporty when viewed in profile thanks to the coupe-like roofline. At the rear the trademark M four-tailpipe exhaust, the sportscar-like diffuser and the fat rear tyres make them look intimidating even when standing still. But it’s under the bonnet that the hidden party trick of any M vehicle lies. The V8 motors in these sporty SUVs displace 4.4-litres and have more than 550bhp on tap. So have the M division pulled off a near impossible task of making the Hulk do ballet? If they have, then we will end up having a pair of practical SUVs that can rival sportscars on pace.

BMW X6 M and X5 M - First Drive

How is it on the inside?

BMW X6 M - First Drive

Climb into these high riding SUVs and you are greeted by familiar looking cabins. Up front, in both these cars, the space is fantastic and there’s enough headroom, legroom and width. The sporty front seats have wide range of adjustments that allows you to find an ideal driving position with ease. The seats are also finished in fine-grain Merino leather with contrast stitching and they also sport an M badge in the back rests. Both these cars have a similar cabin as compared to the standard car. But to help them stand out BMW has added M leather steering wheel with gearshift paddles, Head-Up display, door sill plates with M logo and a bespoke M gearshift lever.

BMW X6 M - First Drive

And it’s not just the seats and the upholstery that brag the M badge, but there is also an M- spec instrument cluster that displays loads of information. The centre console boasts of an iDrive screen which is controlled via the round knob located next to the gearshift lever. The cabin is ergonomically friendly with minimal buttons scattering the cabin. Moving to the rear while the X5 has a very comfortable seat with loads of space, the same can’t be said of the X6. Due to the tapering roof-line BMW had to scoop out the cabin roof to allow as much headroom as possible. But there’s no getting away from the fact that anyone of above-average height will probably feel cramped, especially given the X6’s small rear windows. Even the rearward visibility through that small rear windshield is heavily restricted which makes reversing and parking a nightmare.

BMW X5 M - First Drive

How does it drive?

BMW X6 M - First Drive

Like in any fast car, the main focus in the X5 M and X6 M is on their engine. Both these SUVs are powered by a 4.4-litre twin-turbo 567bhp V8 engine. Now that is a very impressive figure and make these SUVs the most powerful on sale in India.

These figures truly come to life as soon as you bury the throttle pedal, which we did on our brief drive at the Irungattukottai Race Track in Chennai. Thumping 750Nm of torque from as low as 2200rpm, these BMWs just take off with a loud burble from the V8 and with you deeply buried in the well-contoured driver’s seat. The power delivery is explosive, and even short bursts of acceleration are addictive. Just remember, these SUVs weigh more than two tonnes, yet BMW claims that they manage a sportscar beating time of time of 4.2 seconds to hundred. What helps the X5 M and X6 M achieve this impressive figure is the four-wheel drive traction. The eight-speed, torque converter gearbox is lightning-quick with its shifts and, as ever, you can use it in manual mode, gears shifting up only when you pull the right paddle.

BMW X6 M - First Drive

Dynamically, both these SUVs feel more cultured, rather than nerve-wracking. They ride on an electronically controlled front and air suspension at the rear. They also sit around 10mm lower than the standard models. The Drive Select system allows you to alter their character, with more direct throttle and heavier steering in Dynamic mode and more absorbent damping in Comfort setting. The cars ride on 20-inch standard Pirelli P Zero tyres and the amount of grip they offer is staggering. You can carry loads of speed through the fast corners and these SUVs only feel heavy and ungainly in the slower corners. Even the intelligent all-wheel-drive system give them loads of traction and helps put all the 567 horses down with minimal drama. However, the steering, though nicely weighted, lacks the ultimate feedback and feels slightly artificial. The X6 M like its appearance feels sportier than the X5 with a sharper turn-in and in general, it feels more agile. Both these cars felt quite stiffly sprung, but we can only tell you more when we drive them on the road. The braking power comes from the huge M-spec brakes and they felt reassuring with good pedal feel.

BMW X5 M - First Drive

Why should I buy one?

BMW X6 M - First Drive

Good things don’t come cheap, and in the case of these two SUVs this statement is more than true. The X6 M is priced at Rs 1.6 crore and the X5 M at Rs 1.55 crore. While the X5 M scores highly in terms of practicality with its big boot and comfortable cabin, the X6 M on the other hand scores a big zero. It is a bit cramped and even the boot is tiny as compared to the X5. But then it looks different and it surely packs more appeal than the X5.

But where both these SUVs excel is in the way they can outrun most sports cars and stand out of the crowd in most parking lots. But what’s really appealing is the fact that these cars can feel at home on a smooth race track as they can on our rough roads.

Where does it fit in?

BMW X6 M - First Drive

Like Mercedes-Benz's AMG Performance Centers are for the sale of their AMG performance cars in India, BMW inaugurated their BMW M Studio to focus on BMW’s exclusive M cars. The X6 M and X5 M will be sold through these facilities and will go up against the ML63 and GL63 AMG SUVs from Mercedes-Benz and even the Range Rover 5.0-litre V8 model and Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

Our feature story on the visit to BMW plant Chennai

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