First in line was the 2 Series Active Tourer, then the iSeries in both i8 and i3 guises and now the 2 Series Convertible and the mighty X5M and X6M. BMW’s M division saw an increase of 44% in global sales figures last year to 45 000 vehicles, of which South African clients bought 549.
It’s not the first time that the X5 and X6 in M derivatives have been seen in South Africa as they first arrived here in 2009, but the new generation has set a new benchmark.
Styling changes give both vehicles a more aggressive look, particularly the frontal treatment, new larger air intakes and the restyled kidney grilles and integrated fog lights, plus flaps in the outer intakes which reduce front end lift. Headlamps are shared, with the X5M now featuring those fitted to the X6M with an added headlight washer system.
From the side profile the difference becomes obvious – the X5M is classed as an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) and the X6M as an SAC (Sports Activity Coupe), the latter with a long sloping roofline. M-specific features are the twin stalk exterior mirrors and the gills in the side panels which carry the M badging and act as air breathers.
At the rear there are many different aspects due to the body styles, but both carry much wider rear tyres than their standard siblings, and of course the trademark four exhaust tail pipes. A set of 20-inch alloy wheels completes the sporting image with a 21-inch rim option.
Interior trim reflects the M heritage with a newly developed leather-clad steering wheel that also carries the gearshift paddles. The instrument cluster and M Drive menu in the information display along with the electrically adjustable front seats leave you in no doubt that this is a step beyond the normal X Series.
The specification level of both is that of its lesser siblings plus a few extras and would take more space to describe than I have here.
It is definitely not just the sporting looks and spec levels that set these vehicles apart – climb in and press the start button and your aural sensors are stimulated by the sound issuing from the specially designed exhaust system.
Both the X5M and X6M employ the most powerful engine ever developed by BMW for an all-wheel drive vehicle. The 4.4-litre, 32-valve V8 features two Twin Scroll turbochargers, Valvetronic, cross-bank exhaust manifolds and High Precision Direct Petrol Injection, and punches out a hefty 423kW of power between 6 000rpm and 6 500rpm – a 4% increase over the previous model. Torque has also been increased and is up by 70Nm to deliver a very healthy 750Nm between 2 200rpm and 5 000rpm, a 10% increase.
For all the increased output, fuel consumption has been decreased by 20% to 11.1l/100km, with CO2 emissions now at 258g/km.
Both vehicles are at home on the track or on the road but also have to endure the normal urban cycle. To ensure they keep their cool under all circumstances a high performance cooling system has been employed. Consisting of low and high temperature radiators and five coolant pumps the system cools not just the engine, but also the turbochargers, intercoolers and transmission oil.
Drive is via the standard eight-speed M Steptronic transmission, with launch control and Drivelogic plus the xDrive intelligent all- wheel drive system.
Select drive and sport mode and gently squeeze the throttle pedal and you will be surprised just how docile the vehicle feels. My launch vehicle was the X6M with a number of options, but any of those was overshadowed by the incredible response a heavier foot illicits.
Be prepared to experience necksnapping acceleration and keep a careful eye on the speedometer, as the legal limit is reached in just a few seconds. What is really impressive is the agility of this very large vehicle – DSC keeps it all in check (it can be disabled if desired) and the MServotronic steering reacts perfectly to driver input.
With all this mass and speed you will be grateful for the compound brakes, with six piston callipers up front and single piston floating callipers at the rear which bring it all to a halt rapidly and never showed any fade on the tight Western Cape mountain passes.
There is no doubt the vehicles are impressive, but one has to wonder just who buys a 2.3-ton behemoth that propels you from 0 to 100km/hour in just 4.2 seconds, reaches a governed 250km/h and sticks to the road like a proverbial leech. It has to be a niche market, but you can guarantee they will sell.
Personally I’d go for the X5M – a more practical vehicle than the sloping coupé styling of the X6M. No matter your choice it’s guaranteed either the BMW X5M or the X6M will put a smile on your face that won’t fade for a long time.