“BMW South Africa have lost their marbles” I thought upon discovering that a famed racing track was the main venue for the launch of the X5 M and its coupe SUV brother, the X6 M. Everyone knows that sport utility vehicles – SUVs - (or sport activity vehicles in BMW speak) are not for venturing into the roadless unknown, let alone cornering at high speeds.
Yet these folks from 1 Bavaria Avenue in Midrand saw it fit to hang out with Ras Dumisani for a moment and take in whatever natural material he was on themselves, I figured. It turns out these two belong on the track, inasmuch as a boat belongs on water when compared to a fish. But I’m jumping the queue.
The X5 M and the X6 M are the first M cars to feature twin turbo technology. Both share the same powertrain which includes a 4.4-litre petrol V8 with double-VANOS camshaft adjustment making 408kW at 6000rpm and 680Nm between 1500rpm and 5650rpm. They have the M Drive control system which can be actuated through the iDrive and can change the cars’ characteristics to suit the driver’s needs.
Although the xDrive 4x4 system is permanent, torque can be varied along the axles and according to a BMW spokesman, up to 100% of it will go to the rear wheels, making these cars extremely drivable indeed.
I found this out myself along the stretches of Port Elizabeth and through some challenging mountain passes. The wheels are driven by a 6-speed Steptronic gearbox and gears can be changed by using the paddleshifts behind the steering wheel. Thankfully these aren’t fixed on the rack but move with the wheel itself.
A slight shock awaited me as I entered the cockpit, pushed the START/ STOP button on the dashboard (the car detects the key if in close enough proximity) and heard the roar from the four chrome pipes at the back. The best was yet to come as I adjusted the seats using the electronic adjuster on the sides. Tapping the right foot immediately brought about a wide smile out of me, followed by a quiet laugh as I planted foot and scuttled away. BMW says both SAVs can overpower the 0 – 100km/h sprint within 4.6 seconds, which is supercar territory.
Telling the twins apart from inside is damn near impossible. The cockpits are identical with features such as a surfboard-shape dashboard with a driver bias, my favourite shifter, full leather upholstery, an M sports steering wheel with red, white and blue stitching. Buyers can specify brushed aluminium, piano finish or carbon fibre. Most features are standard such as air conditioning, cruise control, iDrive, front seat heating, Bluetooth, 6-DVD changer and satellite navigation.
On the track these beasts come into their own. Dynamic Performance Control was introduced with the X6 and basically allows the driver to push further with hard cornering than he normally would. Its aim is to turn the average jo into a cracking track meister without putting him through years of driver training. Of course laws of nature are still that, laws of nature, and should not be tested beyond the boundaries of reason.
Lapping the Aldo Scribante track in the X5 M and the X6 M was a task I was all too happy to accept. Although the main straight was closed off as matter of precaution, no unwelcome nannies were ever on board as I ate up corner after corner in a free-spirited manner. At times the cars would tend to oversteer like a rear-wheel-drive sports car but the DPC would come to the rescue and ensure safe passage. I had trouble stopping at the Honda hairpin, probably the most deceptive corner on the circuit, after hitting a high speed of 150km/h. Fortunately only one tyre tasted gravel and I was able to paste more fun-filled laps. The rest of the time, apart from the obvious extra bulk, it felt like I was piloting an M5 around Aldo which is a testament to these exceptionally-handling machines.
Safety is a major priority for anyone so these vehicles come fitted with some of the latest and greatest systems in the world. That includes ABS brakes with brake assist, airbags galore, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Datadot security tracking system and Park Distance Control.
There are motoring media ditractors who still don’t “get” the X6 and so the X6 M will completely fly over their little heads. I love that car, its concept – marrying an SUV with a coupe, the shape, its presence, all that power. Anyone who wants an SUV that truly thinks it’s a sports car need look no further. Just don’t send it on a serious off-road excursion; it really belongs on tar. The X5 M is the same, just more spacious.
Don’t ask which one I’d pick because that’s entirely up to one’s needs. If pushed into a corner I’d probably start a heist gang and buy both!
BMW X5 M, X6 M Pricing
X5 M (R1 225 000)
X6 M (R1 260 000)