BMW chose Madras Motor Sport Club as the venue to launch its two new M cars – the X5M and X6M. A day prior to the launch, a sweltering hot day, we drove these two cars along with the existing M range cars in India. But before that there was some work to do. Rowing through spec sheet, it struck me how heavy these two M cars were. Which meant there was a lot of mass to deal with at 2.27 tonnes. Now that wasn’t a cause for concern, the weight can be taken care of by the torque – 76.4kgm in total – and the 567bhp. That also meant acceleration is in sportscar territory with both cars knocking off the 0-100kph time in 4.2 seconds. But the handling cannot be gravity defying, the tyres might have to go through a lot of abuse over the course of the day. To find answers to these questions I’d only get a couple of laps with these SUVs. Not enough time, but enough to frame a brief impression of the car.
It was driving time and first up was the X6M. The instructor ahead of us was in a diesel X6 and it seemed he was on the limits all the time, I felt each of those corners could have been taken much faster in the X6M. Its 4.4-litre V8 motor is quite responsive and it sounds nice when the revs start seeing high numbers. On the straights I could feel the V8 coming alive as the car charged ahead making a nice rumble. The eight-speed transmission though a bit jerky at slow speeds, reacts quickly to every jab on the paddles + or – as the pace builds. Also, my seat-of-the-pants judgement tells me the ride is quite stiff, expected of a car wearing low-profile
20-inch tyres. Now talking of low-profile tyres brings us to the handling of the car. Going fast in a straight line is not half as thrilling as going fast around the corners. Well, the M suspension and 285/40/R20 (front) and 325/35/R20 (rear) tyres offer tremendous grip. Yes, there’s some body roll to deal with, but it’s not alarming as you’d have expected and that for an SUV sitting 190mm above ground is impressive. What we found reassuring was the brakes; you can do silly speeds and brake much later on the track thanks to the 395mm discs at front with six-piston calipers. The brakes are good and quite effective at shedding speeds quickly and doing that over and over again. There was slight brake fade felt after a few hard attempts, but we can discount that as the car was driven for a considerable time before we started.
Next up we drove the slightly heavier X5M which weighs 10kg more than the X6M. Now, should you be concerned? No. The claimed acceleration figure suggests that the two behemoths will cross the line in 4.2 seconds doing a 0-100kph sprint. So with that out of the way, let’s talk about handling. It has the same suspension, tyres and the same ground clearance, and the difference between the two was barely felt, given the limited time spent with the car. But despite weighing more and being 65mm taller than the X6M, it felt equally agile on the track. With similar spec tyres and suspension even the ride felt almost the same and going fast one could feel the imperfections on the track. The brakes, like on the X6M, were quite good and we were slamming them hard throughout the drive but there was pretty much no fade felt in the X5M.
To sum the cars up, we haven’t driven these on road yet and neither are they track toys that satiate a hardcore enthusiast. But the beauty of these fast SUVs lie in how user-friendly they are. They can be used for city chores and can transport five passengers, and even your dog in relative luxury with sufficient towage. And doing all that the X5M and the X6M can be enjoyed around twisties enthusiastically. It’d be a shame if you throw the key to your chauffeur; these are driver’s SUVs. However, these two aren’t the only option, this market has been explored before. Demanding a big portion of your savings are the Mercedes ML63 AMG and the Porsche Cayenne GTS, both fast petrol SUVs. So, the choice is yours, if you are looking at buying a fast vehicle that packs in the performance of a sportscar and the practicality of an SUV, these two M cars definitely make sense.