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BMW X5 M and X6 M 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Malcolm Flynn road tests and reviews the F85 BMW X5 M and F86 X6 M performance SUVs, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at their Australian launch.

Pumping out a monstrous 423kW, the new F85 BMW X5 and F86 X6 Ms are the most powerful SUVs Australia has ever seen. Only the 450kW/1000Nm V12 G65 AMG trumps them on a global scale, but the megabuck German Hummvee has understandably been deemed too rich for our corner of the world.  

And besides, its antiquated chassis keeps it well behind the new Beemers in performance terms anyway.  

Either way, a high performance SUV might seem a bit like training a Clydesdale horse for the Melbourne Cup – which sums up the G65 nicely - but Australia has generally grown to love them, and the second-generation of BMW’s hardcore X5 and X6 M models promise to be fitter, faster and more frugal than ever. 

Most premium brands are making super-fast versions of their big SUVs these days, and they’re finding plenty of homes due to their blend of effortless high-performance and exotic looks, plus family practicality and luxury.

BMW was one of the first to the super-fast SUV table, but the new models will have to compete with the Mercedes-Benz GLE and GLC 63 AMGs, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Turbo S, and the new Range Rover Sport SVR

The previous hot BMW SUVs hardly set sales records in Australia though, racking up a combined tally of just 415 units since 2009.

The likes of North America, China, the Middle East, Russia and Germany were the big markets for these X Ms, helping achieve an impressive global total of 19,000 sales.  

However, Australia’s growing taste for SUVs and performance models suggests that more local buyers will be wanting to combine the two.

We’ve already sampled the X6 M at its global launch in the US, but both models’ local debut was our first opportunity to climb aboard the cheaper, roomier but just-as-fast X5 M and compare them side-by-side.

Design

The new models are a significant step up on the regular X5 and X6 in every way, with pumped-up styling and giant 21-inch wheels, and on the inside there’s a gorgeous mix of high-grade merino leather, carbon fibre and aluminium, plus a mountain of comfort and safety features. 

So what’s the difference between the two? 

Not much, aside from A-pillar rearward styling and the X6 M’s sloping coupe roofline. This cuts rear headroom down to suit average eight adults at best, and also eats into the overall cargo space (70 litres less).

The X6 M does still manage a very useful 580 litres to the roof with the seats up.

The X5 M also scores a panoramic opening glass sunroof, where the tighter confines of the X6 M limit it to a traditional sunroof above the front seat passengers only.

Otherwise, the five-seat pair offers plenty of width and legroom to seat adults comfortably in the rear, and those wishing to fit child seats should appreciate ISOFIX mounts in the outward positions.

With just 10kg between them in weight (the 2265kg X6 M being the lighter of the two), they’re equally quick according to BMW’s incredible 4.2 second 0-100km/h claim. This is a full half-second faster than the models they replace, and near-supercar acelleration from models that weigh as much as a Troop Carrier. 

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Hardcore M-heads will also love bespoke chassis details like redrilled front upper control arms for more camber, stiffer bushes and a jagged rubber aero blade under the rear diff to direct air around the rear bumper.  

Beneath the huge alloys are upsized 395mm front and 385mm rear steel brakes, with six-piston callipers grabbing the fronts. 

Like all current M models, the steamroller 285mm front/325mm rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres are non-runflats, and a spacesaver spare sits beneath the boot floor. 

Value

The new X5 M’s $185,900 list price marks a $2,555 increase over the previous E70 model, but BMW boasts that it also brings more than $15,000 in extra standard equipment. 

The X6 M has also risen by $4125 over the E71 model to $194,700, but both undercut the only SUV to beat their 0-100km/h claim – the new 4.1-second Porsche Cayenne Turbo S – by about $100,000.

They also sit beneath the M5 performance sedan by at least $35,000, and despite weighing more than 400kg extra, the Xs’ all-wheel drive helps match the classic saloon in the 0-100km/h sprint.

Reflecting Australia’s taste for higher-spec, BMW has chosen to package the 21-inch wheels, fully-electric front sports seats, sunroofs, driver’s heads-up display, metallic paint, and Harmon Kardon audio as standard for Australia - features which are optional in most other markets.

The most salient point between the two Ms is that you can save yourself nearly $9,000 by going for the roomier X5 M.

Engine / Transmission

The 423kW figure is once again courtesy of a version of the 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 from the M5, and while it matches the M5 Competiton Pack for power, torque has been wound up to a new BMW all-time high of 750Nm. 

These figures are up 15kW and 70Nm on the old models, and surpass the engineering limits of the seven-speed dual-clutch M-DCT used in the M5. 

Fortunately, the excellent eight-speed ZF torque converter auto used in the regular X5 and X6 models is up to the task, and is accompanied by the heaviest driveshaft ever fitted to a BMW.

Clever tuning, regenerative braking and a stop/start system has helped reduce fuel consumption by 20 per cent

Drive is then sent to all four wheels with a native bias of 70 per cent to the rear wheels (up from 60 percent in regular X5 and X6s), and can send up to 100 per cent to either end if needed.

As with the M5, the high-tech V8 positions both twin-scroll turbos within the engine’s V for better throttle response, and helps deliver a flat maximum torque curve all the way from 2200-5000rpm. 

Despite their output and performance gains, clever tuning, regenerative braking and a stop/start system has helped reduce fuel consumption by 20 per cent down to a respectable 11.1L/100km combined. The highly-strung unit will also get by on 95RON Premium unleaded, so springing for 98RON can be saved for special occasions.

BMW boasts that the drivetrain’s complex ten-radiator cooling system is ready for track use in any environment between the cold of Finland and the heat of the Middle East. Yep, these trucks have been built for the track.

Further emphasising their resilience are maximum braked tow ratings of 2970kg for the X5 M and 2950kg for the X6 M. Say goodbye to slow caravanning forever!

Driving

After several hundred kilometres of various grades of tarmac, it’s clear that both of the Ms do trade some ride quality for dynamics over the regular X5 and X6s. 

However, with the adaptive dampers set to Comfort mode, they’re still more than comfortable enough to live with day to day, unless your commute involves dirt roads.

The X5 and X6 M are a genuine hoot to drive quickly through corners

We managed a quick taste of a relatively smooth stretch of gravel, and the tooth-rattling vibrations that ensued cemented the X Ms' status as tarmac-only warriors.

They should be a handy accomplice for snow journeys though, as a sneaky venture through some soft sand proved the all-wheel drive system’s ability to overcome the low-grip, high rolling resistance terrain with ease.

Back to what they do best, and the X5 and X6 M are a genuine hoot to drive quickly through corners.

Their active swaybars do an incredible job of inhibiting bodyroll for such tall vehicles, to the point where high speed switchbacks give a similar thrill to a stand-up rollercoaster.

Steering feel is significantly better than all non-M X5 and X6 models, and the tractability of the engine, brilliant auto and piles of grip and braking capability make them very easy to drive, very fast. 

Their 0-100km/h figure only tells part of the story. Let off the leash without speed restriction, they’ll cover the standing kilometre in an astonishing 22.6 seconds, and ballistic rolling acceleration makes overtaking manoeuvres an absolute snack.

Steering, throttle and suspension settings can all be toggled individually, but the M2 steering wheel button brings the sharpest mode of each in one hit. 

The resulting harshness will likely draw the ire of any passengers, but 100 per cent performance is just a button-press away.

It’s a genuine exhaust note with no speaker synthesising like the M5

An active exhaust with quad outlets also varies the V8’s note from a muted burble to an aggressive bark that will pop and bang on upshifts, if the mood takes you.

When pushed, the note is surprisingly six cylinder-like, but it’s a genuine exhaust noise with no speaker synthesising like the M5. 

Safety

Neither model is yet to be recognised by ANCAP, but standard safety kit includes front, side and full-length curtain airbags, emergency services dialling, plus lane departure, forward collision, blind-spot warnings, light city braking and a complimentary advanced driving course with the BMW Driving Experience.

Full AEB is notably absent from the spec sheet though, despite becoming increasingly available on far cheaper models.

Verdict

The X5 and X6 Ms may not quite match the likes of the M5 for outright driving enjoyment, but as a performance SUV, they’re a class act. Given a choice between the two, our money would be on the X5 M due to its extra room and cheaper pricing with no performance compromise. 

Pricing Guides

$59,995
Based on 131 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$44,777
Highest Price
$98,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
M 4.4L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $82,800 – 98,990 2015 BMW X5 2015 M Pricing and Specs
M50d 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $59,990 – 84,900 2015 BMW X5 2015 M50d Pricing and Specs
sDrive 25d 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $44,990 – 55,990 2015 BMW X5 2015 sDrive 25d Pricing and Specs
xDRIVE 25d 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $44,777 – 53,800 2015 BMW X5 2015 xDRIVE 25d Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Malcolm Flynn
CarsGuide Editor

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