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BMW's mad M-spec SUVs here

2009-11-26 10:44
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer BMW
Model X5/6M
Engine 4.4l V8 twin-turbo
Power 408kW @ @ 5 750-6 000r/min
Torque 680Nm @ 1 500-5 650r/min
Transmission Six-speed auto
Zero To Hundred 4.7 sec
Top Speed 275km/h
Fuel Tank 85l
Fuel Consumption 13.9l/100km
Weight 2 380kg
Tyres F: 275/40 R20 R: 315/35 R20
Front Suspension Double track control arm; small, negative steering roll radius, dive reduction
Rear Suspension Integral axle; multi-dimensional with anti-squat and anti-dive
Image Gallery:
X5 M


X5 M: Beauty shots
X5 M: Driving
X6 M: Beauty shots
X6 M: Driving
X6 M: Marc Surer

BMW’s Cayenne GTS Turbo killers have landed.

The two most controversial cars in the company's M-division history – X5 M and its X6 sibling - are now available locally. Is this reason to rejoice or reject BMW’s most ambitious range of cars yet?

If you are a BMW traditionalist, you should not even feign interest in either the X6- or X5 M.

To some the new SUV Ms represent the lowest ebb in the distinguished history of M-division high performance engineering.

Individually these new M-cars are 2.3t monuments to, for lack of a better phrase, BMW’s inability to tow the honest line with M-division customers.

BMW’s deal with M3, M5 and M6 buyers over the years has been simple. "We’ll never build a forced induction car. We’ll never build an all-wheel drive car. We’ll absolute never build an M-badged SUV." Well, apparently not...

Of course BMW has never built a high-performance SUV before. Especially not one with a Le Mans- sourced 520kW V12. Never happened. Well actually it did, back in 2000.

Does it really matter though?

Sure, if you’re a have a concourse condition E30 M3 parked in the garage you might suddenly feel compelled to remove the M-badge from its boot. In reality though, isn’t the M-division’s mandate high-performance engineering excellence?

Besides, the most revered cam-covers ever emblazoned with the M-Power logo were turbocharged too, and nobody seemed to mind this back in the 1980s F1 paddock…

So, are there really any issues related to a cheapening of the M-division’s colours due to its pandering to customer SUV high-performance demand? Well, no – primarily because Porsche beat them to it by a good few years with Cayenne…

With the debate around the M SUVs (ir)relevance allayed, it’s worth delving into the technical wizardry (as opposed to sophistry) which validate these new cars as proper M-division products.

Taming 2.4t worth of wild boar

Before unpacking the intricacies of what keeps these indecently swift 2.3t M SUVs on the road, it’s probably worth dwelling, for a moment, on the styling differences between the X5/6 Ms and their less hasty (relatively speaking) siblings.

The key distinguishing styling changes are all pretty functional, with huge front bumper airflow cut-outs feeding additional cooling air into the engine bay.

Around the rear it’s a bit more of an embellishing exercise, with turned up dual twin-exhausts signifying the latent potential of the SUV Ms over a stock X5 or X6 5.0i.

Automatic transmission gives further ammunition to the doubters. All-wheel drive enabled DCT transmissions with a 680Nm rating not easy to come by currently, in mitigation…

Distributing the power to all-four wheels is BMW’s xDrive system. It has been left mechanically unchanged as BMW reckons the M SUV power outputs are still commensurate with the stock drivetrain parts.

The difference between the M SUVs and a stock X5/6 is in terms of how much rear-wheel drive bias is programmed into the all-wheel drive system, especially when M-Dynamic mode is engaged.

Both M SUVs have been lowered 10mm and feature adjustable dampers (controlled by electronic damping control), offering both normal and sport modes. The latter function firms both the dampers and power steering, which thankfully is not a purely electrically assisted system and has been specifically geared for the SUV Ms.

Adventurous drivers will be heartened to know the electronic stability systems (bar ABS, obviously) can be completely disabled in M-Dynamic mode if the mood takes one.

Like any contemporary M-division product, the SUV Ms feature a steering wheel positioned M-dynamic mode button that can be pre-set to driver preferences by delving into the iDrive system and selecting steering, throttle and suspension settings.

Engine is the stuff of genius, with reverse porting flow (exhaust gases route towards the inside of the V-configuration) ensuring those turbos are always game. First M-car engine to feature direct-injection too.

Forced induction M-car power?

Powering both the new M-spec SUV is a slightly oversquare 4.4l twin-turbo V8, essentially a tuned version of the current X6 50i engine, featuring a slightly lowered compression (down from 10 to 9.3) ratio and more boost (which nearly doubles to 1.5bar).

Nestled between the two banks of cylinders (with the turbos), is some very sophisticated exhaust gas plumbing.

A special exhaust manifold allows each of the two Garret scroll turbos to be fed by a dedicated pair of cylinders, matched to fire a stroke rotation from each other, thereby ensuring a balanced gas flow to spin the turbos.

With the turbos receiving their turbine spinning exhaust gases from both cylinder banks (instead of each turbo being fed from a single row of four-cylinders) the dual inlets are able to accommodate additional exhaust gas rerouting.

With all the forced-induction mechanicals between the V8’s two cylinder banks, intake and exhaust ducts have been significantly shortened, whilst cross-section surface area has been optimised, minimising pressure losses.

The V8’s rotational force characteristics are subsequently very linear, whereas a more conventional exhaust manifold tends to cause pressure waves when spooling up the turbocharger.

Traditional M-themed road- and engine-speed dials augmented by a heads-up display. Nice.

Best ever BMW numbers...

Power and torque peaks are hugely impressive and vastly accessible across the engine speed range. At full power, 408kW is on offer from 5 750 - 6 000r/min, making these SUVs the first production BMWs to broach the magic 400kW barrier…

Even more impressive is the 680Nm of rotational force on-line from only 1 500 right through to 5 650r/min. This effectively means the SUV Ms are hardly taxed when towing 3t – which is their rather impressive maximum tow rating.

The SUV Ms are the first M-division vehicles to roll on run-flat tyres too – Bridgestone products measuring 275/40 on the front axle and 315/35 aft, rotating on 20-inch alloy wheels.

Hiding behind the split-spoke, five blade alloys, are significantly upgraded brakes.

With rotors measuring 395mm on the front axle (10mm larger than a stock range topping X5/6), and 385mm at the rear, these M-specification ventilated discs provide redoubtable deceleration. This is hugely reassuring considering a) the SUV Ms 2.3t mass and, b) the terminal velocity these cars are capable of.

If practicality is a concern to you, the X5 M's better second-row passenger headroom might sway your purchasing decision - it's R35 000 cheaper than the X6 too. Then again, that coupe roofline is awfully appealing.

Automatic launch control

X6- and X5 M-cars are availability solely with a dual-pedal transmission – and it’s not an SMG or DCT gearbox either. The presence of a ZF-sourced planetary geared shifter is another, well, M-division "first".

The six-speed automatic transmission features some clever electronics though. It's able to liaise with the engine’s ECU to stall ignition on certain cylinders during peak performance gear changes - which actuates quicker shifts.

For those X6- and X5 M owners who hardly wince at mechanical abuse, the 3 000r/min threshold launch-control mode is available too - when challenged by pesky hot hatches around town.

Performance claims from Munich are keen, with both SUV Ms running a 4.7 second 0-100km/h sprint time.

Top speed buffers against the obligatory 250km/h limiter, though the M driver’s package will liberate an additional 25km/h...

The SUV Ms feature an economy mode too, which short-shifts below 4 500r/min in daily driving (when you’re not pressing on) to aid economy. BMW claims 13.9l/100km in the EU combined driving cycle. Indeed…

As much as the X6 M and X5 M are beyond the traditional fold of the M-division's expertise and brand image, one can hardly blame BMW for having gone off to chase some Cayenne market share. They have no pretence to any off-road ability either - unlike Cayenne, which boasts a low-range transfer case.

You might baulk at the packaging, but the SUV Ms are the most powerful production BMWs yet. Period.


X5 M – R1 225 000
X6 M – R1 260 000

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