2015 BMW X5M and X6M Road Test

2015 BMW X5M and X6M Road Test

We test a pair of BMW Super ‘utes.

Photo by Better Car.
Photo by Better Car.

In the mid-1980’s, the lights remained on well into the night at BMW’s Munich headquarters. More specifically, the guys and gals who worked in the racing inspired high-performance skunkworks (in what would later become the M sub-brand’s mother ship) were burning the candle at both ends. The reason? They were honing the design of one of the most prolific sports cars of all time- the E30 BMW M3. Birthdays were missed and school recital attendances were cancelled so that each chassis bit could be harmoniously integrated with one another, ensuring a special 4-cylinder engine and bespoke suspension delivered the goods and that basically created a new genre in the process.

Imagine Doc Brown lent you his DeLorean and back in time you went to see this amazing process unfold; that’d be pretty cool, wouldn’t it? If you wanted to really mess with both the space/time continuum as well as those dedicated engineers minds, drop a little tidbit in your conversation about BMW of the Future’s decision to build SUV’s (er, SAV for Sports Activity Vehicle in Bimmer parlance) about a decade into the future. Before any jaws can be lifted off the floor as a result of this bombshell, go ahead and tell them there will be an M version of the vehicle. Instead of the exchange of incredulous looks, you might get treated to an outburst of raucous laughter. Yet here we are in 2015 with what is now the second generation of these M-massaged ‘utes.

PROS: Insane power, incredibly high limits, everyday useability.

CONS: Feedback points continue their trend of numbing, “soulful” engine sounds are anything but, polarizing styling (in the X6M’s case.)

THE VERDICT: The X5M/X6M twins are so capable and fast that they might be faster than the race cars they’re towing.

Purists despise these machines with a passion, but you can’t blame BMW for building these curiosities. For one, the market has spoken and well-heeled customers are demanding mega-powered SUV’s and secondly, the profits these things generate for company coffers are simply too large to be ignored. These two unique circumstances have given the world a pair of trucks that can blitz the 0-100km/h sprint in about 4 seconds, roughly 3 seconds faster than the M3 that started it all and carrying more than 890 kilos of additional burden.

Even the most ardent critic of these behemoths would have to admit that is progress, although some will question whether or not the world even needs such frivolous conveyances. Whatever camp you fall into, these brutes are now a fixture on the automotive landscape and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere anytime soon.

Here, we take an in-depth look at the latest X5M and X6M.

Styling is where the Great Divide occurs between the mechanically identical X5 and X6. After a week of informal polling, we discovered that people seem to have more tolerance for the X5M as a general rule. Yet there are those who are smitten by the X6’s distinctive shape (along with the 897 other Canadian households who put one in their driveways last year.) Our X5 tester was painted in Donington Park Grey and it managed to slip under the radar more often than not- my wife remarked that it looks “just like a normal SUV”. Only after the massive brakes, quad exhaust tips and gaping front end were noticed by passersby did the double takes occur. I like that bit of stealth, although having the interior outfitted in Mugello Red Black Full Merino Leather ($4,500) will not help anyone keep a low profile. The front end is the X5M’s worst angle aesthetically- it’s all kinds of business until those almost cartoonish large air intakes snare your eyes making it harder to take seriously. The X6M is let down by its Quasimodo-esque profile and droopy butt, a design signature that lessens the available space in the cargo area for your gear and makes it less practical than the X5.

Obviously having been anointed full-on M products means these babies are packing weapons grade thrust under the hood. Pressing the gas pedal should therefore not surprise anyone on board at the wallop that’s unleashed to all four wheels- these brutes are blisteringly fast. 575 horsepower and 553 lbs/ft of torque will certainly assure that these twins pile on the speed in a matter that’s almost shocking and if deployed on the street, terrifying. But the drivetrain has a more docile side provided you’ve asked for it via BMW’s now familiar Driving Dynamics Control toggle. When you do, the engine noise fades into the background, the transmission melts gears softly into one another and even the suspension relaxes (a bit.) And when BMW says the engine is 20% more fuel efficient than before, we believe them; we managed around 18L/100km for both and while that is higher than NRCan’s projected combined mileage, we’d say that isn’t too shabby for vehicles that weigh 2,000-plus kilos and powered by a twin-turbo V8 engine making close to 600 horsepower (and driven by automotive journalists who often times lack an understanding of the word “restraint”.)

Helping that power get to the ground is BMW’s proven xDrive system and an 8-speed transmission that shifts so fast you almost can’t believe it isn’t the same dual-clutch unit from the one we experienced in the new M3 sedan last summer. Although we didn’t get a chance to see how the rear biased xDrive would allow “mild drifts”, there should be little doubt that those with skill can hang the tail out in typical M fashion, although maybe not at quite the same slip angles or precision you’d get with the M3. This was our first time driving an M product with all-wheel drive, and while it was great to never have to worry about overwhelming the rear wheel’s available traction, we missed that having to employ the concentration required when trying to finesse launching from a stop or attacking a corner. Whether you approve of an all wheels driven M car matters not- the next M5 will have the option of xDrive and you can probably expect it won’t be the last time AWD makes it into other offerings from the sub-brand.

Despite the M badges festooned everywhere, what never ceased to shock us is how adept the X5/X6 handling is. You know body roll, the kind of forces that act on a chassis when you throw it into a turn? These two simply don’t have any. You’ll plow the front tires into teeth-gritting understeer before you detect these things leaning over in the corners. Suffice it to say that these trucks have limits that are so high even some sports cars would run out of steam trying to keep up with them. All the hi-po stuff takes a serious bite out of their ability to function as actual trucks, however. Almost unbelievably, they are still able to tow a little over 2,700 kilograms, so there’s that.

Despite these M-trucks readily serving up this kind speed and agility, there are some drawbacks. BMW has been taken to task lately for evincing some of the glorious chatter that used to get to the driver’s posterior faithfully through the steering and brakes, and we’re afraid the trend shows no sign of abatement here. The ride, even when Comfort Mode is selected, is still a bit too jittery for the shabbily paved streets of Toronto. And even though you eventually get used to it, there has to be a way for BMW to make its stubby shift lever work in more intuitive fashion. Even after a while it still took a conscious effort to ignore the muscle memory of trying to put it in Park when arriving at a destination instead of simply cutting the engine.

If we had the means to put one of these in our driveways, it would have to be the X5M- too hard to ignore the increased versatility versus the X6M and at a cheaper price point. Or we’d just buy an M3 sedan with every option and use the remaining funds to finance track days and tire replacements.

2015 BMW X5M/X6M  – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $119,000 (X5M)/$121,200 (X6M)
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger SAV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  4.4-litre V8 twin turbo, DOHC, 32 valves
  • Horsepower: 575 @ 6,000-6,500 rpm
  • Torque (lb-ft): 553 @ 2,200-5,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 2,386 kg (5,260 lbs)
  • Fuel consumption: 18.4L/100km (13 mpg)