The equal most powerful and single most torque-rich regular production BMWs that money can buy launched in Australia this week.
The second-generation X5 M and X6 M have touched down, priced from (a few grand higher than before) $185,900 and $194,700 plus on-road costs starting prices respectively.
For context, those figures undercut the M5 and M6 passenger twins that have the same power and less torque by about $45,000 and $100,000 apiece. Each sits atop their respective ranges, above the X5 M50d at $148,500 and X6 M50d at $157,900.
BMW merely justifies the price difference between the X5 M and less practical X6 M by saying they are ‘positioned’ differently — in other words, people will pay for the X6’s distinctive coupe-inspired silhouette.
The high-riding US-made Bavarian kingpins, designed to be “fit for the Nordschleife and fit for five-people and their luggage”, are pitched as SUVs for the racetrack — an incongruous concept.
Nevertheless, they each tap into Australians’ ravenous demand for performance vehicles of all stripes. BMW M, Mercedes-AMG and Audi RS are all posting record numbers at the moment.
BMW expects the X5 M to account for between 5-10 per cent of total X5 sales, but more remarkably expects up to one-in-five X6 orders to be for the flagship X6 M.
This proportion is matched almost nowhere else on earth, and part of a wider picture where about 1 in 50 BMWs sold here are hardcore M versions. This is double the global average, and the gap is widening.
BMW sold about 400 units of the previous-generation X5 M and X6 M over their life cycle beginning in 2009, and expects a bigger take up this time — if it can pry supply out of its Spartanburg plant in South Carolina, currently running at capacity.
On another tack, each by their aggrandising nature act as an antidote to utilitarian and somewhat sensible newly launched BMWs such as the 2 Series Active Tourer.
We should point out here that the mechanical differences between the X5 M and X6 M are nil — they diverge only aesthetically. Given the boxier shape, the X5 naturally carries more stuff: 650 litres with the seats up and 1870L when folded flat in 40:20:40 formation. The X6, by comparison, offers 550L/1520L of space.
Under the bonnet of each is a stonking, evolutionary 4.4-litre TwinPower turbocharged petrol V8 with cross-bank exhaust manifolds pumping out 423kW of power and 750Nm of torque between 2200 and 5000rpm.
Only the 441kW/700Nm M5 Jahre special edition sedan churns out more power in the BMW fold.
This power output is in fact level with the ‘regular’ 4.4-litre M5 and M6 models, but the torque output is 70Nm higher. Despite each weighing just shy of 2.3 tonnes, each dashes from 0-100km/h in an M5-matching 4.2 seconds, thanks to a launch control system.
The X5 M and X6 M twins also out-muscle the 4.8-litre Porsche Cayenne Turbo S’ 419kW power claim, though fall short of its 800Nm torque output. Globally, the special-order 450kW/1000Nm V12-powered Mercedes-Benz G65 AMG tops the BMWs as well.
Still, it’s all about bragging rights at this end of the market. With that in mind, the new Mercedes-Benz GLE AMG S due this year packs 430kW/760Nm.
Matched to the engine in both BMW body styles is a ZF-supplied eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox — the dual-clutch DCT in other big M models can’t handle the torque here — with paddleshifters. ZF and BMW have apparently programmed in “DCT characteristics”, such as a reluctance to creep.
Fuel economy has been cut by up to 20 per cent on the revised engine, with a combined cycle figure of 11.1 litres per 100 kilometres. The mechanicals are cooled by four independent cooling systems, fed in part by 50 per cent larger front intakes.
Power and torque is sent via the torque-converter auto to all four wheels. Fitted is BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system with electronically controlled multi-place clutch that allows fully variable drive distribution (100 per cent, either way) between the axles.
There are also three DSC stability control settings: an entry system that counters normally with brake input, a more ‘relaxed’ setting that lets you hang it ever-so-slightly sideways, and a track-focused version called DSC Off that does just what the name suggests.
There’s also variable steering that becomes more resistant at greater speeds, a 10mm lower ride height, a modified upper wishbone and M-specific elastokinematics to improve directional stability (less wallowing, apparently), self-levelling air suspension on the rear axle and adjustable dampers all-round with Sport, Normal and Comfort settings.
All versions ride as standard on 21-inch rims shod with specially developed Michelin Pilot Supersports tyres, behind which sit six-piston fixed caliper brakes up front and single-piston floating calipers at the rear. The front stoppers have a pad surface area 50 per cent greater than before.
As the SUV bodies suggest, each is less aerodynamic than a performance sedan or coupe, but more so than a tenement building. BMW claims coefficient of drag figures of 0.37 for the X6 and 0.38 for the X5.
As well as the muscular wheels and lower height, each is differentiated by quad exhausts (with no engine sound piped into the cabin via the speakers, a la the M5/M6), tweaked kidney grille, new front air dam and rear apron with diffuser.
Inside is a new M leather steering wheel with gearshift paddles. The instrument cluster, M Drive menu in the information display, displays in the standard Head-Up Display (HUD) and special multifunction switch with M Drive buttons on the steering wheel also fit the template.
There’s fine-grain Merino leather sports seats with contrast stitching and embossed M logo in the backrests, and a leather-covered BMW Individual instrument panel. BMW will sting you almost $8000 for optional extra leather bits and an Alcantara headliner.
Each version comes pretty loaded with equipment, as you would expect. BMW claims about $15,000 worth of extras over the predecessor models. Worth noting is the fact that the new front bumper with intakes precludes full active city stop and radar-guided cruise control from fitment.
BMW X5 M and X6 M standard equipment:
We will be publishing a first local review of the X5 M and X6 M this week, but for now, read our US drive from early this year.