BMW X5 M roars from 0-100km/h in a sportscar-like 3.8 seconds. Picture: SUPPLIED
BMW X5 M roars from 0-100km/h in a sportscar-like 3.8 seconds. Picture: SUPPLIED

A 2.4-ton SUV that sprints from 0-100km/h in just 3.8 seconds. That is the new BMW X6 M Competition and X5 M Competition distilled into one rather impressive-looking equation.

In bygone times, SUVs were practical, family-focused vehicles designed to go adventuring on road and trail, able to continue the journey even when the tar road ended.

Then the sports SUV was conceived and it spawned a legion of muscled-up turbo beasts with cage-fighter personalities, including the BMW X5 and X6 duo which first acquired M badges 10 years ago.

Now the latest “M-hanced” versions have arrived in SA, and both the squarer X5 and swoopier X6 have the latest 4.4l V8 twin turbo engine under their bonnets — the same one that powers various M-badged BMWs including the M5 and M8.

You won’t take these Bavarian brutes onto an offroad trail with their low-profile tyres, but you are able to dice them against Porsches on the tar.

The high-revving BMW V8 produces 460kW at 6,000rpm and 750Nm of torque between 1,800 to 5,600rpm, laid down via an xDrive all-wheel drive system and eight-speed M Steptronic transmission.

Overseas the X6 M and X5 M are also offered in regular 441kW guise, but only the full-fat 460kW Competition versions are coming to SA given local buyers’ appetite for max performance. That’a a 37kW power increase over their respective predecessors, and the claimed 3.8 second 0-100 time is a significant 0.4 seconds faster than before.

The X6 version has less boot space but more attitude. Picture: SUPPLIED
The X6 version has less boot space but more attitude. Picture: SUPPLIED

The big Beemers displayed impressive distance-gulping and road-clawing ability when I drove them on the roads of Gauteng’s cradle of humankind and the Zwartkops raceway at the media launch last week, in what was the first physical car launch held in SA since the beginning of lockdown.

It’s an almighty shove you feel when thrusting the throttle, and there’s so much instant get-up-and-go you have to keep reminding yourself that this is a heavy SUV and not a supercar. There’s oodles of torque throughout the rev range, the kind that swiftly fires the vehicle past long trucks when overtaking is called for.

Horsepower lovers will find no unsatisfied cravings in these M Competition models, and the power’s seamlessly managed by a slick auto transmission. The V8 blurts a sporty soundtrack without being overly vocal.

The rear-biased xDrive is assisted by an Active M Differential to maximise traction and dynamics during high-adrenaline driving. For the first time BMW is using an asymmetrical wheel/tyre setup, with 21-inch M light-alloy wheels fitted up front and 22-inchers at the rear.

An M-specific adaptive suspension with electronically controlled dampers, active roll stabilisation, M Servotronic steering and Dynamic Stability Control form part of the M Dynamic Mode. At a press of a button drivers can choose between pre-programmed Road, Sport and Track settings, or configure two personalised setups that are accessible via M buttons on the steering wheel.

The cabins lay on business class with a sports twist. Picture: SUPPLIED
The cabins lay on business class with a sports twist. Picture: SUPPLIED

The athletic nature of this duo is always apparent, more focused on the sport than comfort side of the equation. In Road mode the ride’s fairly comfortable on the softened springs, but the low profile tyres “brr” noticeably over rougher roads.

For a large SUV the X5 M Competition could be hustled with a fair amount of gusto around Pretoria’s tight, twisty Zwartkops circuit. The suspension-stiffened Track mode did a good job of masking the mass and preventing the hefty vehicle from feeling too spongy under hard cornering, although there was still some body lean.

The best part was how these big Beemers didn’t run into frustrating understeer when driven on the limits. Although this version of xDrive doesn’t give the option of a full rear-wheel drive mode like the M5 sedan, the rear-biased system ushers the big SUVs through corners with a neutral nature.

As much grip as there is, the stability control system comes into play a lot when you’re driving pedal to the metal, but in a non-intrusive way that gently reins in the horses without rude power pauses.

Arresting speed is taken care of by high-performance M compound brakes, and for the two laps at a time we were allocated they provided outstanding stopping power and didn’t fade.

BMW’s high-performance SUVs come with war paint in the form of large air intakes,  M gills on the front side panels, black-framed kidney grille, a roof/rear spoiler, rear diffuser and two pairs of double-barrelled exhausts.

The X5 M Competition and X6 M Competition also come out of the box with an M‑specific cockpit design that includes a configurable Head-Up Display, M multifunction seats and BMW Individual fine-grain Merino full leather trim.

Standard specification also includes the “Hey BMW” talking Personal Assistant and the Parking Assistant. A large selection of driver assistance systems and BMW Laser light are available as options.

Pricing

BMW X5 M Competition — R2,632,258

BMW X6 M Competition — R2,733,420

Key rivals — price and power comparison

Maserati Levante Trofeo, R3.75m — 433kW/730Nm

Porsche Cayenne Turbo, R2.3m — 404kW/770Nm

Bentley Bentayga V8, R3.4m — 404kW/770Nm

Bentley Bentayga Speed, R4.6m — 467kW/900Nm

Lamborghini Urus, R3.5m — 478kW/850Nm

Jaguar F-Pace SVR, R1.5m — 405kW/680Nm

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, R2.2m — 522kW/875Nm

Range Rover Autobiography Supercharged, R4.4m — 416kW/700Nm

Range Rover Sport SVR, R2.4m — 423kW/700Nm

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