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Irrational ‘Xuberance’

| Updated on: Nov 05, 2015
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Test_drive

Test_drive

The X5 M and the X6 M are hulking flagship sports utility vehicles from BMW’s performance division. Now imagine them going sideways on the track!

BMW’s M division never fails to excite performance enthusiasts every time it picks on a standard model to give it the special ‘M’ treatment. The M3, the previous Z4 M and even the M6 Gran Coupé make so much sense. But, the X5 and the X6 getting an ‘M’ badge? That is a bit much…but who is complaining.

The X5 M and the X6 M are the latest new-gen models to join the line-up at the M Division, the part of BMW that makes the slightly ‘mental’, road-legal versions of the company’s regular cars. These two M vehicles make it to market in good time and will compete with similar vehicles from the other German luxury car brands and the ones that are due out from the other performance car makers who are priming themselves to launch their own in this segment. The X5 M and the X6 M were launched in India recently. We got to test drive them both on the race track – the natural terrain for these vehicles. Here are our first impressions.

Design

The X5 and the X6 share the same platform, so is the case with their M versions. Naturally, there are shared parts and resemblances between the two. There is no denying the sheer size and road presence of these two vehicles, with the X5 M still looking like the more conservative twin and the X6 M being the one with the wicked streak.

Aggression is writ large on both their faces and there are many pointers to their super performance re-engineering, despite these M-models’ strong visual association with their respective standard road models. In fact, there is very little to tell the X5 M and X6 M apart from the front – the same M-specific features give them both their sporty looks. The kidney grille here features dual slats – which BMW calls the double bridge grille. The front aprons in both the cars have been redesigned to integrate huge air inlets, and airdams pointing to the fire-breathing powertrain under the bonnet that needs to be cooled.

At the rear, the twin M tailpipes and the rear spoilers are the highlights, though there are more M-specific features around the cars. The characteristic power bulge on the bonnet is not there, but the side vents with the M badge still remind onlookers that these are special vehicles. Need more emphasis? The 20-inch M-light alloy wheels look perfect and fill out the massive wheel arches, you can also order larger 21-inchers. Between the two Xs, clearly the X6 M is the looker with its coupé-like styling.

Cabin

It is time to get behind the wheel. The two M SUVs are parked on the pit lane at the Chennai Race Track in Sriperumbudur gleaming under the afternoon sun. The sporty design and the massive 285/ 40 profile (325/ 35 at the rear) tyres at the front are enough to tell you that these are seriously fast vehicles. Stepping into one of them only reiterates this point. With the acres of carbon-fibre inside and the driver-oriented cockpit, the cabins of the X5 M and the X6 M are unlike any that you’ll find in the luxury SUV space. Everything is clad either in fine-grain merino leather or wrapped in carbon-fibre. The M-steering wheel with its paddle-shifter and controls feels just so right to hold. And, oh…the M leather seats with its high side bolsters play with your mind and makes you want to take on a corner even before you have cranked the engine.

Performance

The X5 M and X6 M seem like some burly WWE twins that would fail miserably at an athletics event. But, start the engine and tap the throttle and you are jolted awake by the immediate surge of pulling power that is delivered to the wheels. Off the pit lane at the MMSC track, and with an increase in pressure on the throttle, both the X5 M and the X6 M give you a taste of their true potential.

Both the X5 M and the X6 M are powered by the same 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine that features M TwinPower turbocharging. The engine generates a peak power of 575HP and peak torque of 750Nm at 2,200-5,000 rpm. With that many horses waiting to be tamed, it is not surprising that these massive, 2.5-tonne SUVs manage the 0-100kmph sprint in about 4.2 seconds. The SUVs are so nimble-footed that they feel very car-like. Though the engine seems over-eager, power delivery is very linear, powering the X5 M and X6 M to an electronically limited 250kmph. Unfortunately, the MMSC (Madras Motor Sports Club) track, one of the earliest certified tracks in India, is too tight for vehicles of this calibre.

But, though we aren’t able to push the two M SUVs to their limits there is enough thrills to be had, letting them slide and squeal through the 12 turns on the track. Mind you that would be only just enough before the xDrive four-wheel drive system butts and kills the fun. The 8-speed M Steptronic transmission is just the right addition to mix, quick shifting and precise it just shines on this kind of a tight track.

Bottomline

The X5 M and X6 M are great additions to BMW’s portfolio and they defy conventional logic about the agility and handling of SUVs. These can hardly be enjoyed on regular roads, but enthusiasts who want to bring them over to the race track during the weekend can have endless fun with these machines. But, then again there is a lot of other luxury SUVs to choose from, because at Rs 1.6 crore a piece, the X5 M and X6 M are fighting with the big boys in the business.

Published on January 22, 2018

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