2020 BMW X5 M and X6 M First Drive Review: Speed And Special Track Mode

The X5 M and X6 M is an ultra-high-performance crossover, a class of increasingly popular vehicles that logic and rationality say shouldn’t exist.

Power comes from BMW’s familiar 4.4-liter V-8, which uses a pair of turbochargers to produce 600 horsepower in standard form and 617 hp in Competition guise. An 8-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters tucked behind the thick-rimmed steering wheel hurtles power primarily to the rear wheels, which claw into the pavement via a standard active rear differential, though the fronts tires will eagerly dig in as needed.

The V-8 vaults the big SUVs to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds, BMW says, and it doesn’t give up there. Acceleration is brutal, though the syrupy throttle helps modulate all that power well. An active exhaust system helps the V-8 snarl, but the synthetic rumble that enters the cabin bears the signature of BMW’s sound studios. No matter, the big Bimmers growl with Grizzly bear majesty.

BMW’s latest displays and interfaces are among the best in the luxury game, from its richly informative head-up unit to the iDrive 7.0 system and Live Cockpit Professional’s conjoined 12.3-inch displays. The rest is a rich, if somewhat busy, assemblage of glossy carbon fiber, metal and Alcantara. Slipping through traffic, I suddenly notice new, Tesla-style animations of surrounding cars in the driver’s display. (In a bit of Bavarian dreaming, the animated cars are all BMW sedans).

The Competition models’ shifter is the best lever BMW has offered in some time, a saddle horn of metal and leather, with an embossed M logo and red-and-blue stitching to match the steering wheel and seat belts. It’s worlds better than the fussy, medical-looking wand that marred many previous Bimmers. That lever controls an eight-speed, M Steptronic transmission, with steering-wheel paddles and three DriveLogic settings.

Stippled pavement sends a dull roar into the cabin from enormous Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, which is promptly drowned out by the sparkling Bowers & Wilkins audio system. There’s some ride crustiness, even in the Comfort setting. On the other end of the spectrum, the suspension’s Sport Plus setting seems utterly superfluous, aside from glassy racetracks where virtually no owner will tread. A familiar array of adjustments tailor the engine response, adaptive suspension, steering, and an M-specific AWD system that largely sidelines the front wheels until their contributions are required. Thank goodness for two red M buttons atop the steering-wheel spokes, which cut through programming clutter to store a pair of macro settings.

The driving experience in each M SUV is highly customizable thanks to various modes that tweak steering heft, throttle response, shift schedules, ride stiffness, and even brake responsiveness. Even the standard electric power steering mode is heavy enough to be a chore at low speeds. A few loops around a track might reveal the difference between the standard and supposedly snappier sport brake modes, but my repeated tests on public roads told little. The brakes themselves are massive—15.6 inches up front with six-piston calipers and 15.0 inches out back with a single floating caliper—and grabby at low speeds but exceptionally strong when taming curvy road hustle.

The X6 M weighs about 50 pounds less than the X5 M, though both are positively portly at around 5,000 pounds. The X6 M has an incrementally stiffer body thanks to its reduced window count, and that teams with a lower center of gravity to theoretically improve handling.

The X5 M and X6 M are at their best somewhere in the middle, with the suspension set to its softest mode, steering tailored to the driver’s preference, and the powertrain tweaked for snappier responses. That Goldilocks-level setting roughly works out to Sport, though the Sport+ mode is nice for occasional spirited driving. The Competition trim includes a special Track mode, yet another reminder that these vehicles are thoroughbreds in search of a closed course and not a daily slog in traffic.

Pricing for the 2020 X5 M starts at a whopping $105,100 (plus $995 destination), so you won’t be seeing one in every neighborhood cul de sac. $9,000 more nets you the Competition model for $114,100, adding 17 hp, an M Sports Exhaust, staggered wheels, M seatbelts, and extended leather. The X6 M Competition started from $118,595 and reached $131,745 with options.

Source: motor authority

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