BMW’s M division works the X5 and X6 SUV’s over with its magic and specs suggest the plain-jane SUV’s have been converted into fire breathing monsters. So, we drive them at the Chennai racetrack to figure out how serious the transformation is.
The Madras race track has a rich history of racing, and being India’s first FIA recognized track, it is quite a challenging circuit to drive with its technical layout. Pair this with the latest versions of BMW’s pumped up SUV’s models – the X5 M and X6 M – and the resulting combination is partly interesting and partly bewildering. Interesting because with their high center of gravity, the tight corners of the track will provide an interesting driving opportunity in both the cars and bewildering because with their huge power and performance numbers, the SUV-duo seem almost too powerful for such a track.
But, coming to the products in question, the recently revamped X6 – now in its second-generation avatar – and the X5 are very capable vehicles in their own right, with the X5 being a particular favourite of ours. To bring these two products up to their exacting standards, the engineers at BMW’s motorsport division have equipped them with twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engines which produce 575bhp and 750Nm of torque. Pair this with the standard all-wheel drive hardware both the cars have and the performance numbers are slightly astounding, with the 0-100 mark coming up in a mere 4.2 seconds for both cars. To put this into reference, do remember that both these SUV’s weigh over 2.2 tons, so this performance is no small feat.
Of course, these are not the only changes made to the standard cars, and to aid their handling and stability both the cars feature stiffer suspension settings, along with a 10mm drop in ride height and Dynamic Drive active roll stabilisation to help their cornering ability. And helping the cars put the power down are humongous tyres, with the fronts of both cars being 285mm wide, while the rears are positively supercar wide at 325mm of width. Needless to say, there are also sufficient visual changes to both cars to make clear the fact that they are true ‘M’ cars with both cars featuring aggressive body kits with big air dams, wider fenders and huge wheels.
Once through with the product briefing and the safety details, we finally venture out on to the track, with my first stint being in the X5 M. The interiors of both cars have also been upgraded and the sports seats are a nice place to spend time in, providing enough support when cornering aggressively. The first impression, though, is of how strong the engine is, with both the X5 and X6 getting powered along aggressively with stupendous amount of grunt, pushing the car strongly along the track. The chassis also manages to control the power, and the all-wheel drive system means the cars have no problems putting the power down. The bumpy nature of the track though doesn’t help, as combined with the relatively higher center of gravity of the cars, the resulting vertical movement is annoying. Interestingly, unlike most other stability systems, the system in both these cars does allow some amount of sideways action, and if you’re up to it, the feeling power sliding a 2.2-ton SUV can be quite hilarious.
If you look at it logically, both the cars have performance that is stupendous. The engine delivers endless grunt, no matter the gear and speed is, while the power delivery is quite linear. The 8-speed automatic transmission shifts gears effortlessly, and the chassis matches the performance of the engine quite capably. The main limitation of this drive is the Madras race track, whose tight corners and small straight sections hardly allow the driver to access the upper reaches of performance in both the cars. But logic is hardly ever going to be the reason behind the purchase of vehicles like the X5 M and the X6 M, the clear intent behind them will always be to make a statement, and both these vehicles make a very powerful one at that. They have the presence, the aggression, and the detailing to let everybody around them know that these are serious vehicles that mean business. The only change required perhaps is for a venue which allows the cars to be exploited more, giving the driver a chance to revel in the performance capabilities of the cars.
Also read: 6th Gen BMW 7 Series Review, First Drive