There's more to these SUVs than a few M badges.
BMW has just revealed the third-generation X5 M Sports Activity Vehicle and X6 M Sports Activity Coupe, which join their standard counterparts in the company's mid-size SUV lineup. Compared to the standard X5 and X6, the M models boast various improvements to provide a sportier driving experience. Since the M models come at a significant price increase over the standard models, we wanted to take a deep dive into all of the changes made by the M Division to see if it is truly worth buying the faster X5 and X6. Here's how the X5 M and X6 M stack up against the standard X5 and X6.
It isn't enough to simply improve performance, you have to let passersby know you are driving an M-powered BMW. The M Division hasn't skimped on visual cues here because the X5 M and X6 M look much meaner than the standard models. They boast larger air intakes, flared wheel arches, an aggressive rear diffuser, and quad exhaust tips. The wheels are larger (21 or 22 inches) as are the brakes tucked behind them. BMW also added a roof spoiler on the standard X5 M and X6 M while the Competition models get a more aerodynamic lower tailgate spoiler.
In typical German performance car fashion, these M cars do not stray too far from the models on which they are based. The X5 and X6 are already handsome SUVs, they just aren't as aggressive as the M models. But if you have a keen eye for cars, it will be easy to tell when you are about to be passed by an X5 M or X6 M.
In the cabin, the biggest changes come in the form of red M buttons on the steering wheel, some aluminum and carbon fiber trim options, an M-specific gear selector, sportier seats, and M-colored stitching. BMW has also added some performance-oriented functions into the gauge cluster and head-up display, including a G-meter, temperate gauge, and boost pressure gauge. The changes basically mirror what you'll see on an M5, adding a sporty flair without losing the luxury.
Both models include a standard Black Extended Merino Leather interior but the Competition models get a Full Marino Leather interior. We love the Tamura Brown and Sakhir Orange/Black leather colors in the launch photos and other color options are also available. The standard X5 and X6 are a bit softer inside, with less aggressive seats, wood trim, and an optional Swaroski crystal shifter instead of a special M shifter.
The most significant change of all comes under the hood, where a 4.4-liter twin-turbo N63 V8 produces 600 horsepower (617 hp in Competition guise) and 553 lb-ft of torque. Like the standard cars, power goes out through an eight-speed automatic, but this one has been beefed up to handle the added power and torque. BMW has also stiffened the engine mounts to cope with the improved response from the transmission. The standard X5 and X6 are available with either a 3.0-liter inline-six or a more mundane version of the V8 producing either 456 or 523 hp.
Even the quickest M50i version of the X5 and X6 with 523 hp take 4.1 seconds to hit 60 mph while the M versions take just 3.8 seconds (3.7 seconds in Competition guise). Top speed is 155 mph, or 177 mph with an optional package. Even compared to the M Sport variants, the M cars will feel significantly quicker out on the road.
The X5 M and X6 M aren't just quicker in a straight line, they handle better as well. The front suspension uses a double-wishbone setup with forged upper control arms while the rear suspension uses a five-link design. A special bracing package connecting the front bulkhead with the strut towers has also been added to improve structural rigidity. All four versions of these cars include Adaptive M suspension Professional with Active Roll Stabilization, which records body movement, road surface conditions, and steering movements to adjust the damper settings in milliseconds.
Drivers can select from Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus suspension settings as well as Comfort and Sport steering settings. The steering ratio also adjusts depending on driving conditions such as parking or a race track. Base X5 and X6 models also have drive modes, though they aren't quite as drastic as the M models. You will likely be more comfortable in the base cars but the M models will have less body roll.
Despite both having 600 horsepower (or more), the X5 M and X6 M haven't lost much of their family-hauling practicality. The rear seats can be folded in a 40:20:40 split configuration to increase storage space from 33.9 to 72.3 cubic feet in the X5 M and from 27.4 to 59.6 cubic feet in the X6 M. These storage numbers are identical to the standard X5 and X6, meaning you don't lose any cargo space opting for the M models. On the downside, these vehicles will likely be thirstier than their standard counterparts and they will not be as capable off-road.
Pricing is also a major factor when considering either of these cars. The X5 M starts at $105,100 or $114,100 for X5 M Competition while the X6 M costs $108,600 or $117,600 for the X6 M Competition. Comparatively, the six-cylinder 40i version of the X5 starts at $60,700 while the X6 starts at $64,300. Stepping up to the V8 50i X5 costs $75,750 but the best value on the board is the M50i models.
The X5 M50i costs $82,150 while the X6 costs $85,650. This is significantly less than the full M versions and they still include the same basic engine producing 523 hp. Both the X5 M and X6 M are impressive vehicles but if it were our money, the M50i trims would be more than enough.