I remember first seeing the X5 and X6 M at the New York International Auto Show. They reminded me of those giant war elephants Colin Farrell fought in the movie Alexander; massive, powerful yet surprisingly nimble, for their size. They amazed yet befuddled me. They seemed like vehicles that had no real purpose other than to just be monstrously powerful people carriers. Sure they were blindingly fast and quite agile, despite their 2.5 ton curb weight, but they weren’t really driver’s cars.
So why would BMW, the creator of the Ultimate Driving Machine, make them?
It seems, now, that the reason they make these speedy behemoths is to keep up with the other kids on the block. Porsche makes the Cayenne Turbo, Mercedes makes the ML63 AMG and even Jeep makes the Grand Cherokee SRT-8, so BMW needs to compete. Even though this car segment seems to be pointless, vehicles that big heavy will never be true driver’s cars regardless of how much horsepower they throw at it, the cars are selling. There’s no denying the success of the segment, despite the bewilderment its existence may cause. I’m not entirely sold on this idea of a performance SUV, and to be honest I don’t think BMW is either.
But BMW has found a home for their M SUVs with the previous generation, around 11,000 X6 M models were sold to customers worldwide, while the X5 M was delivered to 9,500 customers.
With the original models, to make them M cars, BMW just took their biggest engine, stiffest suspension and most aggressive xDrive setup and stuffed it all into the X5 and X6. While Porsche took their time and made the Cayenne Turbo S something that genuinely blended the line between sports utility vehicle and sports car. The Cayenne Turbo seemed like a work of genius while the X5 and X6 M seemed like mongrels.
BMW claims that these new models don’t mess about, however. BMW claims them to be lightened (even though they still weigh as much as small aircraft carriers), with more power and more capability. They’ve tweaked the chassis, added rear air-suspension, fitted stiffer shocks and springs and lightened the whole car. They’ve also added bigger, yet lighter, brakes, and bumped the horsepower output to 567 from 555.
There are also some nice exterior and interior touches to complement the performance mentality. Will all of that actually make a difference; will all of that hard work and cutting-edge technology really make these elephants dance? Who is buying these SUVs and are they really taking them to the track? I’m still not buying it and I still don’t think BMW does either. I think this is a car BMW must make to take some market share away from Porsche, Audi and Jeep.
I’ve yet to drive either of these two, so I can’t say for sure whether or not they can perform as well as advertised, but I’m willing to bet that they can’t. The most important ingredients in the recipe for performance (low curb weight, nimble chassis) just aren’t there. Maybe I’m wrong, and I’ve been wrong before, maybe BMW were able to truly recreate the war elephant.
We look forward to a track day aboard the new M SUVs!
Nico DeMattia also writes at TheEngineBay