It was an insightful experience driving the BMW M range at the Madras race track, these cars are fast
Let me begin this feature with a very infamous quote, “Whatever happens, happens for the good.” The exciting Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya rally is currently going on up north and I was quite thrilled to be able to attend it. However, due to some unforeseen circumstances I couldn’t make it to the rally and was a tad bit disappointed. However, there were better things in store and this is one time when I won’t crib about getting to review only SUVs. So BMW has just launched the 2015 X5 M and X6 M in India and I drove both of them at the Madras Motor Sports Club race track and the experience was astounding to be frank.
Talking about the mechanicals first, both the vehicles over here come with a 4.4-litre TwinPower V8 turbo petrol engine that produces much more power and torque than the outgoing models. The engine belts out 575 horses from 6000 to 6500 RPM and 750 Nm of torque from 2200 to 5000 RPM. BMW also claims that the fuel efficiency on the X5 M and X6 M has increased by 20%. The engine comes mated to an 8-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic technology. The SUVs sprint from standstill to 100 km/hr in just 4.2 seconds which is quite brilliant considering that they also weigh so much.
The driver can choose from Comfort, Sport and Eco modes. Since we were driving on the track, it goes without saying that we drove the vehicles in Sport mode with the manual paddle shifters. The SUVs also get Dynamic Stability Control with functions like Brake Standby, Brake Drying and Fading Compensation. The DSC also comes with three modes – DSC On, DSC Off and M Dynamic Mode and we tried them on the track. The DSC On mode allows you to have fun with the car in a very safe manner and there is no unnecessary wagging out of the tail or anything like that.
Turning off the traction control makes the BMW M cars go absolutely crazy in corners
The DSC off mode switches off the electronics and allows the driver to fully exploit the car. Since we were advised to not use this mode, we refrained from switching off the DSC on the track. The M Dynamic Mode is the best one we feel. It allows the driver to have fun with the car and wag its tail out, but as soon as the car nears the limit, the DSC automatically kicks in and brings the car back in line. We experienced this first hand and yes it is quite a nice mode, since entering into a spin is easy but getting out of it might be tricky.
The Madras Motor Sports Club race track is quite bumpy. I first drove the M3 and the M4 before these SUVs and drove those on the Sport+ mode but it seems that this mode isn’t best suited for bumpy tracks. On the SUVs, I used the regular Sport mode and both of them handled the track brilliantly. What is amazing is that you can change the damper, suspension and drive modes (Comfort, Sport, Sport+) on the fly and hence we really could experiment with most of the settings while driving. The Comfort mode softens up the suspension and is best suited for day-to-day driving conditions.
The 4.4-litre TwinPower V8 is a gem of an engine. There is absolutely zero turbo lag and it starts pulling the cars right from the word GO. Slot the gear into Sport, floor the throttle and you get pushed back in your seat as the vehicle reaches the 150 km/hr mark in no time. Throttle inputs are sharp and the gearbox has been finely integrated. Of course, if you’re using the paddle shifters, you can feel the vehicle changing cogs with a nice jerk. The V8 also has a beautiful and loud exhaust note and it turns into glory when you are nearing the redline. Downshift a couple of gears at the curves and you hear a blip which is pure eargasm.
Talking about the handling characteristics, the BMW X5 M is so damn huge in size and yet it feels so nimble to drive. The steering wheel on both the cars is nicely set-up and it weighs up beautifully at high speeds. The X5 M takes corners with ease but bet you it is no M3 or M4. The high seating position and the higher centre of gravity doesn’t instil as much confidence that an M sedan gives. There is also some understeer which the DSC tries to control but you can still feel it. The steering gives out awesome feedback and the tyres are so grippy that never did we feel losing confidence. The X6 M too gets the Adaptive Dynamic Suspension like other BMWs and it also feels good to drive on the track, but we noticed that the car was working a bit too hard to remain stable after attacking corners at high speeds which the X5 M negotiated with much ease.
Straight line stability is at its best no matter what speed the cars are doing. Braking performance is just excellent on the both the SUVs and the bite is very sharp and precise. Once you slot into D, the vehicles do not creep when you let go of the brake pedal. You need to dab the accelerator lightly to get them moving. The 2015 BMW X5 M and X6 M are essentially very similar cars and yet they have a lot of differences. The X5 is the more practical choice of the two because it has more space and a split tail-gate too while the X6 is targeted towards the younger age groups. The X6 is also smaller than the X5. If I had to pick one out of these, it would be the X5 M eyes closed, but if I had to pick one from all the M models in the BMW range, it would be the M5. Apart from the X5 M and X6 M, we also got a chance to drive the M3, M4, M5 and M6 on the track, what a day!