The hot versions of the BMW X5 and X6 SUVs have been updated for 2023, with both models getting a number of styling changes inside and out, plus the addition of electrically-assisted mild-hybrid power to the range.
As before, the BMW X5 M and its coupé-roofed sibling, the X6 M, will be sold only in high-spec Competition guise. Most notable among the styling tweaks are the revised front-ends, with slimmer LED matrix headlights (some 35mm thinner than those of the outgoing models) and a redesigned grille that has been visually integrated into the lower air intake to form one single expanse of black.
A lack of additional mesh in the grille and lower front air intakes lend both the X5 M and X6 M a more purposeful look, essentially making the intakes appear more open and creating the impression of an engine bay constantly thirsty for more airflow.
Not a great deal has changed towards the back, though the big rear diffuser and pair of gloss black tailpipes on either side very much hint that this is no standard X5 or X6, while the X5 M gets new L-shaped fibre-optic lights similar to those seen on other BMW models.
Inside the X5 and X6 have finally received the BMW Curved Display dashboard seen across much of the rest of the BMW range with a 12.3in instrument cluster and 14.9in central infotainment display forming one continuous and curved unit ergonomically angled towards the driver and running the latest version of BMW Operating System 8.
A full ‘fine-grain Merino’ leather interior is standard in all versions of the X5 M and X6 M, with a few details such as the M-specific steering wheel and carbon-fibre gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel setting them apart from their standard brethren.
There’s the option too of carbon-fibre interior trim in place of standard woodgrain finishes.
On the more practical side of things, boot space in the X5 M is still a healthy 650 litres with the rear seats in place and a cavernous 1,870 litres with the seats folded down. The X6 M has corresponding figures of 580 and 1,530 litres respectively. An electronically-folding towbar can be optioned on both models.
Although the X5 M and X6 M appear to retain the same twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine as before, the work that BMW’s engineers have done under the skin should make both M SUVs feel quite a bit brisker and sharper to drive.
The engine in the X5 M and X6 M is now mild-hybrid assisted, with the 48v electric motor adding an extra 12bhp and 147lb ft of torque to the total output via the crankshaft.
The crankshaft itself been beefed-up to better deal with the extra power throughput, with additional changes to the turbocharging system and air intake ducting, a new oil pump and a new plastic sump for reduced weight.
The gross result of all that under-bonnet engineering is up to 617bhp and 553lb ft of torque with the net being a pair of 2.4-ton vehicles that can accelerate from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds.
That sump has been specifically engineered to cope with the immense power of the X5 and X6’s engine, with the design ensuring that the unit is never starved of oil under heavy acceleration or braking.
Topping off all that engine work is a new engine cover under the bonnet with the option of having the cover finished in carbon-fibre with the weave of the fibre exposed and visible — ideal for those who like to show off the engine bays of their brand-new SUVs at Cars & Coffee-type events.
The eight-speed Steptronic semi-auto transmission has also been extensively reworked with shorter ratios in the first three gears to improve acceleration. Higher up the range, the spread of the ratios has been widened for greater efficiency.
Drivers can additionally alter the characteristics of the gearbox by use of the Drivelogic button, with three settings ranging from one suited to comfort and economy to one for “extremely dynamic” driving.
Power is sent to the road through a rear-wheel-biased all-wheel-drive system, with the active differential doling out differing amounts of torque to each of the rear wheels as required.
The dual branch exhaust system with its two pairs of rear tailpipes is designed to clearly communicate that what’s under the bonnet is a lot more potent than a 2-litre diesel. In BMW’s words, it is tuned to provide “a fitting acoustic showcase for the engine’s healthy appetite for revs and its linear build-up of propulsive power.”
Keeping the X5 M and X6 M poised and direct under cornering are a number of features including electronically-controlled dampers, active roll stabilisation and a notably stiff structure, aided by hydraulically-damped engine and transmission mounts.
Stopping power comes courtesy of a set of six-piston front brake callipers and meaty 395mm discs up front, with only marginally smaller discs and single-piston callipers to the rear.
BMW has confirmed that the X5 M Competition will cost from £123,350 in the UK, while the mechanically identical X6 M Competition starts at £126,050. The M SUVs are available to order now with first deliveries before the summer.
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