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SA’s BMW M Festival 2019: Battle of the Xs

BMW’s M Festival made unprecedented history in South Africa with the global unveiling of two new high performance SUVs – the X5 M and X6 M.  Many ticket holders may have been unaware that they were among the very first in the world to see these cars up close, adding the cherry on the top of what was BMW’s premier motoring event.

With one in three BMW’s being sold as a X-model derivative, these family-sized cars now epitomise new standards in driving dynamics, connectivity, safety and of course, design. By adding the M badge, each of these tenets is taken up a notch over the standard model, resulting in an all-round package that will please old and new enthusiasts.

Styling, followed by practicality are the main dividers between X5 M and X6 M since mechanical parity is a feature of BMW’s prominent turbo charged engines and configurable all-wheel drive systems.  Set to arrive in South Africa as the full-strength Competition models, the 4,4 litre biturbo is tuned for 460kW and 750Nm with a plethora of modes to quickly cycle through its many contrasting characteristics. Benchmarked against the previous model, there have been improvements up and down the line, although most fans will chiefly be interested in the 0-100kph time in under 4 seconds and a top speed in excess of 280kph. We should at this point be a little pedantic by mentioning that the X6 M is incrementally faster than the X5 M thanks to sleeker aerodynamics.

BMW X5 M 2019 South Africa

The all-wheel drive system is a carbon copy of the one fitted to the BMW X3 M and X4 M with its own integration into the car’s driving modes used to spread power dynamically between each axle, leaning towards oversteer in its sportiest setting. What this means is that stability doesn’t compromise BMW’s renowned agility. BMW claim that the X5 and X6 M will drift…we can’t wait to try.

Another exciting feature to come from the BMW M8 are the adjustable brakes that have been designed to provide better response and feedback, not just to a single situation – as per traditional brakes – but the best stopping performance under every situation.  

Competition models are not restricted to power upgrades or the fact that additional measures, like stiffer springs and anti-roll bars, have been put in place to prepare it for track use. Black detailing on items like kidney grilles and mirrors gives off a powerful contrast effect to not just the X5 M and X6 M, but the rest of BMW’s Competition range.

Models that also include the X3 M and X4 M Competition, which were available for hot laps at the M Festival and thereby eloquently demonstrated their motorsport credentials in front of thousands of fans.

This is the first time BMW has applied the full M treatment to an X3 and X4 but even so the formula behind these is written with the same undertone as its siblings. The 3.0-litre twin turbo straight six with 375kW and 600Nm gives it comparable speed to that of a bona fide sportscar (0-100kph in 4.1 seconds), but with a driving position that helps you grow in confidence in all weather conditions and around town. Need some more confidence when there’s an inviting stretch of road? Two red buttons on the steering wheel store individual driver preferences so that in seconds there’s a perfect recipe of chassis stiffness, throttle response, and gearshift speed.

Interiors wrapped in a mix of leather and carbon fibre reflect these two opposing sides of BMW’s sporty SUVs with digitisation careful not to overwhelm the driver’s engagement. From there a list of options on all models highlight different aspects from connectivity, comfort or the suite of autonomous driving aids.

The BMW X3 M and X4 M are both currently on sale in South Africa following the M Festival with the X5 M and X6 M arriving early next year. Could be time for that SUV switch…

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