BMW launches new mild-hybrid X5 and X6 M
We talked about the updated X5 and X6 earlier this month, not expecting the M versions to follow on quite so abruptly. But here we are – and in many ways the news is more significant than it was for the conventional lineup, because BMW has used the flagship Competition models to debut its latest 48v tech on the shared 4.4-litre V8, making them the first M cars to qualify for (very) mild hybrid status.
Of course, in point of fact, we have seen the combination feature elsewhere – specifically in the new X7 M60i we drove towards the end of last year – but that isn’t a proper M car, and nor does it get the feature the V8’s full-fat 625hp output. Nevertheless, the 12hp/147lb ft hybrid setup is evidently the same, integrated into an updated version of the eight-speed M Steptronic transmission.
Now, based on our previous experience of the X7, the even-more-powerful version of the 4.4-litre unit needs the additional assistance like a hurricane needs a desk fan (BMW doesn’t even bother accounting for its contribution in the latest power figures) but that isn’t to say that it won’t gently aid functionality from a standing start – and if nothing else, the 48v generator is used to summon the mighty engine smartly back to life when the traffic lights change. So there’s that.
What you should not expect it to do is dramatically enhance the efficiency of what is still a brace of large SUVs, now endowed with even more kit – not least the latest M cockpit with BMW’s single-piece Curved Display. When we last drove the X5 M Competition back in 2020, we quoted 22mpg and 290g/km CO2 as combined averages; for the latest model, BMW provisionally claims 295-291g/km CO2 and 21.6-21.9mpg (depending on wheel and tyre size) so clearly the mild-hybrid version isn’t going to be sipping at its fuel tank like a well-fed hummingbird.
There’s a fair chance that the discrepancy there can be attributed to weight gain; BMW doesn’t commit to a figure for either new model, although we’d be willing to bet that neither variant has shed any pounds (the latest X7 was over 100kg heavier than its predecessor). Having said that, the manufacturer promises the same 3.9-second-0-62mph time for both regardless – so there’s no reason to think the cars will be any less ballistic than the previous X5 or X6 M. An optional M Driver’s pack will bump the top speed to 180mph from 155mph if you wish.
We’d anticipate them sounding fast, too. BMW insists there have been a number of detailed mechanical changes – a new air intake duct, vane-type oil pump and lightweight plastic oil sump among them, as well as modified ratios and sharper gear shifts from the retuned torque converter – but it also mentions ‘dramatic sound’ from a standard M Sport exhaust system. This incorporates new catalytic converters, too, but expect the net effect of the dual-branch pipework and electronically controlled flaps to deliver a suitably rumbly presence.
Chances are that both cars will drive in the established manner, as well. Which is to say very ably. Both retain the bespoke M-grade xDrive system, and an Active M Differential to distribute power across the back axle for that ‘signature’ rear-driven feel. Additionally, BMW says the electronic diff now works ‘in tandem’ with the xDrive system to reduce reliance on the stability control system when near the limit of traction. Which ought to make for a more consistent feel on the road when pushing on.
And if that doesn’t necessarily appeal to repeat customers, news of ‘reworked dampers’ is likely to prick their ears up. The previous models were not known for a particularly restful ride, but with standard active-roll stabilisation now available to counteract lateral forces, claims made for ‘even greater composure’ will hopefully ring true in the driving. Ditto efforts made to improve the variable-ratio steering.
Naturally, all this might be for naught if you’re not partial to the way the new X5 and X6 M look – and in this area, subjectively speaking, BMW has apparently done its level best to again shoot itself in the foot (or at the very least, take no prisoners). Suffice it to say, both models feature slimmer headlights, new kidney grilles and ‘wide-open’ air intakes for a more aggressive appearance. As is traditional, the X5 is arguably mildly easier on the eye than the X6, but neither is going to unduly concern any Land Rover dealer in the process of selling the latest Range Rover Sport – especially when they start at £123,350 for the X5 M, and £126,050 for the X6 M. But we could be wrong: if so, both cars are available to order now. Deliveries begin in the spring.
1 / 11