It’s fair to say that the Topp Twins are arguably New Zealand’s most beloved set of twins. Their style of humour is unique and their playfulness is addictive but although their family resemblance is obvious, they are not identical. BMW has its own set of playful ‘twins’, the X5M and X6M and now, with generation three, they’re even easier to tell apart – BMW New Zealand took us on a date with their ‘Competition’ models to help us get know them a little better.
The BWM ‘M’ brand itself lays claim to pioneering high-performance SAVs and SACs with the launch of the X5M/X6M in 2009. They both featured a twin-scroll, twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 (408kW/680Nm) engine, both came with xDrive all-wheel-drive and both came with the same looking faces. In fact, aside from one being a Coupe and the other being a more ‘conventional’ SAV, Ken and Ken (Topp Twins reference) would have had difficulty picking them out of a line-up.
Both the X5M and X6M were revamped in 2015 with the release of Generation two. Again, they both came with a 4.4L V8 that now delivered 423kW/750Nm and raced from 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds, however, again their faces would be hard for Camp Mother and Camp Leader (yep Topp Twins) not to mix up.
Well now the BMW high-performance twins are back with Generation three and you’re much less likely to take the wrong sibling home.
First and foremost, the German brand’s trademark kidney grilles have been altered, with the X6M Competition’s one being sleeker and more angular, also, the front aprons are easier to tell apart too. The overall dimensions differ with the X6M being marginally longer, a hair’s width wider but a relatively fair amount lower. It’s lighter too, 15kgs is not a lot when it comes to these 2.3-tonne beasts per se, but it may reduce the guilt when ordering dessert. Of course, the Coupe/SAV bodystyle’s differ but after that, it’s twins all the way baby.
Both come with a 4.4L Twin-Power Turbo V8 that has although still offers 750Nm of torque, has now gained an extra 37kW (460kW) and loses almost half a second when racing from 0-100km/h – now 3.8 seconds. It stops well too 100km/h to zero in 32 metres!
‘Driving modes’ give you power of choice, from calm settings such as comfort up to ‘gloves off’ track, with each mode changing the vehicle’s mood and response with regards to things like acceleration, gear mapping (it has 8 gears to play with) and traction – from playing it safe to fun and frisky.
BMW calls these new twins ‘track-ready’ and in so many ways they are, but don’t think they’re all unrefined and harsh, evidently these high-performance machines paid a long visit to the luxury department before leaving the M GmbH factory where they threw EVERYTHING at it.
The cabins have been lavished with leather and fine, tactile finishes. The sports seats offer excellent lateral support but have M-specific hexagonal quilting and even an illumination M badge. Panoramic roofs are standard. They have BMW live Cockpit Professional, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, BMW’s intelligent personal assistant, it can park itself, they remember the past 50m and can reverse it, BLIS, RCTW, LKA (I could do this all day) and now they even have active cruise control.
Anyway, our date began at BMW NZ’s headquarters in Mt Wellington, it would be a spirited drive south-east to (quickly) enjoy some of greater Auckland’s marvellous countryside, then a bite to eat at The Hub / Aoraki Coffee next to Hampton Downs racetrack and some time on the facilities members track. What’s more, we’d be chaperoned by motorsport legend Mike Eady throughout it all. A push on the red start button and the games began.
Hey BMW, had my favourite radio station located and gesture control set the volume down low so I could talk with my date, the sports exhaust had a lot of great things to say especially through the tree-lined bends east of Clevedon. Even through the tightest of turns the big SUVs handled well, having a mix of wheel size (21” front/22” rear) certainly helps. Going too fast in the corner did offer a bit of understeer but nothing too uncomfortable.
On the M-Sport steering wheel are red M1 and M2 buttons that shortcut to pre-set ‘individual’ driving modes. So should you like to drive with things like rapid steering response or one of three separate suspension settings, you can fill your boots here. And although using the paddles added a bit more of a sense of personal control, Auto is quicker.
Apparently we arrived at Hamptons a bit earlier than expected (no idea why) but even so we scoffed down a sandwich in order to spend more time on the track. With a straight-line sprint being the first exercise.
It could be said that I carry a little extra weight, so I know how hard it is to sprint. Therefore I was expecting the 2.3-tonne SUVs to struggle a bit, both off the mark and stopping – not in the slightest. Left foot braking to hold the SUVs back and flooring the accelerator had the vehicles up to 137km/h and (thanks to the 6-pot brakes and 395mm vented discs) back to zero well within the length rather short track’s home straight. My mind catching up a few moments later.
Last but not least, we played follow the leader around the track in playful track mode. As mentioned, it’s a small track but the large SAV and SAC handled it well. Track mode offered more rear movement which just added to the joy.
With Adaptive Cruise Control on it gave me the chance to relax and ponder as I drove back to Mt Wellington. To date, over 40,000 Gen one and two X5M/X6Ms have been sold and I can see why. On the face of it, having an SUV that’s essentially been designed for safety and comfort wear an M-Sport High-Performance badge makes no sense at all, I mean they’re bulky and heavy and shouldn’t ‘perform’. And then you go on an experience like this with gen three…
My date with BMW New Zealand’s Top Twins was awesome and I enjoyed them both immensely, but I have to say, given the choice, I’d take the X6M Competition home to meet mum.