LOS ANGELES -- BMW's M cars based on the previous generation X5 and X6 were stunning and surprising, using performance technology to handle like sports cars. Now, BMW has built new M cars based on the latest generation of the X5 and X6.
The X6 M's odd, coupe-like body seems very appropriate for a high performance vehicle. As with the standard X5 and X6, both M cars get a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system which can run 100 percent of torque to the front or rear axles, as needed.
An electric power steering system is a change from the previous generation's hydraulic power steering. The new system allows multiple sensitivity programs.
The engine for both vehicles comes from the M5 sedan. It's a 4.4-liter V-8 with two twin-scroll turbochargers, one for each bank of cylinders. It makes 567 horsepower and 537 pound-feet of torque, using different tuning than the M5 engine.
Big air intakes are necessary to cool the engine components. In fact, BMW does not offer adaptive cruise control on the X6 M or X5 M, because the required radar dome would interfere with the air intakes.
LED headlights that actively illuminate corners can be had as an option.
BMW did not use carbon fiber or aluminum parts to lower the weight over the standard X5 and X6, as it has done with other M cars. A BMW spokesperson said the weight savings would make little difference in performance.
The suspension for both cars uses adaptive dampers and a rear air suspension. The suspension reacts to changes in the road and the car's pitch and roll angles.
The X5 M is very similar to the X6 M, using the same engine and performance components. Its traditional SUV body looks more practical than sporty, however.
Along with the big front air intakes, the X5 M and X6 M follow BMW's M car aesthetic with black grilles using doubled-up vertical bars.
This X5 M shows off 20-inch wheels, while the X6 M at the LA Auto Show had 21-inch wheels.
Improved engine technology means both cars are 20 percent more fuel efficient than their predecessors.
Sport seats in both cars have prominent bolsters and integrated headrests.
Current M cars are all about settings. Programmable M buttons on the steering wheel let drivers save steering, throttle, transmission and suspension settings.
The shifter controls an eight speed automatic transmission. Although using a torque converter, its lock-up clutch ensures quick, solid gear changes.
The cars also offer BMW's connected features, including apps such as the M lap timer and GoPro camera control.
The navigation system offers comprehensive traffic coverage and proactive warnings about traffic jams.