BMW South Africa has launched two of its most potent weapons on Earth, the new X5 M Competition and X6 M Competition. The fraternal twins, which always land at the same time in Mzansi, are here to claim the title of “best hi-performance SUV” and from what I gathered after driving them around Gauteng, they can easily claim it. And if you ever asked yourself “do we need these cars?”, consider that the previous-generation X5 M and X6 M sold 12 842 and 9 600 units each respectively worldwide.

Both cars are powered by the same engine, which is the 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 already found in the M5 and M8 range. In this case it develops some 460kW at 6 000rpm, and 750Nm of torque from a lowly 1 800rpm, all the way up to 5 600rpm. BMW says both will accelerate from 0 – 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds, reaching an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. Of course if you speak to your dealership about the M Drivers Package they could increase this to 285km/h.

Whilst the pair do share more or less everything in terms of build, they are actually two distinct cars. The X5 M Competition is the more family-oriented vehicle, thanks to its better rear headroom space, rear window size and slightly bigger boot. During our drive I also found it to be more stable at higher speeds, as well as more comfortable over uneven roads. The X6 M Competition is the coupe version, which means the rear roofline slopes pretty early on and restricts headroom for rear passengers. Fortunately both feature three seats at the back.

Whilst we are inside it is worth noting that the M leather seats hug and comfort the front occupants well, and are available in different colour combinations. Surfaces can be finished in a number of material combinations too, including carbon fibre, piano black and aluminium. Door sills feature the illuminated words “X5 M Competition” and “X6 M Competition”. The infotainment system comes standard with a 31.2cm touch screen (which can still be operated by knob), a 16-speaker Harmann Kardon surround sound system with 464 Watt amplifier power, 9 channels and speaker bezels with Harman Kardon designation. ConnectedDrive services are live, and smart phones can be paired wirelessly to Apple CarPlay.

At over 2 tonnes in dry weight one would expect some sluggishness with the X5 M Competition and X6 M Competition. Fortunately this is hardly the case. Of course physics always comes into play and you cannot just wish away that weight. But these two can absorb and disguise it pretty well, especially when cornering. Mind you, the base cars on which these are built are designed to do just that. With M xDrive being standard and can be adjusted between 4WD and 4WD Sport modes. Traction is optimised by the Active M Differential, and all systems work exceptionally well to give the cars all the grip they need. The three drive modes; ROAD, SPORT and TRACK are available to play with, and each changes the characteristics of the powertrain and suspension system.

Where BMW has dropped the ball once again is in the exhaust system sound. It remains deep, but muted, especially when revving the cars. I know the Sports exhaust is tuned mainly to keep the C02 emissions as low as possible and thus restricts sound, but I also know some direct rivals just sound better. How do they do it? The 8-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic is very smooth. So smooth in fact that at its sharpest it still won’t snap your neck back like it does in the M5 Competition during gear changes. Interestingly the cars are shod with different-sized wheels and tyres for front and rear; 21”/22” M light alloy wheels Star-spoke styling 809 M Bicolour, Jet Black. Front: 295/35 R21; Rear: 315/30 R22. Real sports car stuff.

The new BMW X5 M Competition and BMW X6 M Competition continue a wonderful tradition of catering to hi-performance sports car fans who have gained a few more family members over the years, but still long for the purity of performance offered by smaller, powerful cars. They are what we often call “the only car you’ll ever need”, if you can face up to the asking price.

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