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Crazy, isn’t it, that when BMW first introduced the X5 “SAV” – which we all knew was an SUV – there was an uproar from purists. Such purists had to be put at ease as BMW made very clear that the M badge didn’t belong on vehicles that lacked a low centre of gravity and for which performance wasn’t a major characteristic.

BMW gave X5 lovers hi-po versions anyway. The German automaker simply called them something else. The BMW X5 from last generation was available as the astounding 4.6iS. The current availability of 350 horsepower in the X5 xDrive48i isn’t shabby either. The drearily ugly and Bad 8 Supersize-winning BMW X6 can be optioned up to hold a twin-turbocharged 4.4L V8 producing 400 horsepower.
Apparently, that’s not enough. Besides, BMW’s M badge; like Mercedes AMG and Audi RS; is a cash cow. Supply customers with a better engine and sportier suspension and they’ll pay ridiculously high markups. At the cost of diluting the brand? It seems BMW doesn’t believe that’s an issue anymore. Now we have the BMW X5 M and BMW X6 M. Powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4L V8, the power monsters produce 555 ponies and 501 lb-ft of torque. Being the only BMW M models with all-wheel drive, configuring that system to allow a natural M-like flow of power was a challenge.
These are also the only BMW M models with a strict automatic transmission. Even the 7-speed SMG is really a clutchless manual and the direct-shift gearbox more recently found in the M3 is a dual-clutch automatic. Acceleration is identical, another figure which calls into question the need for an X6 that is less capacious and ten times uglier than anything in the BMW lineup. Regardless, the Gallery for each model is seen here. Confusingly, BMW mentioned that “the truly outstanding potential of both models comes out clearly in their looks and design”, whatever that means.