Today, BMW unveiled the latest versions of its entries to this odd niche with the X5M full SUV and X6M SUV/coupe/AMC Eagle-like frappe. For vehicles meant to go off-road (lightly) and hold five people with luggage, 60 mph can now arrive in an awfully quick 4 seconds.
The X5M and X6M share the same heart — a more muscular version of the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 which now makes slightly more power (567 hp vs. 555 hp. in last year's model) with greater torque (up 53 lb.-ft. to 553, and available in a wider band.)
Moving that energy to the wheels is a new eight-speed automatic transmission yoked to a four-wheel-drive system that can shift torque entirely to either axle depending on the demands of traction. (There's also some improvement in fuel economy, like the buyers of either of these models really cares about such things.)
While the exterior gets some additional creases and scoops, and the interior has some freshening as well, the real story may lie in the electronics. BMW says among the numerous modes embedded in the two models' software lies one called MDM for "M Dynamic Mode" — a setting that loosens the hold of the stability control just enough for what BMW calls "mild drifts."
It's not likely to turn the school trip into a Vaughn Gittin Jr. demonstration, but it's an interesting addition to the repertoire.