Southern Ocean deep water properties and formation processes in climate models are indicative of their capability to simulate future climate, heat and carbon uptake, and sea level rise. Southern Ocean temperature and density averaged over 1986–2005 from 15 CMIP5 (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5) climate models are compared with an observed climatology, focusing on bottom water. Bottom properties are reasonably accurate for half the models. Ten models create dense water on the Antarctic shelf, but it mixes with lighter water and is not exported as bottom water as in reality. Instead, most models create deep water by open ocean deep convection, a process occurring rarely in reality. Models with extensive deep convection are those with strong seasonality in sea ice. Optimum bottom properties occur in models with deep convection in the Weddell and Ross Gyres. Bottom Water formation processes are poorly represented in ocean models and are a key challenge for improving climate predictions.