The 2015 BMW X6 M makes no sense – particularly given that it retails for more than $100,000. Here's the thing, though: When the big SUV is pushed to its limits, all the logic burns off like the morning mist.
The motivation behind this illogical vehicle is familiar, a turbocharged 4.4-litre V-8 that powers so many examples in the BMW fleet. In this application, the engine develops 567 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, making this the most powerful BMW engine in an AWD vehicle. As an added bonus, the BMW is also 20 per cent more fuel-efficient than before.
Despite its significant weight, the X6 M posts some serious performance numbers. The coupe-shaped SUV thunders to 100 km/h in just 4.2 seconds.
The X6 M is a heavyweight SUV that will likely never be used for this purpose. But after 25 laps muscling it around the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), the F1 track outside Austin, the illogical happened – the X6 M generated mile-wide grins aplenty.
The experience was facilitated by former F1 driver Timo Glock, someone with great knowledge of both the vehicle and the track. This past November, he powered the X6 M around COTA and provided suggestions for fine-tuning. This time around, he was a pace driver.
"The weight of the car [and] the centre of gravity is quite high," Glock said. "That doesn't really match for a race driver. You wouldn't expect the car [to be] that quick, [but] at the end, the package was just really good."
The new X6 M features a revised eight-speed automatic transmission, a recalibrated suspension system and more powerful brakes. The AWD system can send all the power to the front wheels if slip is detected; in normal circumstances, the power is sent to the back to give the X6 M the feeling of a RWD vehicle. The new torque-vectoring system over-accelerates the outside back wheel to help the BMW carve corners better.
The X6 M comes equipped with driver-selectable settings for the engine response, steering, suspension system and stability control. With all the settings at their most aggressive and the stability control turned off completely, the SUV really came to life. The narrower front tires (285s versus 325s in the back) were a weak link, the first to give up on the entry into the quicker corners. Once the X6 M was into the corner, though, it handled like a proper RWD car — slight oversteer that could be turned into extreme oversteer with a touch of gas.
There were some quirks to the X6 M that proved less than desirable. On downshifts, the transmission doesn't signal when you're carrying too much speed to take the next lowest gear. Also, in some of the side-to-side transitions and when taking to the curbs in the corners, the vehicle was bouncy; it felt as if the tires had too much rubber or the tread blocks were shifting under pressure.
Honestly, though, we're talking about an SUV here – an SUV that could hit 235 km/h on each of the circuit's long straights with not much effort.
The BMW also has a softer side. On the country roads surrounding Austin, it was surprisingly comfortable to drive. Visibility to the side and back is not good, but the X6 M could keep four adults comfortable for long stretches.
People who liked the first-generation X6 M will like this one more. For those who maintain that the X6 M doesn't make any sense, well, look for your fun elsewhere.
You'll like this car if ... You defy logic and convention yourself.
- Base price: $108,200
- Engine: Turbocharged 4.4-litre V-8
- Transmission/Drive: Eight-speed automatic/All-wheel drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 16.6 city; 12.1 highway
- Alternatives: BMW X5 M, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Range Rover Sport
- Looks: The X6 M is bold-looking, but not the most beautiful of sports SUVs.
- Interior: This thing is luxurious and wildly comfortable on the open road.
- Performance: It’s fast, fun and handles like a big sports car.
- Technology: The heads-up display, iDrive system and connected features are great.
- Cargo: Not much space inside for such a big vehicle.
A fantastic piece of engineering, but the engineering is better suited to a different type of vehicle.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.
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