Malcolm Flynn reviews the 2015 BMW X6 M in Texas

2015 BMW X6 M | First Drive Review

Written byMalcolm Flynn | Carsguide

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MyDrive | BMW Group Australia – If Nike made a hi-top running shoe, would you buy a pair? Not everyone would, but if it looked fast and helped you sprint like Usain Bolt it would certainly earn a place in a few wardrobes. BMW’s automotive equivalent will return to Australian showrooms in April, with the second-generation X6 M promising pace that would leave Mr Bolt for dead.

Standing on the brakes at more than 200km/h approaching Turn 1 of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) racetrack in Texas, you’d expect the complex uphill harpin that quickly drops away after the apex to send a 2.3-tonne SUV porpoising into the runoff. Not so the X6 M, which harnesses M chassis knowhow to reign in its heft, point where it’s steered and rocket out the other side.

you’d expect the complex uphill harpin to send a 2.3-tonne SUV porpoising into the runoff

M-purists may look at the X6 M’s Sports Activity Coupe shape with cynicism, but the SUV-coupe packs plenty of M-specific tweaks beneath the skin and beyond the engine bay to justify its many M badges.

BMW M design boss Krzysztof Szews describes the X6 M as “combining the extrovert personality of X6 with outstanding performance of a BMW M vehicle.”

Starting with a tweaked version of the previous twin-turbo 4.4 litre petrol V8 and M Steptronic eight-speed ZF torque converter auto, BMW has boosted theX6M’s outputs by 15kW and 70Nm to a monstrous 423kW and 750Nm.

The exterior is distinguished by more aggressive front and rear bumpers, with larger inlets up the front to help cool its 10 radiators and M-trademark quad exhausts poking out the rear. The examples we drove were fitted with 21-inch alloys that fit its giant wheelarches well.

Underneath, the X6 M’s sharpened dynamics are aided by redrilled upper control arms with more camber, stiffer composite bushings and a 10-15 per cent faster steering rack.

With a claimed 0-100km/h figure of 4.2 seconds it will share with its upcoming X5 M mechanical twin, the X6 M is bettered only by the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S’s 4.1 second claim in the world’s fastest SUV stakes.

the X6 M is bettered only by the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S in the world’s fastest SUV stakes

Like all M models, M GmbH refuse to quote an official Nürburgring time for the X6 M, but admit that it will match the previous E92 M3’s 8:05 lap. This is a full nine seconds faster than the 8:14 achieved by the Range Rover Sport SVR, but ultimately toppled by the 7:59.74 of the Cayenne Turbo S.

On top of these performance gains, M has managed to improve the X6 M’s combined fuel consumption from 13.9L/100km to an impressive 11.1L/100km on the European cycle.

The interior of our test examples were trimmed in a baseball mitt tan leather, with carbon fibre and aluminium trim and contrasting stitching that lifts the cabin ambience to exotic levels. Unlike most exotics, the X6 M retains the pragmatic five-seat layout of the rest of the X6 lineup, with plenty of room for average height adults in the rear, plus 550/1525-litres of cargo storage.

Images by Malcolm Flynn

ON THE ROAD

Before being unleashed onto the COTA tarmac, we took the X6 M on a lengthy route through the flat Texan countryside. Cornering opportunities were few and far between, but plenty of broken bitumen and stop/start driving gave a good idea of what the X6 M would be like to live with every day.

Even with the adaptive dampers set to their most comfortable, there’s no hiding its M roots. The big 21-inch wheels communicate any surface irregularities and the huge 285mm front/325mm rear tyres do generate significant road noise. It’s rarely harsh, but you know you’re driving an M at all times.

It’s rarely harsh, but you know you’re driving an M at all times.

With max torque on tap all the way from 2200-5000rpm, overtaking is a cinch, and a surprisingly M3/M4-like bark can be heard from the quad exhausts under heavy throttle.

ON THE TRACK

COTA has plenty of opportunities to highlight the X6 Ms dynamic prowess, and like other current M’s the X6 M gives the driver individual control over steering, suspension and throttle response.

Your preferred combination can be stored within the M1 button on the steering wheel, and an M2 button unleashes MDM mode – the most track-focused combination of the three, which also extends the traction and stability-control envelope.

Working our way from the softest settings through to MDM, the X6 M changes personality from a quick but safe handler, through to a surprisingly sharp menace. MDM also takes advantage of its infinitely variable torque split to enable easily controlled oversteer with a prod of your right foot.

the X6 M changes personality from a quick but safe handler, through to a surprisingly sharp menace

The X6 M comes with the excellent steering wheel found in other recent M models, and the steering feel and sharpness are a significant step ahead of the regular X6, regardless of mode.

For a relatively tall beast with plenty of suspension travel, bodyroll is well contained, although there is still plenty of pitch under heavy braking. The six piston front brakes grab 40 percent larger two-piece front rotors, and held up well after our handful of hot laps.

Left in the default modes, the X6 M is as idiot-proof as you could hope for a car that boasts such performance, and the engine’s torque will deal with even the most ham-fisted of manual gear selections. This is an M that can make any driver a hero.

VERDICT

BMW’s jack of all trades is back, with more performance, tech and everyday practicality, plus an even more rewarding drive experience. It’s not for everyone, but those it does suit will love it.

Specifications

Price From TBC
Thirst 11.1L/100km
Warranty 3yr/unlimited km
Engine 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8-cyl petrol, 423kW/750Nm
Transmission 8-speed torque converter auto, AWD
Spare Spacesaver

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