First Drive: 2015 BMW X6M

Austin, TX - When I first spied the gen-one BMW X6 SAC (Sport Activity Coupe) at the 2007 Geneva Auto Show, I thought “Gawd, what hath BMW wrought?”

Turns out they wrought something pretty good. The X6 has been a consistent and profitable seller for BMW, and when the high-performance M division had its way with this swoopy Swabian for the 2010 model year, it proved to be another wise move.

The 2,275 kg BMW X6M so soundly kicks the laws of physics in the stones, Isaac Newton is probably feeling it.

Oh yes, there was much derision and many cries of woe from the M faithful. This was the first M vehicle to sport all-wheel-drive with an automatic transmission and turbocharged power. And then there was the not-so-small matter of both the X5M and X6M being not-so-small two-and-a half-tonne SUVs. (Flashback to the Porsche Cayenne launch.)

Blasphemy or not, about half of X6 models now sold in America are the M variant. And the US accounts for twenty-five percent of total M car sales worldwide.

And so I find myself tearing around the all-new Circuit of the Americas in the second-generation 2015 BMW X6M that will be hitting our showrooms early spring with an MSRP of $108,200. My mission, of course, is to inform all potential customers that yes indeedy, were they to spring for this M-badged crossover, their portly possession will have the goods to acquit itself very well on a racetrack.

That directive really wasn’t going through my mind as I followed ex-F1 pilot and BMW factory racer Timo Glock around this long, fast and technical track in a Long Beach Blue 2015 BMW X6M. It turns, it grips, it stays flat and absolutely storms down the long straights, only to be hauled down lap after lap by the massive compound discs squeezed by six-piston calipers up front and single floating caliper in the back. The 2,275 kg BMW X6M so soundly kicks the laws of physics in the stones, Isaac Newton is probably feeling it. Poor guy’s peacefully eating an apple under a tree in heaven… then, WHAM!

A couple of laps in I switch the stability control from Normal to the more lenient M Dynamic Mode. All of a sudden easily controllable drifts enter the equation. But MDM will still save your bacon if you get really out of shape. There is an “Off” setting that leaves you completely to your own devices – until things really go wrong. Then it kicks back in. So “Off” isn’t really off. Not that I had any desire to find out. 

There’s no denying the weight or height of the X6M, but the way it flicks through S-bends, tenaciously hangs in on long sweepers, compresses your eyeballs at the end of a 240 km/h straight, and continues to take this abuse is truly remarkable.

Speaking of abuse, the mixed Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (285/35R21 front, 325/30R21 rear) that were specifically developed for this vehicle took the brunt of it out here at the Circuit of the Americas.

Pace X6M drivers Timo Glock and Bill Auberlen go through two sets a day. The journalist’s cars get changed daily.

Exterior changes to this second-gen X6 include a more upright grille, creases over the rear wheel arches and a short, stubby tail. The M version announces its intent with forged 21-inch alloys, a 10 mm lower ride height, gaping front air intakes, rear diffuser, a pair of twin exhaust tips and a rear spoiler.

Under the hood is BMW’s familiar 4.4L twin-turbo V8, and in this 2015 model the wick gets turned up. Horsepower rises by seven to 567, and torque gets a 53 lb-ft bump to 553 lb-ft, available from 2,200 to 5,000 rpm. One hundred kilometres per hour comes up in a rather brisk 4.2 seconds. Turbos tend to mute the exhaust sound, but M engineers have managed to give this 2015 model a bit more edge.

A new Steptronic eight-speed automatic transmission replaces the outgoing six-speed unit, and contributes to the claimed 20 percent increase in fuel economy. This is an impressive unit delivering smooth shifts when tooling about, yet it also does a fine impersonation of a twin-clutch unit when set to its most aggressive mode. It responds instantly to paddle shift commands, banging off shifts right when you need them.

Official fuel economy number for the 2015 BMW X6M are 16.6 L/100 km city and 12.1 L/100 km highway.

BMW’s M division has tweaked the suspension for improved handling. Front wheel camber is increased for more bite in the corners, there are revised bushings all around, stiffer springs and the rear-biased xDrive all-wheel-drive uses a torque vectoring system dubbed Dynamic Performance Control that reduces understeer.

Factor in Active Roll Stabilization with self leveling rear air suspension and you can see how the X6M can bust a serious move.

As with all M vehicles, its dynamic parameters are ultimately tailorable. Choose from Comfort, Sport and Sport+ for steering feel, suspension stiffness and throttle mapping. Similarly there are three settings for transmission response. Drivers can preset two preferred dynamic cocktails and call them up via the M1 and M2 buttons on the wheel.

For customers living in an alternate reality, BMW offers the M Laptimer app for smartphones. Linked through the iDrive controller, this app records the vehicle’s speed, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, throttle position, gear selection and steering angle over the course of a lap.

In the real world, it’s doubtful the 2015 BMW X6M will see much track work. Owners will revel in the occasional burst of eye-widening acceleration, its smart handling, intimidating looks and the knowledge that they own one of the meanest SUV/CUV thingies money can buy.

On public roads, there seems to be little penalty for this prowess. Yes, the ride is on the firm side, but hardly punishing. The M Multifunction sport seats are truly wonderful, as is the stylish multifunction M steering wheel with aluminum shift paddles.

Standard kit for the X6M includes a stitched Nappa leather dashboard, Alcantara roof liner, 3D navigation, park distance control with back-up camera, full active LED headlights, and powered liftgate, soft close doors, 600-watt Harman Kardon and heated rear seats.

This is one of the nicest BMW interiors I’ve seen. And for a price, here optioned to the nines with lovely $4,500 Aragon Brown Full Merino leather, $500 carbon-fibre trim, $4,900 Bang and Olufsen audio, and the $7,500 Premium package.

The South Carolina-built $108,200 2015 BMW X6M and mechanically identical $105,900 X5M (for the somewhat more practically minded) with be on sale in Canada April 11, 2015.

Pricing: 2015 BMW X6M
Base price: $108,200
Optional equipment: Bang and Olufsen audio $4,900; Aragon Brown Full Merino leather $4,500; carbon fibre interior trim $500; Premium Package $7,500; ConnectedDrive Services Professional with w/ARTTI $500
A/C tax: $100
Destination charge: $2095
Price as tested: $128,295

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance 24-hour roadside assistance

Competitors:
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Mercedes-Benz GL 63 AMG
Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
Range Rover Sport Supercharged

When I first spied the gen-one BMW X6 SAC (Sport Activity Coupe) at the 2007 Geneva Auto Show, I thought “Gawd, what hath BMW... 2/5/2015 11:30:12 AM