2015 BMW X6 M: Reality Distortion Field

Strong points
  • Extremely powerful
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Handles remarkably well for an SUV
  • Beautiful interior design
Weak points
  • Very expensive
  • Not engaging to drive
  • Limited cargo and rear passenger room
  • Consumes copious amounts of fuel
Full report

There exists a small sliver of the automotive market that absolutely always wants to be driving the fastest, most powerful version of whatever vehicle strikes their fancy.  Be it a rocket-powered school bus or a rider mower outfitted with a turbocharger, these devotees to benchmarks like torque, top speed, and acceleration times aren’t satisfied with anything other than the fine point of the performance pyramid, even if the differential between ‘best’ and ‘second best’ can only be measured in mere tenths of a second.

The 2015 BMW X6 M is a full-size SUV that has been conceived specifically to satisfy this unique demographic, a vehicle that tips the scales at over two tons but still scrambles to 100 km/h in a startling 4.2 seconds.  The seeming incongruity of the X6 M’s kickass-to-kilograms ratio is made possible by the fact that it hoists a 567 horsepower weapon under its hood, a 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8 that tests the very limits of its all-wheel drive system and eight-speed automatic transmission in corralling this massive output.

It’s a model that doesn’t need to exist – indeed, the standard X6’s similar V8 power plant is no slouch in a straight line – and yet BMW can count on nearly 50 percent of this model’s sales to wear an M badge.  Call it a triumph of marketing over common sense, or, if you prefer, bloodlust over prudence, but the X6 M’s formula has proven to be a durable one that taps into the spirit of speed obsessed badge-connoisseurs.

Racetrack Rendez-Vous

The venue for my exploration of the redesigned BMW X6 M was the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 track located just outside the Texas state capital of Austin.  I can hear the enthusiast alarm bells going off already: a sport-utility vehicle on such a fast, technical race course?  A 2,300 kilo monster unleashed on pavement more used to the gentle tread of open-wheeled, winged beasts who generate at-speed downforce measured in many multiples of their actual mass?

Yes, this was the very first stop during my day with the BMW X6 M, under the watchful eye of BMW Motorsports luminaries Timo Glock and Bill Auberlen, two drivers whose exploits (including a recent second place finish for Auberlen at the 24 Hours of Daytona) elevated them far above my mere mortal piloting skills.  It was into their hands I commended my spirit as I got behind the wheel of one of the bright blue X6 M behemoths parked on pit lane.  In groups of two we were lead out onto COTA’s still-nearly-new asphalt for an initial exploratory lap to get our bearings and develop a feel for the SUV before being trusted to kick things up a notch and explore the limits of the BMW’s performance envelope.

Reality Distortion Device

Once the formalities were over, and we were encouraged over the radio by Auberlen to ‘go full throttle’ in areas of the track where lesser drivers might have been inclined to dial things back, I was shocked by just how eagerly the 2015 BMW X6 M devoured the course’s straightaways.  Strangely, I am no neophyte at driving unusually heavy vehicles within the confines of Austin’s proudest road course – I had the chance to sample Jeep’s similarly-over-muscled Grand Cherokee SRT at the Circuit of the Americas in 2013 – but the X6 M, with a 100 horsepower advantage over its more affordable rival, was in another universe.  At the end of COTA’s 1.6-kilometre back straight, the turbocharged beast was doing an incredible 235 km/h, a speed that was limited not so much by physics but by my willingness to brake late.

The normal laws of acceleration, momentum, and gravity were even more flagrantly suspended when it came time to bank the BMW SUV into one of the track’s many S-curves.  Cutting an arc like a KC-135 tanker jet dipping its wings towards the horizon, when placed in M Dynamic Mode (which aggressively backs off the truck’s electronic nannies to their least intrusive level) the X6 M happily rotated on its massive 20-inch non-run-flat rubber, sliding ever so slightly to the outside of a turn while the incredible mechanical grip of its all-wheel drive system performed thousands of calculations a second to keep the entire arrangement from toppling over.

Ice Dancing For Linebackers

It’s hard to describe how a vehicle like the 2015 BMW X6 M acquits itself when plunged into a situation 99.9 percent of its owners will never engage in.  On a race track, the X6 M is relentlessly competent, willing to sashay through bends and dance up and down dips in a manner that is exceptionally fast, though by no means graceful.  The SUV’s high centre of gravity, turducken density, and gobs of power make it far more of a chainsaw than a scalpel, but both will slice you open and bleed you dry if you don’t respect their capabilities – and neither is much fun to use for anything other than getting the job done.

And herein lies the paradox of the X6 M.  This is an SUV that can, thanks to significant technological intervention, turn in lap times that would make a Miata blush, and yet there’s no real appeal in wasting the brakes, tires, and gas in the pursuit of such glory.  In contrast, on the street the BMW’s gorgeous interior and long list of luxury features is balanced out by questionable utility (due to its slanted roof as compared to its X5 M platform-mate) and a ride that is significantly rougher than that of the standard X6.

Neither the heart, nor the head, wants to park the 2015 BMW X6 M in the driveway.  Yet still there exists that group of well-heeled performance acolytes who abandon emotion and logic and judge their morning commute not by its comfort but by the overwhelming firepower resting under their collective right feet while they sit at the stoplight anxiously awaiting green.  For these buyers, the X6 M is the apex predator of BMW’s SUV line-up, regardless of the likelihood of cutting an on-track apex at any point in their ownership.  For these buyers, the X6 M is perfect – and who am I to argue?

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