Don't Ask Why
Former Formula 1 and current DTM racer Timo Glock is a very good driver. I, middling motoring journalist Christian Seabaugh, am not. That may help explain that while I was white-knuckling a two-and-a-half ton 2015 BMW X6 M around Texas’ Circuit of the Americas, Glock was calmly hustling the same truck around the fast 3.4-mile course, one hand on the wheel, the other keying the walkie-talkie as he coolly explained the intricacies of COTA to me in his German-inflected English. I can’t remember a word he said, but after a half-dozen or so laps I walked away with a tremendous amount of respect for both COTA and the confusingly capable new BMW X6 M.
Leading up to my short stint in the big Bimmer fastback, BMW spent much time extolling the virtues of the X6 M to all who would listen, calling it “a track athlete in a business suit.” (Athlete with a mullet is more like it, but I digress.) Although the thought of the X6 M as a track car seems ridiculous at first glance, looking closely at the changes BMW made to the 2015 X6 M reveals that the company is indeed taking the M brand’s track-focused heritage seriously — after all, it’s the sales of models such as the profitable X5 and X6 M that allow BMW to spend more money on models such as the M3 and M5. For 2015, BMW lowered the X6 M’s suspension, upgraded the size of its brakes, and fit the brute with massive (285/35/ZR21 front and 325/30/ZR21 rear) Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.
BMW didn’t stop there. In the day and age of 700-horsepower Dodge Chargers, BMW made sure to up the X6 M’s 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 from a mere 555 hp to a healthier 567 hp while also upping torque from 500 to 553 lb-ft. The changes, made possible by larger turbos and new crankshafts, pistons, and connecting rods, make the X6 M and its X5 M stablemate the most powerful all-wheel-drive M models on the market. BMW didn’t stop with the powertrain tweaks there; the automaker relegated the old six-speed automatic to the trash heap in favor of a lightning-quick ZF-sourced eight-speed auto, which the automaker says helps propel the X6 M from 0-62 mph in 4.2 seconds — a number I wouldn’t be surprised to see drop in independent testing. This whole formula was then tested at both the Nurburgring and the Circuit of the Americas.
Before I had the chance to unleash the beast at the Circuit of the Americas, I spent the morning tooling around central Texas’ sinfully boring highways and side roads. From the view out over the X6’s hood, it’s pretty easy to forget that you’re in an X6 M rather than another M product. The X6’s steering rack is taut, the ride is shockingly well-controlled given its massive wheel and tire package, and it leaps forward like a greyhound once you dip into the throttle. The X6 M is rather unremarkable when cruising down the road, which speaks volumes toward how much time and effort BMW engineers spent in making the X6 M drive like some of its more traditional products. That desire to make the X6 M behave like other M cars meant BMW went so far as to tune the X6 M’s eight speed automatic with a bit of shudder off the line so that it acts identical to the dual-clutch transmissions it fits into the M cars. Similarly, BMW also pipes in the 4.4-liter V-8’s engine noise into the cabin, though that exhaust note leaves you with the same feeling one would get from a Nickelback concert — lots of noise but an overall neutered sound.
Fortunately, the 2015 X6 M doesn’t feel neutered on the track, where in M mode the V-8 gets a chance to belt its full song. My laps at COTA in the X6 M would be a lead-follow arrangement, Glock setting a pace around the circuit and another journalist and I getting the chance to pace him. It took me a couple laps to get used to both COTA and hustling the X6 M around the course. Despite the time BMW spent honing the X6 M on the track, it was initially pretty tough to shake the thoughts from my mind that this big and tall crossover shouldn’t be chucked into corners at damn near 90 mph. But in Timo I trust. If Glock was going to set a pace, I was going to try my hardest to match it. I’m glad I did. After finally familiarizing myself with the course, I really got a chance to enjoy the X6 M on the track — words I never thought I’d write in the same sentence. With stability control intervention reduced in M Dynamic Mode (MDM), the Bimmer’s all-wheel-drive system combined with its torque-vectoring rear axle allows the X6 M to just squat down, point, and shoot out of corners, with just a little bit of slip to keep things fun. The eight-speed automatic shifted smartly on the track and would even give up full control to the driver in manual mode. It shifts so well that I doubt most X6 M buyers would notice that the gearbox is an old-fashioned torque-converter-equipped automatic rather than a new-fangled twin-clutch automated-manual. The BMW’s big brakes were mostly up to the task, though they did start to fade notably after six laps of slowing the X6 M down from the 140-mph-plus speeds it was seeing on COTA’s back straight. The X6 M ultimately is big, dumb fun on the track, and that’s a good thing.
Does it make sense to take the $108,200 X6 M out on the track? No, but little about the BMW X6 M makes sense anyway. The biggest favor you can do yourself when discussing the X6 M is to forget all about the word “why” because the answer is simple: Because. BMW built the X6 because it could. Similarly, it made the X6 M a two-ton track monster just because. In a day and age when we’re a Google search away from all the answers, it’s nice to know that some things just aren’t made to make sense.
|2015 BMW X6 M|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||4.4L/567-hp/553-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||5200 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||193.3 x 78.3 x 66.5 in|
|0-62 MPH||4.2 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||14/20/16 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||241/169 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.20 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Spring 2015|