Attack of the Atomic Armadillo
I got really into Godzilla for a spell growing up. I watched all the old movies, bought all the action figures (I was particularly proud of my Mechagodzilla toy), and learned all I could about the terrible(-ly awesome) beast. One of the most fascinating things to me was Godzilla’s origin—he was the result of the radiation released during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That somewhat clumsily brings me to the 2015 BMW X6 M I’ve been testing for the past couple weeks. In a lot of ways, the X6 M reminds me of Godzilla. More armadillo than lizard, the X6 M is what you get when an X5 M is exposed to radiation: a heavy, all-powerful beast of a truck designed to take on other road-going vehicles like no 5,187-pound (2,353-kg) vehicle has any right to.
The only thing that’d be more fitting under the hood of the South Carolina-built BMW X6 M than its 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 would be some sort of nuclear-powered pulse jet. But since a lead-lined engine bay would be impractical—and let’s be honest, our country’s nuclear-fueling infrastructure just isn’t ready for prime time yet—the V-8 is a suitable stand-in. As is the case in the X5 M, the X6 M’s twin-turbo V-8 churns out a relatively lag-free 567 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed through a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic to an all-wheel-drive system that features a torque-vectoring active rear differential.
At the track, the nonnuclear powertrain gets the X6 M up and going faster than anything of its size has any right to. The run from 0 to 60 mph takes the armadillo just 3.7 seconds, and the quarter mile takes the BMW 12.1 seconds to run, trapping at 114.3 mph (184 km/h). Slamming on the brakes at 60 mph will get the X6 M stopped in just 105 feet. Like Godzilla, the fastback is not only impressive in a straight line but also can maneuver well. The BMW X6 M can pull an average of 0.98 g on the skidpad and turn an impressive 24.3-second lap of the figure eight while averaging 0.84 g.
So how much of the X6 M’s performance can be attributed to the fastback roofline? To find out, we also tested a similarly equipped 2015 BMW X5 M. The X5 M matches the X6 M to 60 mph but is a hair slower in the quarter mile, needing 12.2 seconds to complete it at 112.8 mph (181 km/h). The stop from 60 mph takes 102 feet, and the skidpad sees the X5 M averaging 0.95 g and finishing the figure eight in 24.6 seconds at 0.82 g average. Naturally, the more conservative X5 M is (mostly) less hair-raising than the fire-breathing X6 M.
Out on the road, the X6 M drives as beastly as it looks. Straight-line performance is obviously the X6’s forte, with the BMW happily eating up freeway miles and eagerly leaping forward with a stab of the gas pedal. Although doing so can be fun, the X6 M is best enjoyed with its performance modes pegged: engine, steering, and suspension in Sport Plus, transmission on the harshest shift setting, and traction control in M Dynamic mode (MDM). The default comfort modes don’t do the X6 M’s ridiculousness justice—they’re the Nyquil to the MDM’s MDMA. With the performance modes maxed out, the X6 becomes so easy to drive fast. The transmission fires off quick shifts, the suspension keeps the X6 M firm and planted, and the trick rear differential will even allow the Bimmer’s tail to step out a touch on corner exit. It’s all really quite a good time. That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement, though. The brakes, though strong, leave a bit to be desired. You get nothing in the way of feel from them until about a quarter way through the pedal’s travel, when they finally start biting. Steering feel could be improved, too; Sport Plus improves things slightly, but the bus-size steering wheel feels oddly heavy and has too slow of a steering rack with too little actual feel for something of this performance caliber. Small complaints and easy fixes for BMW if they’re so inclined.
Our atomic armadillo and Godzilla may come from different backgrounds, but both are formidable beasts. It takes an army to take down Godzilla. The 2015 BMW X6 M, though, has crosshairs set on it from the likes of Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and Range Rover. I’m as interested as you to find out if the X6 M can be bested by its European rivals. I’ll get the popcorn.
|2015 BMW X6 xDrive35i||2015 BMW X6 M|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$73,700||$115,150|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.0L/300-hp/300-lb-ft turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6||4.4L/567-hp/553-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,686 lb (50/50%)||5,187 lb (51/49%)|
|WHEELBASE||115.5 in||115.5 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||193.8 x 78.3 x 66.5 in||193.8 x 78.3 x 66.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.8 sec||3.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.5 sec @ 95.9 mph||12.1 sec @ 114.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||105 ft||105 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.88 g (avg)||0.98 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.1 sec @ 0.71 g (avg)||24.3 sec @ 0.84 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||18/27/21 mpg||14/19/16 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||187/125 kW-hrs/100 miles||241/177 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.92 lb/mile||1.22 lb/mile|