Call us crazy. Or mad, insane, demented, disturbed, affected—whatever descriptor you feel best suits our diminished mental state—but we really like gigantic SUVs with way, way more power than sense. When most people hear the term SUV, their thoughts gravitate toward a vehicle Gen. Patton could have used to invade Sicily. Rough and tumble, live axles, Spartan, no frills, rudimentary, even—the exact sort of vehicle a farmer might employ as a field hand during the week then use to run the missus to church on Sunday. The four maniacs in this test are not so elemental. No, these are the kind of sport/utes Charlie Sheen would use to run his Goddesses down to the 24-hour Botox clinic while waving a bloody sword out the sunroof. Did I mention we’re not Consumer Reports?
I suppose you could pick your kids up from soccer practice with any of these SUVs. But wouldn’t you rather rob a bank?
The first ever Concours d’Psycho. On your marks, forget to take your meds, go!
Let’s meet the contestants. In the light blue corner, weighing in at roughly the same poundage as a Ford F-150, is the Bavarian Bedlamite and original answer to the question no one asked, the 567-horsepower BMW X6 M! In the dark blue corner, somehow, despite all that al-u-min-i-um, weighing more than the BMW, is the British Bruiser with its 550-hp Section 8 V-8, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR! Call her the LRRRSSVR for short if you like. And in the red corner, weighing more than 2.6 tons, with a thumping 577-hp heart, is the Aberration from Affalterbach, Germany’s very own Attack Armadillo, the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe! And finally, in the white corner, weirdly weighing the same to the pound as the BMW, is the Zealot of Zuffenhausen, the Schizoid from Stuttgart, the Swabian Screwball (I’m starting to sound like Spiro Agnew here, ain’t I?), the 570-hp Porsche Cayenne Turbo S! Ladies, gentlemen, start your lithium IV drip; may the most ridiculous thing win!
But what do they win exactly, and exactly how do they win it? After all, we’re talking about SUVs that make supercar levels of power and provide sports car levels of performance, all the while offering slightly more utility than a sedan but way less bad-road capability than your father’s notion of a traditional SUV. Plus, they cost a fortune. The lowest-priced ride here is the X6 M at $115,195 USD as tested, and the mostly loaded Porsche kicks the sticker up to a dazzling $175,930 USD. Yes, we could have ordered leather-covered air vents, among other must-have Porsche Exclusive options. We’re not going to conduct this comparison test as if these SUVs are in any way normal. Because they ain’t. I suppose you could pick your kids up from soccer practice with any of them. But wouldn’t you rather rob a bank? Any of these would make a magnificent getaway vehicle.
So that’s exactly how we’re going to judge them. Outright acceleration counts, but so does handling, road holding, and my favorite, the fun-to-drive factor. In fact, that last bit is really the most crucial part. No one is buying any of these because any of their friends would ever describe them with the word “sensible.” Or “wise,” come to think of it. No, owners of any of these four have been labeled “fun” at some point in their lives. Not to mention “frivolous,” and quite possibly “demented” and/or “menacing.” Point is, the fun-to-drive factor is being given much more credence here than in your typical SUV comparison test. Also, if we four judges find ourselves in any sort of a tie (hint, hint), then we’ll be forced to take these mouth-foaming monsters to the Big Willow racetrack and let Motor Trend’s resident hot shoe, Randy Pobst, cast the tiebreaking vote. On your marks, forget to take your meds, go!
Let’s take a closer look at the BMW X6 M. Now in its second iteration, the mighty Bavarian is making more power than before—567 hp, up from 555 hp, and 553 lb-ft of torque, up from 500—but it’s still the same basic 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 lunatic. So let’s concentrate on the power. “Whatever BMW is doing for anti-lag, Porsche needs to reverse engineer it, like, yesterday. What power!” So said Scott Evans, who then (profanely) continued, “The metric ****load of *** this thing hauls is ****ing incredible.”
Christian Seabaugh had similar feelings. “This thing is stupid easy to drive stupid fast,” he said. “I’m not nearly as quick as the rest of the guys, yet I had a big, dumb smile on my face as I hugged the Cayenne’s bumper all the way down Mulholland.”
The levels of grip on tap are equally impressive, as is the entire chassis. “It has very good grip and incredible body control,” Jason Cammisa said. “Stability control stays out of your way. That’s seriously impressive on any modern car, but a truck? Wow, kudos.”
However, Cammisa’s praise of the X6 M stops there. For one, he doesn’t like the way fake engine sounds are pumped through the stereo. “We’re hearing some German nerd’s version of a ‘Star Trek’-era hydrogen-fueled Segway,” he said. “The upshift farts are the only real engine noise you hear, and they’re absurd.” Cammisa didn’t care for the steering, either. “It has no on-center feel at all and no sense of straight ahead,” he said. “It does have reasonable feel in the corners, so if you pay close attention, you’ll know when you get to the limits.” On the back roads, I liked the lack of on-center feel. It made the X6 M feel much more darty and playful. Like a WRX addicted to both steroids and PCP. Cammisa found the BMW’s ride “very stiff, even in Comfort mode,” and the interior sounded like “a cacophony composed of tire impacts and cabin rattles.” Seabaugh, however, saw it this way: “The ride is so stiff I hit a dip and whacked my head on the roof. But what’s another concussion when you’re having this much fun?” Excellent point!
Next up from our collection of high-riding automotive oddities is the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR. Allow me right off the bat to say whoa, man, who saw this coming? What we’ve got here is nothing less than the first SUV any of us have ever touched that would much rather oversteer than understeer. Or go straight. Or off-road. Or really, anything. Seriously, all the SVR wants to do is donuts. “In a million or so miles of driving, I’ve never experienced an SUV that power oversteers on dry pavement,” Cammisa said. “This is positively ludicrous. Sign me up!”
Speaking of donuts, despite its all-aluminum construction, the SVR manages to weigh a barrel of mushy peas more than the next heaviest rig here, the AMG (5,412 versus 5,359 pounds (2,456 vs. 2,431 kg)). So yes, the Brit is the fattest in test. Combine the lard with crummy all-season tires, and the handling isn’t what it could be. “You’re always waiting on it,” Evans said. “Brake early. Turn in. Then turn in some more because it didn’t bite. Wait. Wait. Wait. Easy into the throttle on the way out, or you’ll get big stability control intervention or, if it’s off, power oversteer. Yes, power oversteer, in an AWD SUV.” We really can’t get over it. Said Seabaugh: “This thing is hilarious. It’s so bad yet so good at the same time.”
We universally loved the Range Rover Sport’s ride, unlike the overly stiff BMW’s. “It floats down the road like a mini Rolls-Royce; air springs, hydro anti-roll bars, and magnetic ride shocks will do that,” Cammisa said. “It’s incredibly comfortable on the road with that great driving position, fabulous visibility, and the feeling that you’re in a vehicle forged out of one solid chunk of billet.”Perhaps because Land Rover really did develop the SVR on the Nrburgring, Evans was able to observe that “the full racing buckets are kind of awesome, and they really work.” Speaking of awesome, we love superchargers! Said Seabaugh: “This engine is fantastic, easily the best here. It has so much personality and so much instantaneous power.” Remember, the SVR has the same supercharged, 5.0-liter V-8 as the Jaguar F-Type. Only now it’s louder. “I found myself flat-footing it just to hear the exhaust note,” Seabaugh said. Hey, why not?
Before we get into the judges’ notes on the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 Coupe S, you might be thinking you’re seeing double. But no, you’re not, because the GLE Coupe is a carbon copy of the BMW X6. As Evans commented, “They broke out the tracing paper.” As for shame, Mercedes feels none. BMW sold more than 250,000 versions of the first X6. The X6 rolls off the same assembly line as the X5 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The differences—from an engineering and assembly point of view—are minimal. But the price? The base price of an X6 is $6,000 USD more than a comparably equipped X5. That’s about $1.5 billion USD for the 250,000 units sold, give or take. Mercedes would love nothing more than to take. Hence, the full-bore AMG S version of the GLE63 S Coupe. As always, the part we like the best is the 5.5-liter, M157 twin-turbo V-8, which in this state of tune pumps out a test-best 577 horsepower. As for torque, 561 lb-ft of torque is second place to the Cayenne Turbo S, which generates 590 lb-ft. Still, the AMG is quicker in a straight line than the lighter Porsche, both in 0-60 (3.9 versus 4.2 seconds) and in the quarter mile (12.5 seconds at 110.5 mph (178 km/h) versus 12.9 seconds at 107.4 mph (173 km/h)).
“So. Freaking. Heavy.” That’s how Evans’ notes on the AMG began. And I have to concur. Combine the noticeable heft of the GLE63 with the slowest-shifting transmission and least enjoyable brakes, and you wind up with a machine that feels massive. Much more of a power lifter than a sprinter. I likened the AMG to a bear. Yes, it’s the most powerful creature in the forest, and it can take your head off with a single swipe of its massive paw. But really, the GLE63 Coupe S would much rather suck down honey in a cave all winter long.
Cammisa was confused by the seven-speed automatic transmission. “The transmission shifts quickly, but then there’s a delay and a lag after the shift,” he said. As for the brakes, Seabaugh initially thought the X6 M was underbraked. Then he drove the GLE63. “Whoa, baby, does this thing need help stopping!” he said. There was also the little matter of the constant-on stability control system. True, you can turn everything off in theory. And to quote Homer Simpson, in theory, communism works. In theory. “I had to turn stability control off because it was interfering too much,” Cammisa said. “And then it still interferes too much in the off mode.” Ahem, AMG. Off means off, ja?
Now, there is (beside the thrust of the engine) plenty to like about the hunchback GLE63. Said Evans, “The sound is almost delightfully antisocial.” Cammisa was flat-out in love with the electric power steering, calling it the best EPAS on the market. “It’s a new world,” he said. “The out and out electrically assisted Mercedes-AMG steering system has more feedback than the hydraulic Porsche system. Overall, this is the best steering here.” We also all loved the AMG’s interior, noting that the car is quite comfortable and would be easy to live with on a day-to-day basis. Still, as a riff on the X6 M it dynamically falls short. Seabaugh noted that in terms of sporty driving, the BMW beats the AMG. “All day long.”
Which leaves us with the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, a vehicle that many of us had pegged as the odds-on favorite to win the comparison. After all, it’s tied for the lightest here, it has most the torque and nearly the most power, and the second-gen Cayenne family won our 2011 Sport/Utility of the Year contest. Plus, you know, Porsche. But there’s something amiss. After all these years, the Cayenne Turbo has grown a bit dull. Case in point, I had more fun watching Seabaugh wrestling with the Range Rover Sport SVR in front of me than I did actually driving the Turbo S. That’s not good. Evans noted that the exhaust “could use a little more rawness,” finding it “too muffled.” He also felt that the eight-speed Aisin transmission—as opposed to the ZF in both the BMW and Land Rover—”was not quite as good as Porsche’s best.” I’ll note that it’s also not as good as the other two ZFs in the test. And man, talk about turbo lag. Cammisa called the lag “epic.” Seabaugh noticed—and I agree with him—that compared to the others, the driving experience is “too clinical.” There is of course lots and lots to love and admire about the big Porsche. Namely, the steering, the seats, the brakes, and the handling. Still it feels old. Because it is.
So who wins? I’ve been employed by Motor Trend for more than five years now, and I have never—never—been involved with such a deadlocked jury. Talk about four angry men. It broke down like this: Seabaugh and I had the X6 M as the winner, but Cammisa and Evans felt strongly that the Range Rover Sport SVR took the cake. We fought about the results for two hours over lunch. Let me assure you, in almost every other “discussion” like this, someone backs down. No one budged an inch. Then, once we were all home, we spent the evening texting and emailing nastygrams to each other. And kept it up the over the next couple of days. Still, no movement in either direction. Cammisa and Evans felt that the RRS SVR was the most ridiculous SUV ever because of its crazed tuning (forget oversteer, you can get torque steer!), whereas Seabaugh and I thought that the BMW X6 M was the most fun to drive, period, end of story.
To settle it, we did what no owner of any of these four SUVs will ever do: brought them to a racetrack and let a pro driver have his way. Here are the results, in order of slowest to quickest: Range Rover Sport SVR: 1:38.78, AMG GLE Coupe S: 1:36.00, Porsche Cayenne Turbo S: 1:34.32, BMW M3: 1:32.51, BMW X6 M: 1:32.46. See what I did there? Not only is the X6 M the quickest SUV around Big Willow’s 2.42 miles (3.89 km), but it’s also quicker than an M3! From where I sit, this fact hands the X6 M the victory, even though Evans and especially Cammisa still disagree.
Here’s what Randy Pobst had to say: “My preference for the X6 M is utterly biased, as I only drove it on track, where it was shockingly faster than even the mighty M3. Aren’t we comparing super SUVs?Isn’t high performance in the tall-carrealm the raison d’tre for the trucks we thrashed?Ifwe choose a winner based on luxury, practicality, NVH, interior fittings, and other more common attributes of normal models, aren’t we aiming at an inappropriate target? I rest my case and vote for the X6 M on the basis of its astonishing and far superior performance.” That’s three votes to two, and the BMW X6 M is the winner of the first ever Concours d’Psycho.
4th Place: Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe
Power and comfort and steering for days, but it gets some big things wrong. A blatant photocopy should not be duller than the original.
3rd Place: Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
A refresh is coming and not a moment too soon. It’s still great to drive, but all them gray hairs make the old king look, well, old.
2nd Place: Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR
We’re not sure who needs the straitjacket more, the SVR or the team that tuned it. SUVs should (probably) not power oversteer, yet here we are.
1st Place: BMW X6 M
An absolute rocket—0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds—and a delight to drive. Giant, deranged smiles can make you overlook shortcomings. It’s the cheapest contender here, too.
|2015 BMW X6 M||2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR||2016 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe 4Matic||2016 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD||Front-engine, 4WD||Front-engine, AWD||Front-engine, AWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Twin-turbo 90-deg V-8, alum block/heads||Supercharged 90-deg V-8, alum block/heads||Twin-turbo 90-deg V-8, alum block/heads||Twin-turbo 90-deg V-8, alum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||268.2 cu in/4,395 cc||305.1 cu in/5,000 cc||333.3 cu in/5,461 cc||293.3 cu in/4,806 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||567 hp @ 6,000 rpm||550 hp @ 6,000 rpm||577 hp @ 5,500 rpm||570 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||553 lb-ft @ 2,200 rpm||502 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm||561 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm||590 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm|
|REDLINE||7,000 rpm||6,400 rpm||6,400 rpm||6,700 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||9.1 lb/hp||9.8 lb/hp||9.3 lb/hp||9.1 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic||7-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, coil springs, adj shocks, adj anti-roll bar; multi-link, air springs, adj shocks, adj anti-roll bar||Control arms, air springs, adj shocks, adj anti-roll bar; multi-link, air springs, adj shocks, adj anti-roll bar||Control arms, air springs, adj shocks, adj anti-roll bar; multi-link, air springs, adj shocks, adj anti-roll bar||Control arms, air springs, adj shocks, adj anti-roll bar; multi-link, air springs, adj shocks, adj anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F;R||15.2-in vented, drilled; 15.2-in vented, drilled, ABS||15.0-in vented disc; 14.4-in vented disc, ABS||15.4-in vented, drilled, grooved disc; 13.6-in vented, drilled, grooved disc, ABS||16.5-in vented, drilled, carbon-ceramic disc; 14.6-in vented, drilled, carbon-ceramic disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||10.0 x 21-in; 11.5 x 21-in, cast aluminum||9.5 x 21-in, cast aluminum||10.0 x 22-in; 11.5 x 22-in, cast aluminum||10.0 x 21-in, cast aluminum|
|TIRES||285/35ZR21 105Y; 325/30ZR21 108Y Michelin Pilot Super Sport||275/45R21 110Y Michelin Latitude Sport||285/40ZR22 106Y MO; 325/35ZR22 110Y MO Continental Conti Sport Contact||295/35R21 107Y Yokohama Advan Sport N2|
|WHEELBASE||115.5 in||115.1 in||114.8 in||114.0 in|
|TRACK, F/R||65.6/65.6 in||66.5/66.3 in||65.9/66.7 in||65.4/65.9 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||193.8 x 78.3 x 66.5 in||190.9 x 78.1 x 68.1-72.6 in||192.6 x 78.9 x 67.7 in||191.1 x 78.7 x 64.9-69.2 in|
|GROUND CLEARANCE||8.1 in||8.4-10.9 in||7.8 in||6.4-10.7 in|
|APPRCH/DEPART ANGLE||18.3/20.3 deg||22.4-30.0/22.5-27.3 deg||22.4/24.5 deg||22.2-29.8/21.0-26.7 deg|
|TURNING CIRCLE||42.0 ft||40.4 ft||38.7 ft||39.0 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||5,187 lb||5,412 lb||5,359 lb||5,187 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST., F/R||51/49 %||52/48 %||54/46 %||53/47 %|
|TOWING CAPACITY||6,500 lb||7,716 lb||7,200 lb||7,716 lb|
|HEADROOM, F/R||39.9/37.9 in||39.4/39.1 in||38.9/38.5 in||39.6/38.9 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||40.3/35.6 in||42.2/37.0 in||40.3/38.4 in||41.0/36.5 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||60.5/57.9 in||60.7/59.5 in||58.5/58.4 in||58.9/56.1 in|
|CARGO VOL BEHIND F/R||59.7/26.6 cu ft||62.2/27.7 cu ft||60.7/23.0 cu ft||60.2/23.7 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||1.4 sec||1.5 sec||1.4 sec||1.5 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||1.8||2.1||1.9||2.1|
|QUARTER MILE||12.1 sec @ 114.3 mph||12.7 sec @ 110.1 mph||12.5 sec @ 110.5 mph||12.9 sec @ 107.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||105 ft||125 ft||112 ft||107 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.98 g (avg)||0.84 g (avg)||0.93 g (avg)||0.93 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.3 sec @ 0.84 g (avg)||25.8 sec @ 0.76 g (avg)||25.2 sec @ 0.77 g (avg)||24.6 sec @ 0.83 g (avg)|
|2.42-MI ROAD COURSE LAP||92.46 sec||98.78 sec||96.00 sec||94.32 sec|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,500 rpm||1,800 rpm||1,600 rpm||1,400 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$115,195||$126,645||$115,880||$175,930|
|AIRBAGS||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain||Dual front, f/r side, f/r curtain, driver knee||Dual front, f/r side, f/r curtain, front knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||4 yrs/50,000 miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||4 yrs/50,000 miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||4 yrs/Unlimited miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles||Unlimited||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||22.4 gal||27.7 gal||24.6 gal||26.4 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||14/19/16 mpg||14/19/16 mpg||14/18/15 mpg||14/21/17 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||241/177 kW-hrs/100 miles||241/177 kW-hrs/100 miles||241/187 kW-hrs/100 miles||241/160 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.22 lb/mile||1.22 lb/mile||1.25 lb/mile||1.18 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded premium||Unleaded premium||Unleaded premium||Unleaded premium|