► Full first drive review of BMW X6 M
► It's the full-fat 567bhp 4.4 V8 SUV
► It might be fast, but is it right?
Hard not to snigger as Ludwig Willish, head of BMW USA, explains that this new BMW X6 M is one of the poorest M cars in the line-up. It was an innocent mis-pronunciation of ‘purest’, but for the many who struggled with the very concept of an M X6, his original sentiment is closer to the truth.
We’re in a pit-garage at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, home to the US Grand Prix, and it’s fair to say preconceptions are as high as expectations are low. The previous X6 M (and the mechanically identical X5 M) were difficult cars to understand and to like, and it looks like history is about to repeat itself.
After all, what right does a 2.3-tonne, four-wheel-drive, four-seat faux coupe with a torque-converter auto gearbox really have being launched on an American F1 circuit? BMW clearly has confidence, bringing in ex-F1 driver Timo Glock, plus home-grown talent Bill Auberlen, to demonstrate just how wrong the preconceptions are.
Specs of new 2015 BMW X6 M
Certainly the noise of the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine, up 20bhp and 52lb ft to a faintly ludicrous 567bhp and 553lb ft, sounds convincing enough, and the X6M’s vital statistics too are compelling: 4.2 seconds from 0-62mph and on towards the familiar 155mph limiter, though the optional M Driver’s Package raises that top speed to 173mph.
Accelerating down the pit straight in pursuit of Glock, it’s clear the spec sheet doesn’t lie. Performance is hilariously spirited, this low-slung SUV rocketing up towards the tight first turn like a boulder from a trebuchet. Once at the corner it brakes with conviction, remains resolutely flat on turn-in and arcs past the apex with impressive composure before barrelling off down the pit straight. How this near-2.5 tonne behemoth manages any of this, rather than simply wobbling off into the wilderness of trackside run-off is astonishing.
With more laps come further glimpses of counter-intuitive dynamic ability; the torque converter mimicking a quick-shifting DCT gearbox, fade-free brakes – often something of a weak spot on M cars – and heavily bolstered and ventilated leather seats that manage to both cosset, cool your rear and hold you firmly in place.
The Texas heat is more of a problem outside though, as high tarmac temperatures nibble away at the specially designed 21-inch Michelins. Still, with a little manhandling the X6 M will tuck its nose in on approach and showcase a rear-biased torque-split on exit, even if oversteer isn’t from the same free-flowing tap as it is with the M4. Still, proving itself as a proper M car, the X6 M hits an indicated – and barely credible – 145mph down the back straight.
Later in the day a handful of laps in another X6 M show just how much punishment the rubber has taken though, the car’s weight revealing itself in chewed treadblocks, and no matter how much neck-scruff you grab, understeer becomes less of a problem and more a permanent feature.
But no one in their right mind, even an X6 M owner, is going to be a trackday regular in one of these. Any X6 M found at circuit will have a towbar attached to a trailer, with a race car following closely behind.
How it performs on road, fuel economy
You might think such unlikley performance ability would leave the X6 M horribly compromised as a road car, but you’d be wrong. The engine’s sheer torque makes short work of even the longest straights, while the compliant, capable chassis helps build a fast cross-country rhythm. There’s negligible roll, the V8 rumbles away pleasantly, and only the hard-edged ride and tyre roar at motorway speeds blight an otherwise awe-inspiring all-rounder.
Fuel consumption is 20% better than before, though traditional X6 M owners won’t care about its sub 20mpg real-world thirst, or 258g/km of CO2 output. Nor will they take much notice of the adequate rear headroom, 550-litre boot or its £93,070 list price.
You either get this car or you don’t. Purists will deplore its lack of M authenticity but, thanks to the hum of steady customer demand, BMW aren’t listening. And subjectively the X6 M is good; practical, finely crafted inside and explosively quick. Perhaps to try to understand it is to miss the point.