We went to Austin, Texas to test drive the new 2015 BMW X6 M on the Circuit Of The Americas race track.
Maybe they should call the BMW X6 M the eighth wonder of the world, because I have no idea how BMW made this 5,185 lbs SUV accelerate, stop and handle like it does.
Pundits gave BMW enormous grief initially about the last gen X6 M. Reasons ranged from it’s the first M SUV, the first M with all wheel drive, the first M available only in an automatic and the heaviest M vehicles ever. Then they piled on for the X6’s peculiar shape borne by making a coupeish version of the X5 and by fitting just four seats in it.
For 2015, BMW unveils their second generation completely redesigned X6 M. The 2015 X6 M boasts twenty percent lower fuel consumption, cutting edge cabin tech and its still instantly recognizable beefy athletic look. The new X6 M gets a significant bump in power and a more upscale interior to match its new sleek exterior.
Competitors have taken note and are starting to produce vehicles to directly compete in this segment.
BMWBLOG spent the day driving the X6 M on winding back country roads as well as some time on the Interstate around Austin. Our last session with the X6 M was on the Circuit of Americas Formula 1 race track. COTA as its referred, is 3.41 miles long and has 20 turns and 130 feet of elevation change, most of which is at the end of the front straight.
So a fun track, a powerful M car and lots of tires to spare. These new M are the total package, from their aggressive looks both outside and inside, to their massive, Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.
I know I’m in for a treat every time I fire one up. Once awoken from slumber, the X6 M 4.4 liter motor burbles and spits. I’ve always loved how raucous the last generation X6 M sounded and this one lives up to its predecessor’s high standards with a nice burbling overrun. And, man, the auditory treat of the exhaust bouncing off the walls during that front straight by our paddock.
Just before it was my turn to drive, I mounted four GoPro Hero 4 cameras on the monster, turned on my Shure Wireless mic, synced it all up and next thing I knew Bill Auberlen had his head in my window and was taking inventory of my prior diving experience at COTA.
BMW had us do a lead follow around the track. At first I though I’d be disappointed about this lead follow thing, but boy….was I wrong. I got personalized instruction on the course by none other than BMW legend racer, Bill Auberlen. There was his Pace Car X6 M and a pair of journalists. Timo Glock , former Formula 1 driver, was the other pace car driver. I’ve been on plenty lead follows and they were OK. This experience in an X6 M was unlike anything I could have imagined.
Heading out of the pits at COTA shoots you straight up in the air followed by my favorite turn, Turn 1.
The next series of turns T3-T6, are what I feel are the most challenging part of the track as they are a series of decreasing radius turns. Get behind here and you are out of shape for the next three turns.
Bill did an average speed reconnaissance lap first, then took off while still talking us through the course on Walkie Talkies. Trying to stay in his racing line, was tough. The most riveting thing about following him around the course was just how early he gets on the gas in the all-wheel-drive X6 M. I’d never stayed flat on the gas through turns 8,9, 10 all the way until the late apex of turn 11. Bill also likes to use all of the track and we were hitting rumble strips and off into the green paint right before the Start/Finish main straight.
Hit the brakes hard starting at the 150 feet marker at the top of the hill and turn in for Turn 1 and it starts all again.
On track the X6 M possesses incredible composure. One of the most surprising discoveries was that the thing can actually be throttle steered. I found throttle steering most useful in the big set of sweeping right hand turns T16-18. It really is amazing how the big X6 M really shrinks around you at speed. I would have never guessed the X6 M would have felt that at home on a track. The car’s massive 15 inch front and rear brakes easily haul it down from about 140-145mph that I was hitting at the end of the back straight.
On the open road, I found the X6 M to be very livable. Suspension can be customized electronically to your mood. Comfort soaked up the imperfections in the South Texas roads. Sport and Sport Plus were firm, but no overly so. Disclaimer, I prefer a firm, taught ride.
THE HEART OF THE BEAST
The heart of the new X6 M is the the 4.4 liter, 32 valve M TwinPower Turbo V8 which cranks out an insane 567 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of Torque. The full measure of torque is available at a very low 2,200 rpm and carries all the way up to 5,000 rpm before dropping off nail the throttle. You feel all four of the Michelin Pilot Super Sports clawing at the pavement and rocketing the 5,185 lbs M SUV from 0-60 in 4.0 seconds. Stay in it if you are on a closed course or autobahn can propel the X6M all the way to 156 mph. Friggin Nuts!
The new X6 M’s transmission gains an 8-speed M Sport Auto with paddle shifters and launch control. This is a welcome upgrade from the 6-speed auto in the old X6M and its 555 hp. BMW says the new transmission help with gas mileage. The 8-speed rips off crisp shifts and the engine will burble when you downshift it. Its nature seems a lot like the DCT and in fact has the same gear lever. Exhaust exists via BMW ///M’s patented quad tailpipes.
Somehow, through all of this, BMW managed a weight distribution of 51.6% front and 48.4% rear in this 5185 lb beast which really helps balance off the car on track or when driven hard on the road. Gripping the pavement are some massive performance tires. 21×10 wheels in the front wearing 285/35/21 tires and 21×11.5 in the rear with break the bank 325/30/21 Michelin Pilot Super Sports. The rear tires are $509 each and are special order.
The alphabet soup of driver’s aids are all here – HDC – Hill Descent Control, DSC, DTC, DBC, Brake Drying, Brake Fade Compensation, Dynamic Damper Control with rear-axle air suspension, Dynamic Performance Control and Active Roll Stabilization. Electric Power Steering makes its appearance on the X6 M with the ability to set your steering’s haptic feel in three different modes as well.
Luxury is to be expected in a six figure automobile and the X6 M does not disappoint. In addition to standard 18-Way Power M Multi Function seats, there is automatic 4-zone climate control, comfort access keyless entry, and handsfree tailgate opening.
There are nine predefined selectable interior light designs with BMW Ambiance lighting the door handles and footwells. The iDrive Navigation with a 10.2” high res screen and 200GB hard drive are standard. A 16-speaker Harman Kardon pumping out 600 watts comes standard. Rear-view camera and Home Link large door opener are also included. TPMS now shows tire pressure to one tenth of a pound via the iDrive display.
As soon as you open the door, you notice this is not just an X6 but rather an M vehicle. You can see ///M on the door sills and footrest and the ///M instrument cluster and seats – which are very supportive on a track and really pinch you in.
The thick steering wheel comes with shifting paddles and buttons to control the radio or put it in one of the M Dynamic Modes. The ceiling was covered in Alcantara and there is no sunroof on the model we tested.
An interesting deviation from the launch of the first X6 M is there is a bench seat in the back instead of two single seats. This additional seat makes the new X6 M so much more practical. The rear seats will fold down in a 40/20/40 split. View out the back of the X6 M is fairly limited and I found myself using the back up camera more than in our BMW i3.
LOTS OF OPTIONS
Though the 2015 BMW X6 M comes standard with a slew of goodies, some owners may feel the need for more. If you want more leather, you can opt for the $2,900 Full Merino Leather. You can also add the Executive Package for $4,500 which adds full LED headlights, soft close doors, Head-Up display, heated steering wheel, concierge services, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and rear manual side window shades.
In order to get blind spot detection, top and side view cameras and driving assistant, you need to spring for the $1,900 Driver Assistance Plus package. Parking Assistant is $500 and can parallel park your X6 M. We use this on our i3 and find it very accurate, puts the vehicle close to the curb and only needs one shot to get it right. Night vision with pedestrian detection is $2,300.
Check all the option boxes and you can add $18,000 in options. What seems to be missing from the options list is carbon ceramic brakes. I asked BMW about this and they said the development of the carbon ceramics and low estimated take rate made it untenable.
Look for the 2015 BMW X6 M to be available mid March at your local BMW dealer in the U.S., and by April 11th for the rest of the world.