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First Drive New BMW X6 M by Henny Hemmes +VIDEO

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2015 BMW X6 M

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
January 29, 2015

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2015 BMW X6 M

Fans of the more rugged coupe models are familiar with the term SAC, Sports Activity Coupe, which BMW uses for instance for the X6. With the emphasis on ‘sports’, it is even more applicable to the new M model. The mildly camouflaged prototypes were already spotted on German roads in September, but the new X6 M made its world debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, together with the X5 M. (Read the X5 M review here)

Finally, last Tuesday the X6 M was ready to be driven for the first time by the media in Austin, Texas. But that was not all: BMW took us to the Circuit of the Americas, the race track that was purpose-built to host the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix as from November 2012.

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And believe me, the 3,427 mile (5,5 km) long race track has not been designed for all-wheel-drive vehicles that are weighing more than 5,000 pounds/ 2300 kg! Therefore I thought that the engineers of M GmbH, who developed the big coupe to their high performance standards, must have been more than confident that the demonstration, read test drive, would be impressive. Was it…?

As usual we had to follow the pace cars, in this case two black X6 M’s, driven by Timo Glock, driver of one of the BMW’s in the German Touring Car Championship, and Bill Auberlen, BMW’s American factory driver who had just returned from the Rolex 24 at Daytona where he and his RLL Team mates finished 6th overall and 2nd in the GT Le Mans class.

Only two laps in the slip stream of Billy are not really enough to the pick up the ideal line of the 20 turns of the track. We had a good pace, but the next three laps at full speed were really exiting. Indeed BMW is not shy of letting you drive fast! Then a lap to cool the high-performance M-brakes, so that the next driver has the same stopping power. The brakes were originally developed for racing and the surface of the linings is 50 per cent larger compared to those in the outgoing model. There were several sharp turns where we really had to decelerate very hard, but the brakes performed constant and provided a precise feel. Also the fat rubber on the optional 21-inch wheels of our test vehicles added to the glued-to-the-asphalt feel. Specifically for those wheels, BMW has chosen the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires in the size 285/35ZR21 at the front and 325/30ZR21 in the rear.

The new 4.4-liter M TwinPower Turbo engine is a real jewel. It produces 575 hp between 6,000 and 6,500 rpm with a maximum torque of 553 pound-feet/750 Nm between 2,200 and 5,000 rpm, respectively 4 and 10 per cent higher than of its predecessor. The mighty V8 has a pair of Twin Scroll turbochargers, cross-bank exhaust manifolds, direct injection and Valvetronic and is teamed to the 8-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 BMW X6 M

The X6 M climbs easy to the first corner, which is the highest point of the circuit. Then after a charp left hander, you descend to a series of fast bends that have been designed with the Becketss-bends of the Silverstone circuit in England as an example. I think it is an exiting part of the track, but there are more turns that are interesting, such as turn 10 that takes you to the far end of the track into a hairpin. At the long straight of 0.62 mile/ 1 km the X6 M seems to fly.

The engine is really eager to perform and propels the car forward at great speed. Mind you, acceleration from 0-62 mph takes just 4.2 seconds. When racing through the bends of the race track you almost forget that you are in a very heavy car with a high center of gravity of 62 cm/ 24.4 inches(!)

Of course, you can feel that the X6 M is not as nimble as your race prepared M3, but it is truly surprising, that the car remains as flat as a pool table. Only in tight corners you feel movement of the body.

People who have driven M cars before, know that the the M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel allow you to customize the set up of the car to your own preferences. It was too bad that we did not have enough time to make full use of the possibilities the car offers in this respect. In M2 you can make the car’s rear end drift out a bit, which is due to the fact that the xDrive all-wheel-drive system is constructed in a way that under normal circumstances, 100 per cent of the power goes to the rear wheels. However, the system is electronically controlled to fully vary distribution of drive between the front and rear axles, 100 per cent each way.

So how was it…..? Fun, and truly amazing!

In a second article, I will address several technical aspects, about which I talked with the experts after the track test. It gives more background information about the effort has been put into the development of the new BMW X6 M model. Therefore, please stay tuned…!