Driven: 2015 BMW X6 MHigh performance sports coupe in SUV clothing.

Forget what you think you know about the X6 M, the high-performance version of BMW’s gutsy — and admittedly odd-looking — SUV/coupe mashup. While some purists still bemoan the proliferation of ultra high-performance SUVs, they seem to be here to stay, especially in the U.S., where demand for larger vehicles continues to grow, and where one out of every three BMW M vehicles is sold.

Based on the newly redesigned, second-generation X6 (AKA the F16 in BMW-speak), the BMW X6 M takes things to a whole new level with a specially tuned version of BMW’s 4.4-liter twin-scroll, twin-turbo V8 which cranks out 567 hp and 553 lb.-ft. of torque, a significant improvement on both counts from the previous model. Paired with a standard 8-speed M Steptronic transmission, the X6 M bolts from 0-60 mph in just 4.0 seconds. Fuel economy numbers for the 2015 BMW X6 M haven’t been published yet, but we expect improvement from the previous generation’s rating of 13/17 mpg City/Highway.

Double-bar grille and larger air intakes set the X6 M apart.

Styling cues unique to the X6 M include a variation of the signature M double-bar design on the front grille, larger front air intakes, side gills and air breathers with an M badge, twin-stalk sideview mirrors, a rear spoiler and quad exhaust. Unique, M-specific 21-inch alloy wheels are wrapped with Michelin Pilot Super Sport performance tires. Two exterior paint colors are available exclusively on the X6 M: Long Beach Blue Metallic and Donington Grey Metallic.

Inside, X6 M models get an M-specific instrument cluster, supportive 20-way power sport seats and an M sport steering wheel, along with the signature contrast stitching and M badging found on all BMW M models. Carbon fiber trim and an Alcantara headliner add to the sporty look.

While standard versions of the X6 can’t handle the track like a true sports
coupe, the X6 M is not only up to the task, it’s faster than many smaller, lighter performance cars. We drove the X6 M at the Circuit of the Americas, the only purpose-built Formula 1 track in the U.S. We put the X6 M through its paces following behind BMW’s racecar driver Bill Auberlen, who wasn’t shy about encouraging us to push the car to its limits. With 567 horses under the hood, we had no problem reaching speeds of over 100 mph in many spots, and up to about 145 on the back straight, where F1 cars can go as fast as 200 mph (Auberlen says he could easily hit the X6 M’s electronically limited speed of 155 mph in the same spot).Four-tailpipe exhaust and rear decklid spoiler.

The 8-speed automatic gearbox is fast and capable, though we found the best performance came from switching over to manual mode and using the paddle shifters. Like other BMW M models, the X6 M also offers customizable driving setups, allowing drivers to choose steering, throttle mapping and suspension settings separately. Our setup of choice for the track combined Sport-Plus throttle, Sport-Plus suspension and Sport steering settings. We find BMW’s Sport-Plus steering a little too heavy for our taste, and, surprisingly, we heard some BMW driving instructors say they prefer to keep the steering in Comfort mode.

Perhaps more impressive than the speed and power of the X6 M is the engineering wizardry that keeps this nearly-5,200-pound vehicle centered, stable and highly tossable in the most extreme conditions. Not only was cornering responsive and stable, the car’s weight was extremely well managed. Even in the trickiest turns, we never felt like we were pushing a giant heap of metal around corners. Brakes were consistent lap after lap with hardly any fade, thanks to giant cross-drilled rotors with M-specific compound pads.Auberlen_LB_Track

Like other current-day high performance cars, the electronics are so good on the X6 M it’s sometimes hard to tell whether our driving is getting better, or whether the myriad systems just make it feel that way. A bevvy of mechanical and electronic components work together to make the X6 M feel nimble and responsive on the racetrack, including an M-specific sport-tuned suspension and dynamic stability control with torque vectoring, which automatically varies the power sent to each wheel for maximum stability and traction. The Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, made of unique compounds designed specifically for the X6 M, further help the car stick to the road.

The cabin is outfitted with M sport steering wheel, carbon fiber trim and signature M stitching.

On the street, the BMW X6 M, as with every M vehicle, is like bringing a gun to a knife fight. In most circumstances, there’s far more power and performance than you’d ever need, but it’s fun to know you have it just in case. Outside of Austin, TX, where the speed limit can be as high as 80 mph, we could almost imagine we were cruising on the Autobahn. On rural two lane roads, we effortlessly blew by what seemed like an endless conga line of gravel trucks. We noticed some wind noise from the A-pillar at higher speeds, but the car was otherwise quiet. The ride is on the firmer side compared to other SUVs, even in comfort mode, but that’s just what we’d expect for a vehicle wearing an M badge.

For now, the BMW X6 M is in a field all its own. But with the introduction of the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Coupe this year, there might very well be a high-powered AMG version poised to chase down BMW’s fastest crossover.

 

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