BMW's X6 M is a venomous cane toad of an SUV, one with some obvious warts. Even so, it's made friends and set trends, spawning imitators in the Acura ZDX (extinct: mercy killing) and the upcoming Mercedes GLE Coupe (viability TBD).
It's also an honest-to-God, track-capable car. Mmmmm, crossover. Maybe. SUV? Whatever you want to call it, the X6 M can be flung around asphalt like Austin's Circuit of The Americas with the exact amount of gay abandon expressly prohibited by local law.
COTA is a deceptive place, though. Lots of vehicles shine unexpectedly here, thanks to its flat-out-friendly design, one composed largely of ass-numbingly long straights tossed with a dozen easily unlocked bends and corkscrews. It's the low-carb cousin to Olive Garden's bottomless bowl of pasta: you snarf down what feels like thousands of feet of blacktop fettuccine, every so often stumbling across a stray macaroni elbow.
Navigate the dozen turns with even amateur levels of finesse, and the long, long straights let the love flow from lyrically tuned powertrains like BMW's M eight. On its ascent to 150 miles per hour and more, the superhero engine feels like it could transform any piece of pork into delicious carnitas.
Which it does. The twin-turbo eight's the prime reason the X6 M is so confusingly capable, so paradoxically potent. It can fling the X6 M around COTA at unfathomable speeds down the straights, leaving it to wend through the brief corners with a mostly assured gait.
We're still not sure we love it or want it, but loop COTA a few punishing times in it, and there's little doubt about the X6 M's BMW bona fides.
Enough with the food talk
Transform is a pretty apt description of what BMW's done with this X6. The first coupe-like spin-off of the X5 SUV had an awkwardly tiered shape. It was short on back-seat room and existential purpose.
It's still guilty of the latter two sins, but we've grown older and gotten softer on the new generation, which kicked off last year with a slenderized body and uprated mechanicals. It cuts a finer outline, and makes more usable space with its footprint and roofline. It still has myriad means of adjusting most every aspect of its driving personality, but melds them more coherently. It just wants to be pretty, dammit, and if you want an X5 that goes out of its way to be less useful, who are we to stop you?
Mostly, the X6 M does great things by sticking with the BMW twin-turbo V-8 that would be anathema in a smaller M car (like a 3-Series), ideally mated in a big ute like the X6. Underhood sits a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 poked with engineering sticks until its hackles are raised to the tune of 567 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque--slightly more enervated than in the last X6 M. An eight-speed automatic with shift paddles is the only gearbox.
BMW puts 0-60 mph times at 4.0 seconds--forget M car territory, that's stalking Corvettes and 911s--and sets the top speed at 155 mph, a number that's easily within reach at COTA.
Supplementing the decabolic drivetrain are all sorts of taming agents in the way of M-sorted dynamic-driving modes for the powertrain, the suspension, and the standard all-wheel-drive system. All X6 Ms get stronger upper front control arms that help dial in more camber; stiffer springs and a ride height chopped by 10mm; and a rear air suspension and adaptive dampers with active roll stabilization--they're counterprogrammed to overcome too much body lean in corners, leaving the telepathic sense of handling altered in a fundamental way.
BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system splits torque front and rear, with a bias to the rear but full adaptivity, 100 percent of torque to the rear or the front, depending on myriad variables, from steering angle to wheel slip to throttle input. Electronic torque vectoring snubs understeer by clamping down on a slipping rear wheel--which doesn't happen often, given the 21-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport meats sized 285/35 front, 325/30 rear.
Everything with an electronic interface--throttle, transmission, steering feel, damper settings, stability control--can be toggled through comfort to sport-plus modes and set for one-button access, a set of driving "favorites," if you will.
And we will. BMW tells us the key to COTA and to the X6 M is to start off with the milder Sport setting and its more generous helpings of stability intervention, until we're literally up to speed. Hey, weren't we just here a little while ago with some other BMWs? Yeah, let's start off in Sport+, thanks.