First local drive of the BMW X6 Mhttp://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/executive-style/motors/first-local-drive-of-the-bmw-x6-m-20091211-knmz.html
BMW's famed performance division has finally got its hands on a 4WD. Barry Park gauges the results at the daunting Phillip Island racetrack.
BMW, the master of niche cars, has split the market even further by unleashing a highly potent M version of its X6 crossover utility vehicle.
Priced from a weighty $179,900 before on-road and dealer costs, the niche-within-a-niche four-seat 4WD, is the first performance soft-roader from the Bavarian brand’s renowned M tuning division.
Being only a little unkind, the stock US-made X6 looks a little like a startled American pit bull. You know, the big, square head dropped low; strong, muscular haunches held high; paws splayed as wide as they can go.
The X6 M, then, shows what happens when you poke that pit bull a few times with a stick. It starts to look a little angry.
For a start, the M hunches 10mm lower than its less potent sibling. Then there's that snarling front air dam with intakes so big that they seem to be gulping air rather than just swallowing it, and the mean-looking M kidney grilles. Down the rear, quad chrome pipes stick out brazenly from the stumpy, raked profile. Beneath the plumped guards, sticky 20-inch track tyres costing $800 a corner are likely to have a tough job ahead of them distributing the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8's 408kW of power and 680Nm of torque to all four wheels.
BMW has chosen the challenging Phillip Island racetrack to show off the X6. The cars are in pitlane and are already running to keep them warmed up, so there's no need to push the start button to fire the X6 M into life. As we wait to head out on the track, it's a chance to give the throttle a few nudges to see what sort of noise comes out.
Instead of the wonderful V8 burble you'd get from, say, the M3, instead there's a muted rumble with a metallic rasp to it, not what I expected. You get a similar sort of thing with the M5, which at idle and under light throttle sounds more like a labouring V6 than what you'd expect from the potent V10 that nestles beneath its bonnet.
Never mind. A quick warm-up lap, push the six-speed auto's shift lever across into sports mode, and it's time to see what this ugly puppy can do.
Tap the left steering wheel-mounted aluminium shift paddle a couple of times to drop through the gears, plant the right foot, and the X6 M hunkers down and leaps.
A warning light on the typical-for-an-M-car performance oriented dash reads “MSM”, so the X6 M is already set up for the track via the steering wheel-mounted M button that can raise the thresholds of the stability control, re-tune the dynamic chassis, and remap the throttle and six-speed automatic gearbox to the driver's liking.
It transforms the 2.5-tonne crossover utility vehicle into a spitting, howling monster. That's what we want to hear.
The 4.4-litre V8's exhausts are nestled between the cylinder banks, and join both rows of cylinders together. They feed into twin-scroll turbos, so boost turns on like a tap from very low in the rev range and stays with you almost all the way towards the redline.
The 0-100km/h sprint is officially dispatched in a respectable 4.7secs, but rolling acceleration seems a whole lot faster.
The brakes are only four-pot fixed calipers fitted to platter-sized discs on the front that, surprisingly, aren't cross-drilled or slotted, and floating four-pot calipers on the rear. They are fade-free, and quite up to the task despite looking a little underwhelming on paper.
Likewise, cornering is not what I expect. The grip is there, and the dynamic chassis does well to give the X6 M a sports car-like handling with little, if any, body roll.
But handled clumsily – apparently it's my default driving style on a racetrack – the M will dissolve into lots of tyre squeal and slow, predictable understeer.
If anything, it shows that the car's electronics have a lot of work to do, bending the laws of physics that suggest a car of this size and weight shouldn't be able to change directions that quickly.
But hit the sweet spot, and the M can swallow corners whole. The tricky electronic differentials are so clever that they can push drive to the wheels on the outside of the corner, helping to turn the X6 into them. According to our mentor for the day, former Indy car racer Geoff Brabham, the X6 M is entirely capable of lapping the Phillip Island circuit within a second of the M3.
A flying lap with Brabham behind the wheel shows it is possible. He prefers the stability control switched to “off”, and in his hands the X6 M darts around the track, tyres howling in protest, but always within their limit. We're not timing the lap, but it feels very quick.
Our trip meter is showing an average fuel use somewhere north of 30 litres per 100 kilometres, but the three cars made available to us are working very hard.
Officially the X6 M will do 13.9L/100km which, given its deep well of potential, is astonishing.
Bear in mind, however, that the X6 M is strictly a four-seater. If you're after five seats, well, it's only a few months' wait until the X5 M hits our shores, priced from $172,900.