First Drive: We Push the Outrageous 567-HP 2015 BMW X6 M around Circuit of the Americas

Feb 08, 2015 04:00 PM EST | Jens Meiners

Tags BMW, X6, x6m
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It's hard to imagine anything that makes less rational sense than a sport-utility vehicle that you can take on the racetrack to chase sports cars and push to 155 mph. But that's the beauty of the 2015 BMW X6 M, which just launched in its second generation.

What is it?

This is the M-tuned version of the second-gen X6—the coupe-like, more expensive derivative of the X5. While the first generation of the X6 looked like an SUV version of the Porsche 911, the second generation is slightly more practical and conventional-looking. It's far from dull, however: BMW's M performance division has fitted an aggressive front fascia with huge air intakes, a rear fascia with a diffusor and quadruple exhaust tips. In between, there is a twin-turbocharged, 4.4-liter V-8 engine that cranks out a healthy 567 horsepower.

The bizarre part? Many X6 M customers will just consider this model a logical step up from a regular X6.

How does it drive?

Unlike any other SUV you've ever been in—with the sole exception, perhaps, of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. The thrust from the engine is awe-inspiring: 60 mph arrives in just 4 seconds, and at 155 mph, acceleration is rudely stifled by a speed governor. An 8-speed automatic provides incredibly quick up- and downshifts, and the torque reaches all four wheels with a pronounced rear bias. Serious drivers will appreciate that.

Performance on a racetrack, like Circuit of the Americas, is fantastic: The X6M loves to rotate into corners, and it is as eager as it is forgiving. The limits of adhesion are high, and they don't creep up on you unannounced.

There is a far more docile side to the X6M as well. Keep it in "Comfort" mode, and the only indication you'll get about its awesome capabilities is the subdued growl of its twin-turbocharged V-8.

What's it like inside?

A neatly executed variation of the familiar interior shared by the X5 and the X6. The car we drove was fitted with virtually every option on the ordering sheet. The seats look like they are designed for racing, but they are big enough to fit a wide range of posteriors (pun intended).

Today, BMWs doesn't exactly push the envelope in interior design, and the X6M is no exception. But the cockpit looks pleasant, its materials are uplevel, and there is ample space inside, both up front and in the rear.

What's its specialty?

Running hot laps around the cul-de-sac.

How's the competition?

Growing. Look no further than a Porsche dealership for not one, but several options, including the Cayenne and Macan. With Jaguar planning to enter the performance SUV market, and Mercedes-AMG about to introduce the GLE63S, the X6 M will soon have direct competitors.

Overall:

A wild animal that doesn't mind being kept on a tight leash.

Highs:

Chasing sports cars with a behemoth is silly and fun.

Lows:

The predecessor looked iconic, while this evolution is visually disappointing.

The ideal setup:

Keep it close to its $102,100 starting price. The assistance systems are annoying. And you might want to avoid the "Long Beach Blue Metallic" tone, which is truly an acquired taste.

By the numbers: 2015 BMW X6 M

MSRP: $103,050 (includes $950 destination charge)

Power / drive wheels: 4.4-liter, 567-hp turbocharged V-8 engine / all-wheel drive

Transmission: 8-speed automatic transmission

EPA fuel economy: N/A

In showrooms: Now

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