By Trevor Dorchies - Kelly Blue Book
BMW's in-house M performance brand has never had trouble finding customers in the United States. In fact, one out of every three M vehicles sold currently find homes stateside. The first M vehicle, the E30 M3, arrived here 30 years ago and everything else is history. Perhaps the most interesting vehicle to wear the M badge is the BMW X6, a mid-size luxury crossover, or Sport Activity Coupe as BMW calls it. Introduced back in 2009, it has been a niche vehicle ever since.
Taking the X6 M to a track day may not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking at it in the showroom. At first glance, it's more of a family hauler that with its coupe-like styling will undoubtedly stick out in the line of cars in front of your kid's school at dismissal. Nevertheless, we recently had the chance to sample the 2015 BMW X6 M on both the track and around town in Austin, Texas.
We began our day with the X6 M at the Circuit of the Americas, a 3.427 mile course consisting of 20 turns. Rolling out of pit road, we followed professional driver Bill Auberlen, who competes in the United SportsCar Championship for BMW Team RLL. It should be noted that the X6 M tips the scales at over two and a half tons and Auberlen is one of the most successful drivers in BMW history. Like most professionals, Auberlen only has two speeds, on and off, and this played in the X6 M's favor as we pushed it further than we thought possible to keep the lead car in sight. From the edge of our comfort zone, we watched Auberlen pull away as he drove the X6 M around COTA like it was his BMW Z4 GT3 racecar.
We logged 18 laps total around COTA and the X6 M felt like it was just getting warmed up. Powered by a 4.4-liter TwinPower turbo V8 engine, the 2015 X6 M is good for 567 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque and is mated to an 8-speed paddle-shift M Sport automatic transmission. On the back straightaway between turns 11 and 12, we saw speeds upwards of 150 mph before standing on the brakes and bringing it back down to 60 mph. Both the xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive and Dynamic Performance Control traction systems worked hard as the X6 M hustled around the track. Both are mostly unnoticeable until you enter a corner at speed where they work simultaneously to keep you heading in the right direction.
Out on the open road
When not on the track, the 2015 BMW X6 M serves well as a family hauler. The ability to seat five passengers despite the sweeping roofline makes the X6 M an appealing option. Even with a taller driver, rear legroom is surprisingly good and rear headroom ample enough to accommodate 6-foot 2-inch passengers. Folding the rear seats down opens an expanse of cargo room, which is easily accessed through the wide-opening power tailgate.
Inside, the X6 M is slathered in Nappa leather and held together with contrast stitching on surfaces including the seats, dashboard, door trim and steering wheel. Alcantara lines the roof and pillars to give the X6 M a more luxurious feel. Carbon fiber accents on the dashboard remind occupants of its sporty nature. The M gear shifter has a new, distinctive design but doesn't feature a "P" function, instead the vehicle automatically goes into park when you hit the start/stop button.
According to BMW, every M model needs to be "fit for the Nordschliefe" (the famous 13-mile north loop of the Nürburgring racetrack in Germany) and the X6 M, while not the first vehicle to come to mind, is just that. Whether it was the back straightaway at Circuit of the Americas or the highway, the X6 M is a comfortable cruiser and much lighter on its feet than physics would normally allow. BMW says that the 2015 X6 M will go on sale at the end of March and will compete with Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Pricing starts at $103,050 and that includes a $950 destination charge. If you're in the market for a Sports Activity Coupe, or mid-size luxury crossover, and an enthusiast of BMW, the X6 M was made for you.