Location: Phillip Island Circuit, Victoria
High-end watch company Hublot is all about the Big Bang, one of the world’s hottest selling watches, and yes, its very big and very impressive.
So to is BMW’s latest M car, the monster powered Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) the X6 M, the Big Bang of the SUV world, if you will.
To describe this thingasfast would be a gross injustice to what BMW have created in the X6 M, this is a 2.3 tonne supercar that single-handedly rewrites the laws of physics, at least as I know them.
Nonetheless, I was understandably confused, if not a touch concerned, when I found out the drive route for the launch of the X6 M in Australia was in fact the Phillip Island Circuit in Victoria, home of the Moto GP and a wickedly quick piece of tarmac.
But when I called one of my colleagues who had already driven the standard X6 (there’s nothing standard about it), for some advice on how hard I could push this beast on a race track, the response was…”Just treat it as if it were an M3”, in other words, hammer it .
That wasn’t the response I was expecting, and did little to quell my apprehension about the match up of venue and type of vehicle.
Looking more like a futuristic urban assault vehicle with guns removed, this BMW juggernaut is equipped with a weapons grade V8 powerplant producing 408 kW and a ground trembling 680 Newton-metres of torque.
That’s enough to propel the X6 M from 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds and on to a licence revoking 250km/h. And all this from a not so large, but highly advanced 4.4-litre V8 engine.
Not only are there Twin Scroll Twin Turbochargers under the bonnet, but also the deployment of a single exhaust manifold joining both rows of cylinders, is a world first.
The results are spectacular as this unique system offers “the fastest and the most direct response character in turbocharged engines anywhere in the world”.
I’d never driven on the Phillip Island Circuit, but with names like Bass Straight, Siberia and Lukey Heights, it’s the type of track I’d prefer to be familiar with, especially when peddling around furiously in a vehicle of such sizeable proportions.
So after explaining my predicament to Le Mans winner and car control magician Geoff Brabham (Geoff is also chief Instructor of BMW Driver Training), I was quick to accept his offer of a few ‘get to know the track’ laps in a BMW M3 riding shotgun.
It was hard to focus on the track lines with Geoff driving, as all I could do is marvel at how quick, but more importantly, how smooth he is around a circuit. I felt privileged.
With three well and truly warm X6 M’s idling menacingly in pit lane, it was now my turn as I climbed aboard and quickly customised my driving position.
It’s a seriously imposing vehicle that screams ‘M’ car with its massive 315/35 20-inch rubber on the rear and quad exhaust tips of tuner-like size, sitting beneath the diffuser.
And while the X6 M has clearly been lowered by 10 milimetres over its X6 sibling, its height is such that you still need to climb into it, as you would any large SUV.
And there’s no point in whinging about the lack of front fog lights either, you just are grateful that every available space within the front apron has been commandeered by the cooling systems guys, for the channeling of cool air into the engine bay and onto the vehicle’s humongous 395-milimetre brake discs.
The ‘M’ button on the steering wheel has been lit, and the veritable track mode setting of MDM (M Dynamic Mode) is locked in place and paddle shifters is what I’ll be going with today.
There’s a mandatory 60km/h speed limit in pit lane before we enter Gardner Straight South, which feels like an eternity as I instruct my right foot to go easy for a few seconds.
A quick glance in my mirror to make sure I have clear road and I bury the right pedal and begin the process of trying to fool my brain into thinking that this is not a big heavy SUV, but a high performance sports car.
Down into Doohan Corner and I am flat stick through the apex and body roll, even down to a single milimetre, has been all together deleted from the X6 M equation.
There is just so much torque available in each gear ratio, and its on song all the way from 1,500 rpm to 5,650 rpm.
Remember, we are on run flat road tyres at this event and the vehicle’s grip on the tarmac is vice-like, despite its weight and size. It’s absolutely remarkable and totally unexpected from a vehicle in this category.
Acceleration out of the very tight turn four towards the left-hander at Siberia is supercar quick, but that’s only after you have punished the living daylights out of the brakes at the last possible moment before turn-in.
And I don’t mean just once or twice; even after 15 laps on the limit, these things were positively fade-free and performing as if it were lap one.
Again, I have to remind myself that I’m driving twenty-three hundred kilogram beast, as my right foot is dynabolted to the firewall along Bass Straight.
That’s not to say that you can’t feel the weight, because you can, under very hard braking. While there is little if any nose-dive, the rear end does get a little light, as can only be expected in such extreme driving conditions.
While the sports leather seats could only be considered luxurious and will suit a wide range of body shapes and sizes, I would prefer more side bolster but again, that’s only relevant for track work and something legitimate owners of the X6 M probably wouldn’t be too concerned with.
And while the high revving Twin Scroll Twin Turbo V8 produces a wonderfully tuned engine note under load, the acoustic engineers have been busy reducing the overall cabin noise to a minimum.
So much so, that I was relying more on the brilliant head-up display for my gear selection, than any mechanical shift noise, such is the refinement of this powertrain.
If you like your driving, then BMW do steering better than any other volume luxury car manufacturer in the world, and the X6 M is no exception. Behind the wheel, you get the same perfectly weighted and accurate steering, as you do in any car in the brand’s extensive model range.
It’s a feeling that inspires tremendous confidence when attacking corners at speed.
After four brutal on-track sessions on this demanding circuit, the extra-wide run flats were struggling to maintain the extraordinary levels of grip they had provided earlier, but here’s where you get to experience the magic of M Dynamic Mode.
MDM allows the driver more control of the vehicle before activating intervention by the brakes and the reduction of engine power. So when the tyres started to loose grip in the corners, the X6 M predictably oversteers, as drive power had been shifted to the rear.
With the track sessions well and truly over, there was time for a brief look around the interior of the latest ‘M’ car.
For starters, the X6 M is more spacious than I was led to believe, with heaps of elbowroom between the driver and front passenger.
The materials and switchgear throughout the cabin provide a high-end look and feel, which is refreshingly minimalist. That’s mostly due to many of the vehicle’s information and entertainment systems being controlled through the latest generation iDrive, which is both intuitive and very fast to process driver inputs.
At just over $179,000, the X6 M comes with a full inventory of creature comforts, which is far too extensive to list in this first steer. That said the price is significantly less than the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Turbo S, which retail for $237,200 and $281,400 respectively.
The X6 M is also accelerates faster than the Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG and both Porsche Cayenne Turbo’s.
If this vehicle were an athlete, it would be a gold medalist in the five-event pentathlon, such is its all round ability at the highest level.
Stay tuned for a complete road test of the X6 M shortly.