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Over the last few years, the evolution of sports activity vehicles has seen ever greater emphasis applied to high performance; and the arrival of a new X6 wearing BMW Motorsport’s legendary ‘M’ badge has taken the genre into unchartered territory.

BMW Motorsport first put its name to a production model in 1978 when the fabled M1 caused an international sensation. Designed to win the World Championship for Manufacturers, BMW was dealt a massive blow when the competition regulations were changed practically overnight. Rule makers now demanded that a batch of 400 road-going M1s would have to be built before it would be considered for approval; meaning BMW, who went onto build the cars at a rate of around two per week, was left with a stunning supercar but nowhere to race it. Nevertheless, the M1 went on to play a key role in establishing BMW Motorsport as the most respected performance enhancement division of any major automotive brand.

This latest M-badged BMW marks another new chapter in BMW Motorsport’s history, and pioneers several firsts. Never before has an M-car been equipped with two turbochargers, four-wheel drive, or the option of a fully automatic transmission. The X6 M is therefore a significant departure from previous offerings, but the same ethos that has run through the DNA of all other BMW M-cars is very much in evidence. Massively increased performance, greater exclusivity, and improved aesthetics have been the hallmarks of practically every BMW to wear the famous M tricolour.

The standard X6 has become one of BMW’s most popular sellers in the Middle East, this crossover model capturing the features and design qualities typical of a large coupй combined with the high driving position and versatility seen in other BMW X derivatives like the X5.

Transmission is via a new six-speed M Sports Automatic gearbox that’s commanded by an electronic selector on the centre console, and offers the pilot not only Drive mode, but also Sport and M Manual modes. Aluminium F1-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel also allow for manual shifting (right for upshifts, left for down).

In the M Manual mode, each chosen gear is held up to redline in order to give the driver perfect throttle-steering control. The transmission does not upshift or downshift automatically in this mode.

Harnessing this awesome power and transmitting it effectively is the job of BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system that has been custom-geared to the performance characteristics of the X6 M, whilst Dynamic Performance Control delivers uncompromised tracking stability on the road. xDrive also interacts with the car’s special M suspension, including Adaptive Drive and the newly developed Servotronic Power Steering, to ensure the handling characteristics one would expect of a BMW M car.

Cosmetically, the X6 M benefits from a number of improvements over the standard model, these including enlarged air intakes and flaps to the front apron, body coloured skirts, aluminium M door sill finishes, and a new rear valance that houses a pair of hot-air extraction vents, a body-coloured diffuser, and quad tailpipes.

Special 20-inch light-alloy wheels are unique to the X6 M and measure 10 inches across at the front and 12 at the back. Interestingly, the X6 M (and its sister model the BMW X5 M) are the only vehicles in their class to come as standard with different-sized front and rear tyres, thus optimising the driving dynamics and promoting both exceptionally good transmission of power to the rear axle and exacting steering behaviour.

As you would expect of a vehicle that boasts such an impressive specification, the driving experience is second to none. The alternative driving modes accessible through BMW’s 4th generation iDrive permit a variety of styles, from straightforward urban runaround to bells-and-whistles rocketship. The acceleration on tap is truly awesome, allowing occupants to experience the kinds of inertia forces that just a few years ago were available only to the owners of highly exotic super sports cars that were about as practical as a chocolate teapot.

Other characteristics are no less impressive. Cornering is flat and progressive, belying the X6 M’s size; in fact, as soon as you get behind the wheel, the whole car seems to shrink around you, allowing the driver to fling it around as if it were an oversize go-kart. None of this is at the expense of ride comfort though, and for that BMW’s Motorsport engineers have to be particularly highly commended.

All in all, the X6 M is an incredibly impressive piece of engineering that sets new standards for the extremely competitive sports activity vehicle market.

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