First Drive: BMW X5 M, X6 M & M3 2011 on the track
BMW had a track event at the Dubai Autodrome racetrack last week. Dubbing it “X Meets M Roadshow”, it was an attempt by BMW to legitimise the X5 M and the X6 M as true sporting vehicles worthy of the M badge, while also having the M3 as well as regular X5 and X6 models at hand for comparison. Interestingly, it was even open to the public, and all you had to do was sign up on BMW’s regional website for a slot. The only problem was BMW’s local outfit chose to advertise this event on everywhere except the Middle East’s most popular car website, so most of you guys probably missed it. It was a great event for those who’ve never been to the track before.
The day started off with a convoy of seven vehicles, lined up at the track’s pit lane. Behind the instructor’s 2011 BMW 5-Series were two each of the X5 M, the X6M and the M3 cars. After jumping into a random vehicle, we took a slow warm-up lap and then two cars at a time lined up on the straight to do a couple of drag runs!
We simply launched the cars, all automatic, with full traction control on, in order to not get kicked out of the track. The interesting bit was the “winner” kept changing depending on who had the best launch. But the simple pedal-mashing affair proved that the X5 M and the X6 M trucklets are just as fast as an automanual M3 in a straight line. All the cars brake like dogs too, and without any brake fade, as we found out when we had to stop as quickly as possible after crossing the finish line.
We also did laps of the track behind the German test driver who was our instructor for the day. Circling the track in a convoy, with no overtaking allowed, we did laps in all three cars, and they all handled perfectly fine at above-average speeds. All the vehicles had sharp steering and responsive paddle-shifters. The X5 M and X6 M SUVs felt like cars on the track, while the M3 coupe and convertible felt like racecars. We would’ve pushed harder were it not for the slower drivers in the convoy holding up everyone else, which was odd considering they were claimed “automotive” journalists. We hardly got to squeal the tyres on the turns.
After the track time, we headed onto the Autodrome’s pre-built off-road track in a convoy of non-M 2011 X5 and X6 vehicles.
Again driving in a convoy behind the German instructor, we avoided some obstacles that required ground clearance and went on the big stone hill to test out the hill-descent control feature at nearly 50-degree angles, and over two sand-trap exercises that just required power to get through. Hilariously, the instructor’s X5 was the only one who got stuck and had to be pulled out, thereby demonstrating the lack of low-range gearing.
The BMW Roadshow was a good event for beginners to get their feet wet in furthering their driving skills. The company would do well to promote such events better.