BMW X6 M and Porsche Cayenne GTS at their beast  behaviour

BMW X6 M and Porsche Cayenne GTS at their beast behaviour

The X6 M is quite a revelation. You just don’t expect it to be so brutally fast. I remember driving it at the Chennai track last year and boy oh boy, the traction through corners and acceleration out of it. Then we took it to a drag strip and the blue blob showed its arse to an M4. An M4! Not a joke.

Naturally, curiosity was rife within the team on the X6 M’s antics on-road but it is the kind of car that wins you over easily. It’s just hilariously fast and grippy. No, to get some sort of objectivity, we needed a worthy competitor. Enter the Cayenne GTS. BMW may have invented the sporty SUV with the original X5 but the Cayenne is the one that stretched Newton’s laws further.
So, here we are on our favourite road sitting way higher than we normally are used to and about to take a call.

Beginner’s lessons

Twin-turbo V8 packs a brutal punch

Press the starter button, get the gearbox to Sport, the engine map to rowdy and the steering weight to comfort. Step on the gas, try to hold it down for a few gears, back off, breathe. Breathe some more. Then breathe a sigh of relief. Now rewind to the minute before you smashed the throttle, back to opening the door and getting into those voluptuous leather buckets. The X6 M, as I’ve said, is quite a revelation. When you take to the driver’s seat it is welcoming, the fat steering wheel is almost cushiony and the smooth top of that M division gear selector cups into your left palm for a soothing effect. You’ve got to get a little racy to do justice to that M badge and so the said ludicrous drive settings. What happens in the seconds before you catch your breath? The X6 M will hit its redline, slam into second, grab your head and smash it against the head restraint, redline again and give you another knock when it grabs third. Usually my eyes are on the gauges but the X6 M is huge and the road is narrow so I’ve got my eyes pinned on the road ahead. It takes a few minutes to sink in as I dial down the responses, get back to its dullest settings of all and let Sirish in the Cayenne GTS catch up to the X6 M’s not-so-pretty (well, at least to me) derriere.

Twin-turbo V6 is creamy smooth.

I like what I see in my mirrors though. The Cayenne has come a long way from the first generation hard-to-digest-mug to being the more desirable design in this comparison. It’s got a lot of Cayenne Turbo in it minus the twin-turbo V8. This new GTS gets a smaller 3.6-litre V6 breathed on by two turbos and good for 435bhp and 600Nm of torque. It has the Cayenne Turbo’s front bumper, body kit and 20-inch black RS Spyder alloy wheels to let all and sundry know that this chilli is a bit spicier. The GTS sits 24mm lower than the Cayenne S and with its air suspension in Sport at its lowest level, the GTS is just 168mm above the ground. Your view from the driver’s seat is that of one in a hatchback with the seat ratcheted all the way up. A scary fast hatchback.

The GTS is muted to the growl of the X6 M. The BMW doesn’t sound like thunder but it is thunderous – it shares its engine with the M5 and massages more power out of it and its monster twin-turbo V8 makes the Cayenne’s specs look positively weak. Try 567 horses and 750Nm. Also try 2359kg versus the Cayenne’s 2110kg kerb weight. Only thing going in the Cayenne’s favour is its price, which is `26 lakh off the BMW. This is an argument that simply can’t be settled on paper so it is a good thing that we are at that point where the road starts to climb and vanish into the Cayenne GTS’ natural habitat.

Like a Pro
The GTS isn’t intimidating. A couple of minutes in it and you will be offering steering and throttle inputs like you’ve owned it for years. The silky smooth turbocharged V6 gets you into rhythm, there’s so little lag it is actually hard to tell it is turbocharged and the shifts from the 8-speed automatic are quick, yet subtle.The gearshifts from the X6 M are like uppercuts to your face in comparison. You don’t get to alter steering weight in the GTS, but it is lighter than the comfort setting in the X6 M and the effort required in the GTS to turn in is spot on. Attacking a set of corners doesn’t feel like you are fighting understeer from 2.1 tonnes trying to slingshot you off the cliff. You feel dialled in for a long and entertaining drive ahead and I’m actually beginning to think its 132 horse deficit is a good thing. It allows you to ballet the Cayenne through corners where the X6 M has to be muscled. Even braking the GTS into corners is less of an effort in weight management than it is in the X6 M – there’s fantastic bite and feel from its six piston, 390mm front discs. What’s more, body control is splendid and the torque vectoring system works unobtrusively to keep the Cayenne composed.

Its also got a smoother ride. The suspension doesn’t crash into potholes and the 275/45 R20 tyres all round are just the right size for the Cayenne. The X6 M with its 285/40 R20 fronts and 325/35 R20 rears is over-tyred to the point that it tramlines over ridges and imperfections. Even the McLaren P1 has narrower tyres! The wide footprint does give the X6 M good grip but the weight and extra performance don’t correspond to equal levels of stopping power. It takes some getting used to. Once you gauge the acceleration, weight transfer and grip levels though, the X6 M provides a different kind of fun. If you like Thor’s hammer over Ali’s sting-like-a-bee, you’ll like the X6 M. On tight winding roads you need to brake early, point it in the right direction and then step hard on the throttle. That all-wheel drive system will let you put the power down early and once boost arrives (well, it always seems to have arrived) you will slingshot out and the Cayenne won’t see which way you went. When you’ve got 750Nm of shove all through the mid-range, time ticks slowly and distances are a fast moving commodity.

Meanwhile on the inside

The inside of the X6 M is chunky and leather clad

There is so much happening at the wheel of these two, you tend to forget that they also are luxurious SUVs bathed in high quality materials. The plethora of buttons on the centre console of the Porsche are in stark contrast to the minimalistic BMW console. You get used to getting all the controls right at arm’s length without searching for them and that keeps your eyes pinned on the road. Driver focus in the Porsche is all about the dials in front of you. The large rev counter takes centre stage and being the GTS variant, the dial gets a racy red face. You’ve got navigation on the right dial, speedo on the left and the extreme right and left dials get all the temperature and fuel gauges. It’s a busy place. The X6 M like all other BMW instrument clusters is simple, shows you your driving modes, and there’s also a head-up display that comes in handy when you are pushing it. Besides, the X6 M will keep you busy adjusting its long list of ambient lighting options or fiddling with its easy to use iDrive controller.

The drive settings are simple but way too many buttons. 

Rhythm break
THE X6 M gets easy controls and that’s a good thing because with the speeds it can suddenly thrust into your lap, you need to keep your wits about you all the time and therein lies the fundamental difference between the two. With the Porsche, you get into rhythm, you’re not fighting the car and it never feels like it will take a chunk out of your leg if you take liberties with it. Driven fast, the X6 M is edgy, the Cayenne just shrugs its shoulders and gets down to it. It won’t tire you, give you sweaty palms or scare you silly. As a daily driver, the Cayenne GTS is just brilliant. If there’s one thing the Porsche lacks, it’s a sweet exhaust note. With the X6 M, there’s the regular growl of a turbocharged V8 but it’s not much to rave about either. It’s louder than the Porsche though.

Where the X6 M makes the Porsche eat its dust is in the sheer acceleration of the thing. It is a second faster to 100kmph and on the road it feels like much more. In fact in the sub 5-second sprint world, that’s a lot of daylight between the two. It feels plusher on the inside and sportier on the outside. Despite the raised height, it isn’t an SUV you’d want to take to work or be driven around in daily. The ride is harsh and the powertrain isn’t happy being restrained. If you like brutality, if you like turning the volume up and if you like in-your-face, the X6 M will do it for you.

Me? I like the Cayenne’s precision, its ability to control all that weight, the supple edge to the ride, the lack of effort required in covering ground fast. Most of all though I really like the way it dances.

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