The X6 M seems to shrink around you the harder you drive. There's minimal body roll -- even through tight corners, the vehicle stays relatively flat. That planted feeling is no doubt due in large part to the X6 M's self-leveling air springs at the rear, and its Adaptive Drive system, composed of Active Roll Stabilization and M Electronic Damping Control. Normal and Sport modes are available, and all systems are calibrated to emulate BMW M's signature handling and ride characteristics.

However hard you push, the X6 M has your back. Even if you miss your apex in a turn, the M Dynamic Mode reels you back in -- keeping you on line and off the grass. The steering feel is what you expect from BMW: crisp, and responsive with good feedback, heavier when going slower, lightening up the faster you go.

We did our first three hot laps in automatic sport mode, letting the X6 M do the shift thinking. It worked like a charm considering the transmission is really just an automatic with the ability to manually shift. From the burble when you lift off throttle, to the exhaust brrrp when it shifts, it's raised the bar in the world of driver-oriented automatics. There were only a few times it upshifted where we would've stayed in the lower gear.

The last three laps were in manual mode and, just as the BMW engineers said, the tranny did not upshift automatically, bouncing off the 6800-rpm limiter until you grab the next gear. And the transmission will downshift for you at the appropriate revs if you just hold the downshift paddle while braking and entering a corner.

One thing we'd like to see BMW add is shift lights. The engine revs so quickly (peak horsepower is achieved at 6000 rpm, with peak torque available from 1500 to 5650 rpm) and you need the extra few hundred rpm for the shift carry over, the lights would complete the M package.

BMW estimates the X6 M will hustle from 0 to 60 in a scant 4.5 seconds. That's super quick for a vehicle this big, but after our laps, we have no reason to doubt that figure.