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Does GM Still 'Win' if No One Shows Up?

BMW, others decline GM's racing challenge

By Lawrence Ulrich Oct 28, 2009 9:02AM
My race helmet is packed, and I’m headed off to Monticello Motor Club in the BMW X6 M. But in a huge disappointment, I won’t be driving the BMW tomorrow against GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz as part of his Cadillac CTS-V Challenge.

Lutz had boasted that he could beat any journalist in any 4-door sedan that competes against the spectacular, 556-horsepower CTS-V. But with every other automaker -- Porsche, Mercedes, Jaguar -- declining the invitation to take on the CTS-V and feed GM’s publicity machine, that left the X6 M as a true wild card.

Don’t laugh. The X6 M may be a tall-riding, 5,200-pound crossover SUV. But this 555-horsepower beast with its brilliant “torque vectoring” all-wheel-drive system can post serious track numbers. It’s already circled Germany’s famed Nurbürgring track faster than the previous-generation BMW M3 sports sedan. Its power, skidpad grip and acceleration -- including a 4.1-second zero-to-60 time and a 12.6-second quarter-mile -- are all on par with the 556-horsepower Cadillac.


BMW had already nixed bringing the M3 and M5 sport sedans. But they were intrigued by the match-up of their crossover SUV against the Cadillac, one of the world’s fastest sport sedans. Even if I had stayed close to matching Lutz’s lap times, that’s essentially a win for BMW: Cadillac’s giant-killing sedan against a supposedly lumbering SUV.  


But the powers that be at BMW finally concluded that they didn’t want the X6 M out there, even while acknowledging that their powerhouse wouldn’t have embarrassed itself in any way.


Now, I’ll have to content myself with driving the CTS-V and trying to beat Lutz in his own trophy ride. But I will be lapping the X6 M today, in the rain, on a wet track on  which I’m certain the all-wheel-drive X6 M would smoke the Cadillac. Too bad it won’t be dry: I could have pocketed a few lap times and compared them on the sly with what the Cadillac will put up tomorrow.


The BMW is burdened with more than 1,000 additional pounds than the CTS-V, so it was still a decided underdog on the rolling road course at Monticello. My biggest concern was how the brakes -- enormously strong, but still dealing with a 2.5-ton vehicle that can brush 150 mph down the longest straightaway -- would hold up over repeated hard laps. But BMW data indicates that the X6 M, whose all-wheel-drive system is every bit the equal of the Nissan GT-R’s, may hold one edge: its ability to put down remarkable power to the pavement when pulling out of corners.


The other cars that really belong in the event -- the Mercedes E63 AMG, Porsche Panamera and Jaguar XFR -- won’t be here tomorrow. They want no part of what they regard as GM’s effort to show them up in a fixed game and publicize the results.


Wes Siler, the Jalopnik auto writer and my Brooklyn neighbor, was all set to drive the Jaguar until the automaker changed its mind just days before the event. GM also chose two civilian participants, owners of a BMW M3 and M5 -- but those track amateurs are going to be huge underdogs against a well-prepared Lutz driving a well-prepared CTS-V. GM, of course, is going to declare the whole thing a win in its book, because the competitors wouldn't show. But there's another side to this as well, which I'll weigh in on in my next post.

My last, only hope is to persuade those civilians to perhaps let me try a lap in their BMW sedans. Barring that, I can only console myself with the hope that I at least put up respectable lap times against Lutz and Co. -- in their own CTS-V.


Check back after the weekend, and I’ll fill you in on the results.



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