A stack of tires sits in the corner and there are broken down bodies of BMWs past and present everywhere. It would be a shame, but this is no graveyard, it’s the headquarters of Manhart Racing and each and every one of the sorry BMWs is the precursor to a brighter, better future. Like the 707bhp V8 R Biturbo we’re here to drive.
Gunther Manhart’s operation is a recent addition to the world of front-line tuning, but his workshop in Geilenkirchen has been open since 1986 and he is responsible for a good few cars that have eventually surfaced with another badge on the hood. He also spent more than a few years developing engines for BMW in house.
Now, though, Manhart has gone mainstream. It’s still a small outfit Christian Erfurt is the marketing man when he’s not fixing the electronicsbut then it’s a firm that is already punching well above its weight.
M5-powered E30s and V10-powered E90 Tourings have become his calling card. In the corner of the workshop there’s even a 2002tii being measured up for an E92 M3 powerplant. But that’s a story for another day, and an airfield.
We’re here because of the BMW M3 with the entire drivetrain and transmission from an X6 M crowbarred under the hood. And that makes it more than a car. It’s a nod to the future of turbo-powered BMW M cars and what will happen when the tuners get hold of them. Long story short, it’s going to get crazy.
There’s an animalistic way in which the car scrabbles off the line like a greyhound on lino. It doesn’t just get off the line, it tears up the road as it blasts through 62 mph in 3.6 seconds with the tires flailing helplessly and the whole rear end wobbling like a, erm, bigger lady jogging. It could be faster, but it’s all about getting that power down.
Now comes the weird bit. Because this is a full drivetrain transplant I’m riding an eight-speed-automatic M3, which is a concept I struggle with, and though it comes with paddle shifters just as a DCT would, I soon realize there’s no point messing with them.
That eighth ratio is just enough to confuse me, and to be honest, the car seems to understand its powerband far better than I do. So after a few hopeless grabs at the shifters I decide to focus on the horizon that seems to rush up and head butt the windscreen with unreasonable speed on anything approaching a straight. It’s a madhouse in there and the practicality side of the four-seat supercar is just gone.
It’s a thrill machine now, nothing more, so with the logical side of the brain engaged you may as well get a lightweight Lotus or even an Ariel Atom instead. But some people just want the ultimate BMW, and this is it.
In full auto it’s scary fast, chirping the tires with each upchange as the car snarls towards world’s end.
The seductive overture of turbo whine and wastegates flushing as the next of the eight gears slots home adds to the violent crescendo. Some will always prefer the naturally aspirated V10 that is soon to be consigned to history, but then that’s progress, and you’d never get this power from that engine without strapping on a blower in any case.
Switch to Sport mode and it opens up a whole new can of crazy. There are quicker cars in this world, but this one feels like a great white shark rodeoone wrong move and it could throw you off, turn around and bite you in half. And even when I’m on the throttle I’m always a heartbeat away from stabbing the brake pedal and engaging the monster six-piston and 395mm rotor brake assemblies, also taken from the X6 M.
The Manhart is a rollercoaster ride and struggles to contain those charging horses in all of the first three gears. In the bends, though, it’s brilliant, thanks to a 3,420-pound curb weight accounted for by the carbon hood and trunk, lightweight doors and other weight saving measures.
Then there’s the fully adjustable KW coilover suspension and those lightweight Breyton wheels. The full transplant means the balance isn’t really affected either, so the car just dives into bends as you’d expect of an M3 shorn of 200 pounds of pure fat.
You’d have to have the Roundel at your core or all the money in the world to buy one, since it weighs in at $190,000. And there are plenty of other fast cars on the market for that kind of money. But for those that don’t have to look at price tags, Manhart has an intriguing proposition.
And it’s not hard to see where the pennies go. This is a monster job and when we finally pop the hood for a look at the engine we’re confronted with a mass of braided hoses and not a single cubic inch of open space. The X6 M’s engine and two vacuous radiators seem virtually wedged in there with a shoehorn. And the power bulge, bigger than a porpoise’s back, might look vaguely ridiculous on the outside, but Manhart needed every millimeter of manufactured space.
And it’s fair to say that Manhart doesn’t do overt cosmetic jobs; he doesn’t even make his own wheels or body kits. That could come in time, but for now the front splitter comes from AC Schnitzer, the wheels are from Breyton and Manhart branding is limited to a few accents in the cabin and the badge. Of course, as sure as night follows day, Manhart will eventually have his own wheels and kits, but for now he simply plunders the best from other tuners. He even uses G-Power superchargers and turbo kits, modifying them to his own specifications.
It might seem like a shorthand approach to tuning, but Manhart is out to build the fastest cars he possibly can and he looks past the names on the parts he uses to get the job done. And there is no doubt that he has.
Great things are coming from what looks like an automotive graveyard in a grey corner of Germany. And though this was the first visit to the fledgling firm, we already know it will not be the last.
Manhart Racing V8 R
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
4.4-liter V8 bi-turbo with Manhart Racing ECU, air intake, HJS catalytic converter, 90mm exhaust pipes
Independent wishbones with KW three-way adjustable coilovers
Six-piston calipers, 395mm ventilated discs (f), four-piston calipers, 345mm ventilated discs (r)
Wheels and Tires
Breyton Race GTS, 9x20 (f), 10.5x20 (r). Dunlop SP Sport Maxx, 255/30 (f), 305/25 (r)
Peak Power: 707 hp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 663 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.9 sec.
Top Speed: 210 mph
Manhart Racing M6XR Biturbo: SUV or Supercar?
It wasn’t the answer I was expecting. But when I asked about the 0-200 kph (124 mph) time of the Manhart Racing M6XR Biturbo Christian Erfurt simply pulled to the side of the road, waited for us to ready a stopwatch and said: Let’s find out!
This test is about as technically sound as Scientology. It’s wet, there are three of us in the car, we’re using an iPhone as the timing gear and we’re on a public road. But with all this going against us, just 14.6 seconds later we’re bursting through the 124-mph mark and we’ve proven just how good these big SUVs can be in the real world.
People will argue that is quicker than most have managed with a stock M3 in the dry, much faster, and I wouldn’t take these figures to court as this was far from a sterile testing environment. But on that day, in those conditions, that’s what the iPhone said, and that is freaking fast.
This is a 700hp BMW X6 M that just devours road and can do it time and again in any conditions we care to throw at it. We swap seats and within minutes I’m through 150 mph, one hand on the wheel, with a plume of spray splattering other cars as we blast past on a derestricted section of Autobahn just outside of Geilenkirchen. Just across the Dutch border, literally 20 minutes away, I’d be in prison, forever.
I plant the throttle and the eight-speed Auto box kicks down three whole ratios before the front end lifts up like a speedboat and fires down the road at an unreasonable speed. Although this big battle barge takes 4.7 seconds to breach 60 mph, it’s one of those cars that belongs at 140 mph+, its in-gear acceleration is frightening and its cruising gait is really in the high triple figures. As proof we offer up the number of mashed-up wasps in the radiators, that doesn’t happen at slow speeds.
It’s no supercar, there’s not enough feedback through the wheel or action in the cockpit for that, despite a suspension that has been dropped by 30 mm and lightweight AC Schnitzer 11x23 wheels wrapped in 315/25ZR-23 Continental ContiSportContacts. But it is a ridiculously fast bahnstorming express train, if you’re into that kind of thing, and apart from the matte wrap it’s pretty subtle.
Manhart doesn’t do major cosmetic work, yet, he’s just not big enough and he doesn’t seem the type to slap a lairy widebody kit on it. So apart from the 23-inch AC Schnitzer rims, the carbon-fiber mirror covers and the tiny lip spoilers on the front end, there is hardly anything else to mark it apart. That’s kind of refreshing.
Manhart Racing might not be the biggest name in tuningnot yetbut Gunther is a master and worked at BMW for many years in engine development. He knows what he is doing and this company will get bigger and better, in a hurry.
And there’s no denying this is a rocket for its size. This is long distance, first class travel, providing you can afford the fuel bill (we put 20 in for the test and had to stop 30 minutes later for more) and the fines that are an inevitable part of covering ground at 186 mph.
And if you’re not going to do it then there’s no point in buying the car, the X6 M is more than capable so the only reason to come here is if you spend your life deep in the red zone.
I was a massive skeptic when the X6 M launched, it was simply the wrong car for the times and it looked like an epic fail in the making. I was wrong, executives and celebs have snapped up this alternative to the Porsche Cayenne like hungry gannets. It’s a go-anywhere sports car that takes zero skill to drive fast, comes with a big comfy seating position and a sleek coupe-style roofline.
The kind of people with the budget to buy one don’t care that an M5 is more sporting, or that the X6 M comes with less interior space than a decent 3 Series, or that a 7 Series is seven times comfier. They love this big, commanding rocket and the only problem some of them have is that 550 bhp isn’t enough.
That’s manna from heaven for the tuners who have gone to work on this politically insensitive gas-guzzler, and Manhart’s 700bhp variant with 663 lb-ft of torque is about as manic as these giant SUVs should ever get.
Even the leading lights from Ferrari and Lamborghini don’t have this kind of power or torque, although they don’t have 2.3 tons of body to dragadmittedly.
Gunther Manhart’s boys went to work on the ECU and fitted a stainless steel sports exhaust with a 200-cell racing HJS catalytic converter that leads into a back box with four 90mm tailpipes. But most of the boost on the 4.4-liter V8 that produces the frankly insane horsepower number comes through pure electronics. Which means the same boost is ready and waiting for the new M5, so if you don’t like the X6 M then there’s still a silver lining for you here.
That’s a way off, though, for now we should just stand back and applaud a car that just should not work on so many levels. Physically it’s a two-ton rocket, which is stupid, and financially this is the wrong car for the current economic times. Wasteful, profligate and kind of obscene, it is a middle finger and then some to the world at large. But then that’s why people buy them.
They come for the style statement, the pseudo SUV look with a prestige badge and sports car performance that is effortless, that takes no talent to control. And when they tire of the shove in the back they can head to Manhart Racing to get an SUV/hypercar crossover that will beat an M3 to 125 mph with three in the car in the pouring rain.
At least that’s what the iPhone says.
Manhart Racing M6XR
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
4.4-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve, twin turbocharged, Manhart Racing ECU, HJS catalytic converter, 90mm exhaust
Bilstein lowering springs
Six-piston calipers, 395mm ventilated rotors (f), four-piston calipers, 375mm ventilated rotors (r)
Wheels and Tires
AC Schnitzer Type 5, 10.5x23
Continental ContiSportContact XL, 315/25
Peak Power: 700 hp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 663 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.7 sec.
Top Speed: 186 mph