Whenever I see a BMW X6, in any guise, I can’t help but remember the time I walked by two people in a country-club parking lot looking at an X6 quizzically. One of them turned to the other and asked, “What is this car trying to be?” That’s a very good question, and one I still ask myself about the X6. And I wonder even more about the X6 M, which takes what is already a vehicle that fits in the tiniest of niches and adds an excessive amount of power and performance at a price approaching six figures.
Yes, the X6M is fast, and it handles extremely well for a high-riding crossover. But it’s a big vehicle that only carries four passengers and has a fairly limited amount of cargo capacity for its size. Admittedly, it’s well put together, and its DNA is unmistakably BMW, which is definitely not a bad thing. But there’s still something about the X6 M that makes me wonder exactly what it’s trying to be and for whom. As the old saying goes, “Different strokes for different folks.” I guess I’m just not different enough to wrap my head around the BMW X6 M.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Web editor Donny Nordlicht and I and another friend drove our BMW X6 M to downtown Detroit, and it was an appropriate conveyance for arriving at the Detroit Opera House for Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” I am always struck when I get into an X6 just how athletic it is despite its height, weight, and size. It’s a remarkable engineering exercise to have created a vehicle that performs extremely well on not only the open road but also, according to my colleagues, on the racetrack, with an athletic chassis and a very sophisticated rear differential that funnels the torque from side-to-side to aid cornering. And, of course, there’s that turbocharged V-8 engine: It’s worth remembering that the X6 M is the first vehicle made by BMW’s M division with two features: a turbocharger and all-wheel drive, so it broke a mold there, which at the time seemed perhaps alarming to some purists but I believe eventually will seem to be a footnote in M history, because BMW is clearly moving toward artificial aspiration for its engines, both for its conventional vehicles and for its M cars.
I rode in the back seat on the way home, and I was disappointed that the seatbacks don’t recline. But other than that, the back seat is a very commodious, comfortable area for two people (this is a four-passenger vehicle, not a five-passenger one, which narrows its customer base even further). If you’re one of the few, hey, you’ll probably love the BMW X6 M.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Let’s get this out of the way: I don’t like the X6’s ungainly styling, Lotus Elise-like rear visibility, or supersize dimensions. That said, this M version hits all the buttons for an enthusiast like myself — after all, it has 50 more horsepower than the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Sweet!
It felt a little wasteful to drive a 555-horsepower machine at 40 mph, but the X6 M was surprisingly docile in my commute. The engine idles smoothly and is perfectly tractable at low speeds. Even in normal driving, there’s a very sports-car-like exhaust note, with gentle burbles and pops each time the transmission shifts. And when you do hurry away from traffic lights, it’s shockingly fast. Though the suspension is obviously tuned for high-speed corners on the track, the ride isn’t too harsh over crumbling city streets.
The polarizing exterior styling certainly attracts attention — partly because the X6 is still relatively rare, partly because the size and bold M Sport body kit can’t be missed.
That said, I am evidently not the target buyer for this vehicle. Since America lacks autobahns on which to exploit the full 555 ponies, I’d opt for the cheaper, 400-horsepower X6 xDrive50i, which is still plenty quick. And considering that the X6 M starts at $90K, I’d probably buy a BMW M3 instead and keep the change for spare tires. However, there’s no getting around how outrageously cool it is to drive a four-seat SUV that can keep up with Corvettes. For that reason alone, the X6 M gets a thumbs-up vote from me.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
“The X6 M is quicker than anything this shape and size has any right to be. Basically, it defies physics.” Those are the notes I wrote last May after blasting around New Jersey Motorsports Park in an X6 M. After driving this white test car home, I see no reason to revise my comments: This car is stupidly, awesomely fast. The engine roars. The transmission acts quickly. Push the M button on the steering wheel, and hold on tight.
Regarding the X6’s design, I think it looks less peculiar now that the Acura ZDX has been around for a while. The BMW still has some strange, polarizing lines, true, but it offers much more practical packaging than the Acura. It’s got more luggage space, a bigger under-floor storage compartment, and provides more spacious, easier-to-enter rear quarters. Plus, it’s hard to argue with all that extra horsepower.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The history books in our library tell us that the M in M GmBH stands for Motorsport, but in the case of the X6 M, it may as well stand for Mad. I can’t think of a single rational reason to build a 555-horsepower, 5300-pound SUV that rockets off a standing start in a manner that would make Wernher von Braun proud.
This car’s performance metrics are as insane as its entire premise. 0-60 mph in less than 4.5 seconds seems impossible for such a burly beast until, that is, you push that magic ‘M’ button, slap the shifter into ‘sport,’ and bury the accelerator pedal into the plush carpeting. What seems to be an ungainly, unusual-looking SUV suddenly springs to life, and slams occupants — all four of them — firmly against their seatbacks. Large brakes and bespoke suspension tuning help keep the X6 M in check; a good thing, considering you’ll quickly run out of road at a pace like that.
Complaints? A few, including the truncated cargo space, two-place rear bench (why not three?), and unusual exterior styling. Perhaps the only fault I found that couldn’t be resolved by opting instead for the X5 M lies with the 6-speed automatic. It’s smooth and remarkably quick, but during my drive it perpetually emitted a very un-BMWish gear whine. I don’t recall that from the example I drove for a weekend last year.
We can try and rationalize this vehicle all we want, but the fact of the matter is it, and this niche segment, is utterly mad. So too is the money you’ll have to drop for one: pricing starts at $90,075, and given the typical BMW option structure, it’s easy to push that figure above the $100k mark. Think that’s nuts? A Porsche Cayenne Turbo S starts around $106,000.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
The BMW X6M is so far removed from my automotive interests that I struggle to issue judgment on it. Yes, everything my colleagues have said is accurate. It moves with surprising speed and agility and handles impossibly well for its size and heft. But no matter how amazing or how unlikely the X6M is, in my eyes, it’s a comical hyperbole of excess.
I recognize the demand for high-riding SUVs, vehicular style statements, and performance cars, but I cannot bring myself to believe that there are more than a dozen people who want all three at once. It seems to me that anyone considering the X6M could tolerate the measly X6 xDrive50i and its 5.2-second sprint to 60 mph and still find the budget for a real performance car — something with a center of gravity lower than that of Seattle’s Space Needle. BMW’s X6M is a seriously impressive performer, but that’s not enough in my book to justify its existence. Brute-force engineering provides little driving joy and is an inelegant solution for an M car.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Base price (with destination): $90,075
Price as tested: $94,975
4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine
6-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles
Xenon adaptive headlights with auto-leveling
Merino leather upholstery
2-way power glass moonroof
Park distance control
Dynamic cruise control
Tire pressure monitoring system
iDrive system with on-board computer
Navigation system with voice activation
AM/FM stereo CD/MP3 player audio system with HD radio
Adaptive brake lights
BMW assist with Bluetooth connectivity
Options on this vehicle:
Driver assistance package — $1900
Automatic high beams
Premium sound package — $1400
iPod and USB adapter
Enhanced premium sound
Comfort access keyless entry — $1000
Cold weather package — $600
Heated steering wheel
Heated front and rear seats
Key options not on vehicle:
Active ventilated seat package — $1900
Rear seat entertainment — $1700
Rear climate package — $700
6-disc DVD changer — $600
12 / 17 / 14 mpg
4.4L twin-turbocharged V-8
Horsepower: 555 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 500 lb-ft @ 1500-5650 rpm
Unladen weight: 5324 lb
Wheels/tires: 20 x 10-inch front; 20 x 11-inch rear cast-alloy wheels
275/40R20 front; 315/35R20 rear Pirelli Sotozero winter tires