|BMW X6 M
|2010 BMW X6 M
By Twain Mein
- Ferocious power
- Dynamic BMW handling
- Merino leather seats cradle the passengers in luxurious comfort
- Appeals to a niche market
- Barely acceptable rear cargo space
- Limited view looking back through hatchback window
- Head-up display is marginally useful
BMW calls the X6 a “sports activity vehicle”, distancing itself from the dowdy “sUv” as in “utility” moniker. And this particular X6 has the vaunted “M” classification, which means “motorsport” for BMW’s racing program. But what it should stand for is “Monster”. As this X6 M is a beast, reportedly faster around the legendary Nürburgring racetrack than BMW’s own smaller and lighter M3 and even quicker in the 0-60 sprint. In fact, according to Car and Driver, the X6 M pulls 0.92 g’s in the skid pad and hits 60 in just 4.3 seconds. Truly monstrous!
On paper, the pornographic specs alone make the X6 M seem like the apex offering in the automotive kingdom. But driving it was a bit anticlimactic. Granted, the cockpit was extremely comfortable with fantastic seats, a wonderfully thick steering wheel, and better ergonomics (seatbelts and armrests in particular) than the new 750Li. But, the heads up display was marginally useful and hard to see during the day—though it came in handy monitoring highway speeds which were often above the legal limit. The iDrive is still overly complicated and I wonder how many near-accidents have been caused by folks trying to navigate it. Moving back, the two bucket rear seats, though comfortable, were surprisingly cramped; at 6 feet, my knees bumped against the front seats and headroom was tight. And the view out the slanted hatchback “slit” was mediocre at best. The hatch has received some complaints for being too small. I found it acceptable in size and it should hold 4 golf club bags with ease. However, pulling up the spare tire lid revealed thin and uneven paint, similar to the 335i we tested a year ago. Frankly, I would expect more in a $90k car.
Though very comfortable like most BMW’s, the X6 M definitely showed its monstrous presence. It hissed and pissed with various noises from the trunk, whine from the transmission, squeal from the massive 15’’ brakes, and engine growl. It has a firm though not harsh ride that provides plenty of feedback. Making u-turns, the BMW had an impressive steering radius; the wheel turns one notch past where you would expect it to, and the circumference was impressive. The transmission is not the most intuitive to use and the overly-communicative screen can be distracting. Backing up is problematic with the small rear window though the rear-vision camera helps to alleviate that. On the road, the massive side mirrors do a good job with rear vision but switching lanes is a leap of faith as it’s hard to confirm what you see out the rear. Getting in to the car is easy but getting out, you have to clear the wide sills and exaggerated height—it is impossible to be graceful.
Engine and Handling
The X6 M is graced with a twin-turbo V-8 that generates an astounding 555 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, from just 4.4 liters. If you go back to the ‘60’s with the crazy muscle cars of yore, I don’t believe there was any production vehicle made with over 500 horsepower. Even the legendary Hemi 426 had “just” 425 horsepower. Yet this engine is remarkably docile and revs smoothly and freely. It’s claimed to have no turbo lag, but there is some hesitation off the line. Once over 30mph, however, this car truly rockets and picks up speed in huge chunks seemingly accelerating quicker as it goes faster. The engine burps gloriously as it up-shifts, like a rib-betting toad. The downside of this horsepower is gas mileage; similar to the muscle cars of the past, the EPA rating was a woeful 12/city and 17/highway. I managed a barely acceptable 15.6.
Unfortunately, during our test drive, we experienced torrential California rains and I was reluctant to push the handling limits. But the traction/stability control and AWD are simply amazing. Nailing the throttle, in turns and rain, did not provoke any squeal or slip – at all. Amazing how those 315’s just plant and go with no real body lean. Remarkable for a tall vehicle such as it is . Notably, the steering feedback was better than the previous rear-wheel drive 750Li and 335i we tested.
This is a brute of a car. It looks like a bullfrog on steroids with its crouched rear quarters and bulgy front air intakes and massive 315/35/20 tires porking out the back. It’s similar to the rare M-coupe, purpose built and over the top. Driving it past co-workers elicited stairs and open mouths. The sloping roofline and squat profile makes the car look smaller and tauter. The styling definitely grew on me with time.
This car is a real head scratcher. On paper, the performance specs are incredible. But in the real world, what is it meant for? It is cramped for 4 people. And despite its all wheel drive, the massively wide tires would simply spin in snow and bog down in mud. At over $90k and with terrible gas mileage, who can afford to own it? The maintenance costs must be staggering as well. It’s like an overgrown muscle car that is waiting for track day but confined to the daily commute. It begs the question: who is this car meant for? But then again, if I had the cash, this would be a sweet grocery-getter!
BMW does offer the X5 M which has the same awesome power plant but also offers a larger rear seat, better outward vision, a lower price, more cargo room, and is only marginally slower. It seems like a more practical choice.
|The official BMW of North America website – www.bmwusa.com|