By on July 5, 2013

2013 BMW X6M Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

With Mercedes cranking out AWD versions of their AMG products and Audi finally bringing their AWD “RS” products to America, it was only a matter of time before BMW have in and added some front-wheel motivation to their M5. Just kidding. BMW maintains that the M5 will forever retain RWD. This means the M5 will focus on dynamics and not acceleration. BMW’s answer to this deficiency since 2010 comes in the form of the X5M and X6M cousins.

Why are we looking at the 2013 X6M when 2014 is bringing an all-new X5? Easy, the X5M won’t roll into town until the 2015 model year we’re told and the X6 has yet to be officially refreshed putting its new body back to the 2015 model year in all likelihood. If you want a fast AWD BMW and can’t wait for the refresh, act now.

What is the X6M? I’m glad you asked because I still haven’t decided. BMW would like you to think that it is a new class of vehicle called the SAC or “Sports Activity Coupé.” For some reason I have trouble calling a 5-door crossover that weighs a feather under 5,400lbs a “coupé,” but that’s just me. On a technical level (and to answer the real question at hand) the X6 is an X5 without the third row of thrones and a “liftback” and not a hatchback profile. The steeply raked rear window and overall shape of the X6 make it look smaller on the outside than it is. The X6M is one inch shorter than the M5, four inches wider, nine inches taller, and a full 1,000lbs heavier. 2013 BMW X6M Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Identifying the X6M from the “common” X6 is fairly easy. BMW swaps the hood for a version with a “power bulge” (not functional as far as I could tell) and a new bumper with openings large enough to swallow a Geo Metro. Out back we have quad exhaust tips and aero treatments that scream “look at me!” The most important difference is almost lost in the X6M’s proportions: this SUV wears some seriously wide 315/35R20 rubber on 11-inch wide allow wheels. More on that later.


For a vehicle with a $92,900 starting price the spartan interior of the X6M surprised some of my passengers. It shouldn’t. The X6 wears the same 7-year old interior as the 2006-2013 X5 with only minor tweaks which you’ll mostly find in the back. Up front we have the same injection molded dash as the X5 and X5 but BMW swaps the wood out for brushed aluminum. Call me an old man at heart, but I think a dark stained wood package would be better suited to the X6M’s sports/luxury mission.

2013 BMW X6M Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Front seat comfort is excellent, but again it should be in something this spendy. The comfort level is thanks to BMW’s 20-way power “M sport” seats which allow the seat to contort in more ways than you would think possible. (BMW makes these same seats available on nearly their entire lineup and it’s worth the cost to upgrade.) Out back you’ll notice something is missing at first glance. The X6M is a four-seater by default. If you want the middle rear seat that was lost in the X5M to X6M transition, you’ll have to pay an extra $350 on-top of the $4,050 premium for the X6M’s sloping backside. Apparently stye doesn’t come cheap.

About that liftback; from the X6M’s profile you might assume cargo area would be limited, but at 25.6 cubic feet the luggage compartment is more than adequate for a party of 5. (Although notably lower than the X5M’s 35 cubes.) You might also mistakenly assume the X6M would have more interior room than the M5 sedan but you’d be wrong there too. The M5 somehow offers more legroom and headroom front and back than either the X5M or X6M, something to keep in mind if you’re SUV shopping simply because you’re a tall person.

2013 BMW X6M Exterior LED Headlampsm, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


iDrive has come a long way since its introduction, and although complicated at times, it’s still the ultimate in-car attraction for my inner nerd. Keep in mind that the Swansong edition X6M doesn’t get latest version of the system found in the new 3-Series. The key differences are improved integration with the heads up display and a media button on the iDrive controller reflecting the relative importance of CDs and media devices in this century. Don’t fret, the older iDrive system runs the same software as the new version meaning the X6M still has all the smartphone app integration you can handle and now fully supports voice commanding the tunes on your USB/iPod. Like the rest of the BMW portfolio, you can Tweet, Facebook, Wikipedia and SMS message while you drive (with the $250 apps option). Compared to Audi’s MMI, iDrive lacks the Google satellite view mapping but the system is more responsive, more intuitive and more polished. I’d like to compare it to Mercedes’ COMAND but that would be like comparing a Space Shuttle to the Model T. For our in-depth look at iDrive, check out the video review.


By now the suspense is killing you. After all, we haven’t even mentioned the M engine under the hood so here we go: Turbo lovers rejoice! Squeezed under the bulging hood beats a 4.4L twin-turbo V8 engine cranking out 555HP and a mind numbing 500 lb-ft of torque. While this engine is quite similar to the X6 xDrive50i’s 4.4L twin turbo V8, there are some significant differences, most notably the broader torque curve. The “pedestrian” 4.4L engine delivers 450lb-ft from 1750-4500RPM while the M-mill broadens the torque plateau to 1500-5650 and the difference is marked behind the wheel. Power is routed to all four wheels via a heavy-duty ZF 6-speed automatic transmission, BMW’s full-tine AWD system and of course, a torque vectoring rear differential. I have seen complaints from the forum fan-boys whining that BMW didn’t put their dual-clutch M transmission under the hood of the X6M, I have to agree at some level.

2013 BMW X6M Engine, 4.4L twin-turbo V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

So why not an AWD version of the DCT tranny? In a word: towing. Despite the insane power numbers the X6M is rated to tow a stout 6,600lbs. With more torque on hand than most diesel engines, the X6M had no trouble towing a 5,000lb load that we hitched up making the X6M the second most practical performance vehicle I’ve ever tested right behind the X5M. As if common sense wasn’t enough, the manual reminds you to not use launch control while towing a trailer.


Let’s get some numbers out of the way. The X6M clocked a 4.04 second sprint to 60 with launch control, 4.3 seconds without and 4.5 seconds without launch control and not using the M power mode. What’s the difference? Aside from crisper/faster shifts, launch control adjusts the stability control system and allows the turbos to spool up to reduce turbo lag on launch.  To put that in perspective, the last M6 we had our hands on ran to 60 in 3.75, last month’s CLS63 AMG did it in 4.1, and the high-power Jaguar XKR-S finished the task in 3.83.

2013 BMW X6M Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

What does that have to do with the X6M and why are we comparing sports cars and an SUV? Because of how close those number are. How is that possible with the X6M weighing so much more? It’s all about the grip. 0-60 testing a two-wheel drive high horsepower vehicle takes a certain amount of time and finesse. The X6M needs only a heavy right foot. Aside from the straight-line fun AWD brings, BMW’s torque vectoring rear diff makes the X6M feel incredibly confidant on winding mountain roads. The system allows nearly 100% of the power that would normally be sent to both rear wheels, to be directed to one wheel causing the X6M to rotate with near psychic precision. While TTAC doesn’t have access to a 300ft skidpad, you may be surprised to know that most publications that do record higher horizontal Gs in the X6M than in the M5 and M6. Say what? Thank those insane 315 width tires for that.

For most drivers, the X6M is going to be easier to drive hard on or off the track, up to a point. That 5,400lbs has to be kept in mind and when you have the X6M on very tight corners the curb weight becomes more noticeable. Even so the X6M and X5M are entirely capable of keeping up with the likes of a Porsche Cayman S given the right driver and the right road. Speaking of Porsche we haven’t said anything about the Cayenne yet. There are three good reasons for that. First, Porsche wouldn’t loan us one making the X6M win by default. Second, the Cayenne really competes with the X5M since it’s a traditional SUV shape. And last, the Cayenne Turbo S lists for nearly 50% more than the X6M. Ouch. Yes, the Cayenne is an incredible machine and in truth is the only real competition for BMW’s insane crossovers, but with price tags like that, we should be asking: is the BMW competition for Porsche? Probably not.

Over 816 miles we averaged a surprising 15.4 MPG in the X6M. Surprising how? Because that’s 1.4 MPG more than the EPA combined number BMW advertises, it’s also not terribly far off the 16.5 MPG we averaged in a week in the BMW M5.

2013 BMW X6M Exterior, Rear tires, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The X6M is quite simply one of the finest BMWs available for sale. I just don’t understand why you would buy one. Sure it’s fast and handles well, but so does the X5M. My problem with the X6M isn’t the X6M itself, it’s that the X5M exists which is a far more practical crossover with none of the drawbacks the X6’s squashed posterior causes. All of that is before you even consider the $4,400 premium you have to pay for a 5-seat X6M over the 5-seat X5M and the loss of head and legroom over the M5. The X6M is absolutely incredible machine, but I can’t help thinking it’s a product searching for a market.



BMW Provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 1.66

0-60: 4.04 (4.3 without launch control, 4.5 when not in M-Mode)

1/4 Mile: 12.44 Seconds at 113 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 15.4 MPG over 816 miles


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32 Comments on “Review: 2013 BMW X6M – Swansong Edition...”

  • avatar

    “Apparently stye doesn’t come cheap.”
    Like a sore in the eye, I like what you did there, Alex.

  • avatar

    Great perspective, Alex. I’ve wanted to love the X6M since it came out, but the whole “sum of its parts” thing has kept me at bay. Sounds like you’re in the same boat.

    (You’ve got some typos…forgive the editor in me.)

  • avatar
    Jason Lombard

    When we were thinking of selling our X5 a few years back, I went to the dealership. It just happened to coincide with the X6 launch. The salesman was tripping all over himself telling me how great they were, and how the driving dynamics were so “amazing” for a vehicle that tall. I told him (and I stand by this today) that it looked like a answer in search of a question.

    The interior was beautiful, but unfortunately the exterior, um, wasn’t. It also had all of the disadvantages of the X5 with none of the advantages. Oh well, further evidence that BMW seems to be trying to “find themselves”.

    • 0 avatar

      “the exterior, um, wasn’t” What an understatement! This is about the ugliest thing on 4 wheels. The whole back half looks like an absurdist caricature of the infamous “Bangle butt”.

  • avatar
    The Soul of Wit

    To borrow a line which the actor Jeff Goldblum spoke in the film “Jurassic Park” –he was speaking about large, fast, powerful dinosaurs, too…. — “You were so busy trying to figure out if you could, you never stopped to consider if you should!”

    This is BMW’s problem, here, as well. The were so busy trying to figure out if they COULD build a big, fast, powerful dinosaur..uh, SUV that they never stopped to consider if they should.

    In the era of 50+ c.a.f.e. MPG mandates and $4 gasoline in the USA, buyers can sort of justify a X5 because in addition to hauling people, I suppose you sorta could make weekend runs to IKEA, and it looks very butch around the campground. The X6 strikes one as a technically superior, amazing machine. But a machine too far nonetheless.

    I have no doubt the engineerocracy at BMW will keep searching. (Frankly, I hope their search finds them a new American spec 5-series Touring. But that’s me.)

    • 0 avatar
      See 7 up

      By your argument, when energy was/is cheap and plentiful, manufacturers shouldn’t introduce highly efficient vehicles for those that want them?

      • 0 avatar
        The Soul of Wit

        No, mate…my argument is the market should determine the vehicle, sans government interference.

        When energy is plentiful and cheap, free consumers will tend to dhoose vehicles that offer dependability, comfort, safety and style. Efficiency as a desirable attribute will not be high on the list. Makers who offer the most attractive combination of attributes will succeed. Those like BMW, who offer too many choices at high cost will run the risk of not achieving high economies of scale, thus being a high cost producer, not achieving high profits thus placing their success and continuity at risk. They are in essence offering near-duplicate vehicles for the same market…incurring duplicate fixed costs in doing so. The market is choosing one vehicle over another. Thus it appears the cost and effort to build the duplicate, non-selling vehicle, was a waste of corporate talent and treasury….

  • avatar
    See 7 up

    “0-60 testing a two-wheel drive high horsepower vehicle takes a certain amount of time and finesse.”

    Besides the Jag, all the other cars mentioned in this review have launch control. So, sans Jag, they do not require time and finesse unless you count the time in takes to initiate launch control/race start and the finesse of your fingers working the controls and using 2 feet. All are traction limited compared to this thing though.

    Next you guys will try to convince us it takes practice and finesse to click off a perfect downshift in a DCT.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    Actually, the M5, M6 and a few others clocked their best 0-60 time by NOT using launch control which is somewhat counter-intuitive but the numbers don’t lie. It’s throttle control rather than working a clutch that’s at issue.

    • 0 avatar
      See 7 up

      Agreed. Although it seems to be car dependent. Perhaps has something to do with the amount of “time and finesse” the engineers put into perfecting the require clutch slip and traction control algorithms.

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        Even the best launch control systems can’t predict traction which is something a driver can do with practice.

        • 0 avatar
          See 7 up

          Surface conditions do matter to a point. But at the same time, very poor surface conditions can actually benefit a very good traction control system. The key is that it has to be a very good one.

          As for drivers predicting traction. Not so sure on that one. To a point yes. But most drivers “predict” traction by feeling for a slight amount of slip and adjusting accordingly, if the end goal is max acceleration.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. I’ve yet to drive a traction-limited two-wheel drive car that launched faster with traction control on.

      Sometimes you’ve just got to let a little slip through to keep the momentum up and to get going. With a two-wheel drive vehicle, the computer either clamps down too aggressively or not aggressively enough. With AWD, it’s more a case of shifting traction around the four tires, so launch control works there.

  • avatar

    Asking why you would choose this over the X5M is like asking why would you choose the Audi A7 over the Audi A6.

    Styling is everything and this truck looks like the “T-Rex” of automobiles. I’ve seen just as many X6M on the road as X5M’s here.

    For exactly $50,000, I’ll build you a last-gen Jeep SRT that WILL ROAST THIS SAUERKRAUT EVERY SINGLE TIME.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Indeed, the X5 has been one of my favorite SUVs since its inception, the X6 slightly less so. The following is a legitimate question, and not a sarcastic one: how is the new Mercedes-Benz ML63 not a competitor in this league of rocket SUVs?

  • avatar

    I guess I’m the only person on the face of the earth who likes, no, LOVES the look of the X6.

    This has to be second on my list of vehicles I’d buy “if I made X amount more each year”, which by the way is a practical list of vehicles actually attainable, and it’s second only to a Porsche Cayenne. Call me crazy…

  • avatar

    I was invited to an ///M power tour a few years ago. We were allowed to drive one or two of the M cars for a half hour on some local roads.

    The head of M division was there. He was quite clear the motivation for building these vehicles was “our competitors are doing quite well” and “why should we not have a vehicle for them”. The typical buyer had four other cars and simply put, why should the fast SUV come from Zuffenhausen ?

    Credibility was maintained as the MX 5 had to hit the same performance numbers as the M3…and that was/is a truly impressive feat of engineering, to get that much metal to do the same thing.

    I still cry thinking about that lovely, lovely M3….with all the gadgets shut off…..

  • avatar

    I absolutely love the X6, myself.

    Even recognizing how pointless the X6 is, picking between the X5M and X6Mis an exercise in splitting hairs.

    Forgetting about the third row, which is just plain torture compared to the third row in a cheaper car like the Explorer, the X5’s only benefit over the X6 is an extra second row seat and a slightly larger hatch.

    You’re obviously not buying a stupidly expensive turbocharged V8 crossover with the off-road chops of a Subaru Impreza for utilitarian reasons… you’re buying it because you can. In which case, the X6Ms actually makes perfect sense.

    Or it would if BMW would stop selling those pesky X5Ms and stealing sales from it.

    • 0 avatar

      my mortgage for a so cal condo is $630/mo, 30 yr fixed. a new ones not going into my garage any time soon. an old AMG wagen? more possible!

  • avatar

    I too don’t get the wondering about the X6. Obviously there is a market for them, they sell every single one of them that they make, and pretty much at full list price. Personally, I don’t see the point on about 9000 different levels, but if you are going to separate $92large (!) plus typically another $10 grand in options from those buyers, why not? The profit on these things has to be absolutely epic.

    As has been said, the rich are different than you and me… The LEASE on a base one of these puppies is ~$1500/mo…

  • avatar

    Part of the reason some people buy these is that they want a BMW or MB but live in a part of the country where AWD is better than RWD for most of the year. I know Audi offers all their S and RS cars as AWD, but it seems like people view Audi as a tier lower than the others. The next generation of AMG sedans will be available with 4matic, but they haven’t been to date, and this was the closest you could come to an M5 or E63 AWD.

    • 0 avatar

      BMW sells the 5-series, which has more seats and even a wagon variant, in all-wheel drive.

      And considering that the X5 and X6 aren’t any great shakes off-road, the “need” they fulfill is more psychological/emotional than utilitarian.

      If you really “need” your very expensive luxury grand tourer to drive in all kinds of weather and sometimes even off-road… and you must have a lot of space and seats… you’re getting a Cayenne.

    • 0 avatar

      Audi= fancy VW. almost always been that way. they try to flip the script with the bentley = vw (phaeton)? nobody wants it

  • avatar

    As a single guy, my typical passenger load is either a single female companion or my two nephews. I neither need nor want a lot of passenger room.

    You might as well be asking why anyone would opt for a coupe instead of a sedan.

    The answer is style. The X6 looks much better and sportier than the X5. If I had to choose between the two, I’d choose the X6 every time, the same as preferring an A5 over an A4, A7 over an A6. They’re just much better looking cars.

  • avatar

    Just another ridiculously overpowered, overpriced vehicle few want or need. Anyone ever wonder what the profit margin is on cars of this type? Must be very high or they would never get to market.

  • avatar

    Damn that’s fugly. And that’s coming from someone who owns an Element and sort of likes the Crosstour.

    • 0 avatar

      The Honda Element was also thought to be an answer to a question no one asked but it was a pretty good box that Honda gave up on. Nice to see the X6 still around

  • avatar

    This is the same company that, at one time, built the 2002? And followed it up with the E30 325i?

    Are we sure its the same company?

  • avatar

    “The X6M is absolutely incredible machine, but I can’t help thinking it’s a product searching for a market.” Around here that market D-bags. Every one I see is driven by some clown in Ed Hardy clothes and a trucker hat.

    • 0 avatar

      Damn- wheres that? even in LA people dont wear that crap anymore… mostly. when they do, its chunty paisas from the ghetto, and theyre usually rolling a beat up 300 with a chrome grill and playing banda music.

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