2015 BMW X6 M Review - Paid in Full
2015 BMW X6 M
4.4-liter, twin turbocharged V-8 with direct injection and variable valve control (567 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 553 pounds-feet of torque @ 2,000-5,500 rpm)8-speed M Sport automatic
14 city/19 highway/16 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
16.8 mpg combined, 60 percent highway, 40 percent asshat (Observed, MPG)
Tested Options: Driver Assistance Plus – $1,900; Executive Package – $4,500; Enhanced Bluetooth and smartphone – $500.
$103,050 w/ $950 destination charge
As Tested Price:
$109,950 w/ $950 destination charge
For most people who find themselves burdened with the choice between fast and big: Salud, you’ve made it somewhere. For the small number of people who scoff at those physical encumbrances: pay your taxes, please. You’re using the road more than the rest of us.
Imagine, if you can, a Venn diagram of two relatively equal circles representing a traditional buyer’s decision between two cars that, everything else being equal, represent the physical problem of mass and its direct effect on velocity. Two unrelated sets of realities — speed and size — very rarely converge in the physical world, unless those sets are colored Castrol red, Bavarian blue and of course, purple, I guess.
I’m making this point because the BMW X6 M seems, well, kind of pointless. On paper, the big SUV doesn’t scream that it wants to be taken off road (and dent those 21-inch wheels?!) nor does it seem like it wants to go that fast. After all, 5,185 pounds is large enough to have its own weather system.
The curve toward the speed of light, Albert Einstein taught us, gets exponentially steeper toward the top because moving any mass closer to the speed of light requires infinitely greater energy, but I’m not sure that Einstein ever gazed at BMW’s 4.4-liter, twin-scrolling turbocharged V-8 lump under the hood of the X6 M.
The mill, which is new despite having the same displacement as the old engine, outputs 567 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque, up 12 horsepower and 53 pound-feet from the last generation. The subdued symphony of turbos and pounding pistons rockets the two-and-a-half ton machine up to 60 mph in about four seconds. Yikes.
Married to a traditional 8-speed automatic, the X6 M swaps cogs fast enough to keep up with its angry motor. The decision to use a normal torque converter instead of a dual-clutch box makes sense for two reasons: first, takeoff is much smoother in the traditional automatic; and second, there’s virtually no benefit to shaving milliseconds in a car that has no business at the track anyway.
Yes, yes, I’ve seen and heard the “can,” but astride the X6 M’s massive shoes and hulking 5,000-pound mass, one really ponders “should.” Chewing through the X6 M’s wide, 325-millimeter rubbers in the rear is no pleasure; you’re defying physics to catch up with the pack, not mastering the machinery.
Since BMW started applying its M badges — and presumably M mechanicals — to SUVs in the States in 2009, more than 20,000 examples have rolled off the lots and on to the streets. That’s hardly commonplace, but it is brisk for a series of cars that cost six figures to start — the X6 M starts at $103,050. The X6 M has company too: Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo, Range Rover’s coming SVR, Maserati’s upcoming unnamed SUV, and Jeep’s Grand Cherokee SRT8 (and likely Trackhawk) all play in the super-sized performance SUV category for near-to-makes-no-difference $100,000.
The X6 M will play ball with them all, if only because its engine qualifies as one of the engineering marvels of the known universe.
All of those new competitors forced BMW’s hand to remake the X6 M a little faster than it would have liked, I’m guessing.
You could be forgiven for confusing the second generation from looking pretty similar to the first. This year’s car is barely longer, wider or higher than the outgoing generation, and the 115.5-inch wheelbase is the same. From the side, the two cars are nearly identical — except for the larger wheels, which were 20-inch shoes last time around. This year’s X6 M sports an updated front fascia with a classier grille and sharper snout. Around back, the rear haunches have been overemphasized and it’s squat, quad pipes in the back relay the engine’s quiet riot to the outside world. The wider arches, deeper chin and shouty pipes hint for bystanders at what the impossibly wide tires confirm: the X6 M is a wholly different beast altogether.
If you’re looking for something practical, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for something that looks completely different on the road — well, here’s your steed.
If you asked me what was different from the last generation without much time to prepare, I’d say the rear quarter is the only thing new on the surface. A week later, I still feel the same way. Oh yeah, and the grille, I guess.
Inside the X6 M is the best of what BMW’s upper echelon cars can provide. Soft leathers, comfortable seating and power everything is what we’d expect from a German luxury carmaker, but oh my goodness is it expensive. As a BMW owner, the diverging materials the company is using in their cars sadden me, but I understand why it’s happening.
Not long ago, the parentage was unmistakable in an entry-level BMW and its most expensive model. Nowadays, the difference between an entry-level 320i and this X6 M is the difference between the Four Seasons and an air mattress in your grandmother’s garage. The interior of the X6 M is gorgeous, and it absolutely needs to be.
Rear legroom and headroom is down slightly from the last generation, but anyone who’s buying the X6 M looking for practicality should be scissor-kicked by reality: its rear cargo room is comically small and there’s people you could afford to hire to haul your kids, go to the grocery store and pick up your dry cleaning. If you must: rear legroom is down to 35.6 inches and cargo area is rated at 26.6 cubic feet.
Our tester added ventilated seats, which didn’t work, a connected smartphone harness, which was too small, and a touch-sensitive navigation pad for the infotainment system, which couldn’t read my childish handwriting.
Have I mentioned how god-like the powertrain is?
Have I mentioned how god-like the powertrain is?
(In reality, BMW’s 10.2-inch high resolution screen is infinitely sharp and responsive. I prefer Mercedes’ menu navigation and Audi’s newly found compartmentalized approach to infotainment, but BMW’s system is no slouch. The redundant buttons around its clickwheel are easy to memorize and helpful when you’re pushing the car into a mountain corner at 60 mph.)
Behind the wheel, the X6 M is an incremental improvement over the last generation’s car. BMW says a half second was shaved from its 0-60 time and the stopping power has been increased by platter-sized rotors with more stopping power than morning breath, but that’s a minor detail. The X6 M’s biggest improvement, to me, is in its comfortability — or you know, when there are other people in the car.
The three transmission modes, three steering modes, three throttle modes and three damping modes all feature an “easy there, pal” setting that settles the car into a normal routine. That’s useful for when you want to pass a gas station without stopping at it (we observed 16 mpg in hard driving, 19 mpg when we eased off), and when you have kids in the car.
Get it on an open road and dial the car past “easy” and you’ll see how savage it can be. The X6 M is every bit as fun to drive as you’d imagine commanding more than 550 horsepower would be. Rocketing up to speed and maneuvering the car around twisty stuff is more fun than picking on your younger brother, and the X6 M is flatter in the corners than a Kansas accent. You can’t not love this car.
But you can’t test it very well. Despite its ability to hide its weight, the BMW X6 M always surpasses your ability and will never reveal its secret. And it’s secret is that it is fast, but it is very big and can bite back in a big way.
I love that the X6 M exists; I only need fast or big in alternating turns, but I recognize that some of you need both at the same time, to which I say, for nearly $110,000 as tested, you’re more than welcome. You’re just fine right there in the middle.
More by Aaron Cole
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