Love it or hate it, the BMW X6 crossover came back last year for a second generation, and the arrival of this year's mind-melting M variant means the line is complete once again. With an absurdly powerful engine and oodles of technology, this SUV (sorry, Sports Activity Coupe) continues its mission of attempting to do everything to the point of madness.
While X6 styling continues to polarize critics, it's hard to argue with a quarter-million sales to date. Plus, the second-generation body does a much better job conveying the "coupe" vibe than its predecessor, which mostly just resembled an X5 painted by Dali. The prominent visual sport-ification brought by the M version—particularly the 21-inch wheels—makes a big difference in the car's appearance and helps its overall proportions look something like an RC car blown up to life size.
As opposed to the controversial exterior, the interior is by-the-book, top-shelf BMW. Throughout the X6 M's cabin lies a plethora of luxury and technology expected from a vehicle with a price reaching into six figures.
Leather and soft-touch surfaces are everywhere (seriously it's like a leather factory exploded in here), along with M-specific equipment like sport seats, thick-rimmed steering wheel, and the instrument cluster. The cabin is solidly made and the technology sometimes involves a learning curve.
Styling is hardly the main event on a BMW M vehicle, however. The monster heart of the X6 M is a twin-turbocharged V-8 that BMW (ever committed to complicate, elongate, capitalize, and compound any and all nomenclature) is calling "MTwinPower Turbo." The 4.4L, twin-turbocharged V-8 is now capable of delivering a bonkers 567 hp (up 12 hp) from 6,000 to 6,500 rpm and an even more impressive 553 lb-ft of torque spread from 2,200 to 5,000 rpm—a stout increase of 53 lb-ft over the outgoing model. As before, the new engine is lifted largely from the M5 super-sedan, bringing an absurd level of performance technology that feels a little excessive in a luxury crossover. Yet here we are.
Velocity and power are augmented by a roster of stability and performance features, most notably an eight-speed M Steptronic transmission and all-wheel drive system. This new transmission is a traditional torque-converter automatic, obviously not normal for M cars, but it fits the bill well enough given that this is a crossover. That said, it isn't any old slushbox pulled out of the parts bin. This ZF transmission still receives the same thorough performance-oriented massage as the rest of the M car. No fewer than three stability control systems are present, as are the obligatory drive mode options that control the way the car behaves.
More importantly, though, is how all this comes together and how it feels to drive. We spent some time at Texas' very own F1 track, the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Let's get this out of the way immediately: The X6 M is stupidly, stupidly fast. The torque in particular is crushing, even relative to its immediate predecessor. This giant M car is all too eager to remind you that it's capable of roaring to 60 mph in four seconds flat, no mean feat for a 5,185-pound luxury crossover-coupe-type-thing. Combined with its size, the acceleration experience isn't dissimilar to taking off down the runway in a long-haul plane.
On that note: yes, it's a big, heavy vehicle. That never stops being evident behind the wheel, but it doesn't stop the car from giving the whole "spirited driver's machine" angle a damn good try. BMW M put a rear bias on the all-wheel-drive system. Surprisingly, it shows. We wouldn't go so far as to call its behavior tail-heavy (weight distribution is close to 50/50), but it's remarkable how little understeer is evident on the track.
Likewise, body roll and grip are both excellent through the curves. But there remains the usual electric disconnect in the steering feel, despite it being well-weighted. Almost as if BMW is trying to copy its own claim to fame, there is an on-center heaviness, but it doesn't amount to any additional communication. One might say it feels like there's a low-durometer rubber bushing where the steering column meets the rack. The M Compound brakes offer great pedal feel and hold up well to hard driving (to a reasonable extent), stopping this behemoth confidently even after several hard laps. That's impressive, even given the six-piston front calipers.
Off the track, the use of normal (not run-flat) tires goes a long way in combating harshness, but it's still a stiff ride, even in the most comfortable of drive modes. It's an incredibly sporty crossover, but that only goes so far. Even as it performs admirably, there's no forgetting that you're sitting on a mountain of a vehicle. As such, it'll never quite gel as a canyon carver. For bombing down the highway, running giggle-inducing errands, or making joyrides into town, however, it's more than adequate. Way more.
The '15 X6 M hits dealer lots by the end of the first quarter and lands with a starting price of $103,050 (including $950 destination and handling). Given the niche market, it's hard to discuss its competition. Two upcoming competitors are going after a piece of BMW's macho crossover pie—the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S—but aside from those, there's not much else out there. The closest realistic segment is the high-power traditional SUV, of which there are a few noteworthy contenders, like the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT and Mercedes-AMG ML63.
In the end, the X6 M remains a deeply impressive car that struggles for a purpose. Unless the crossover coupe design is an important factor, it's a hard sell over the nearly identical X5 M, which offers basically everything the X6 M does plus some useful space and more conventional looks. But if you're after a "do everything as much as possible" monster and want to stand out with a bit of quirk, look no further. This is your beast.
- So much power
- So much leather
- Identity crisis appearance
- Rubbery steering isn't the best, but isn't the worst either