The BMW X6 M is, effectively, Europe's Hummer. It's faster, slicker, better engineered, superior in more or less every way. In fact, it's a borderline miracle in pure engineering terms. But the underlying attitude is the same.
Because you need an SUV with 3 Series interior space and rocketship acceleration the same way you need military muscle in the Hollywood Hills. Both cars are pure consumption, ostentatious wealth at work showing a middle finger to the world at large.
Hummer paid the ultimate price for its conceit as soon as the chill wind of recession hit. But the X6 in general is flying off the shelves; wanton consumption is still cool in some corners of the world. And that's music to the ears of tuning house AC Schnitzer, which has thrown the kitchen sink and then some at this supercar in a fat suit.
From a tuner's perspective, the X6 M is an open goal, because the kind of customer the base car appeals to clearly doesn't know where the line is. They don't even know there is a line. They are rappers, entrepreneurs, sportsmen, company directors, Russian success stories with offshore bank accounts, and Middle Eastern royalty. In short, they're minted.
They likely have more than one car in the garage and the near-$90,000 X6 M is their daily workhorse. It isn't about practicality or luggage space-the X6 M doesn't really have those-and fuel consumption doesn't even enter their thoughts. It's just a big bruiser with an automatic mode that's less demanding to drive fast than the Pagani, Lamborghini, or superbike that comes out on the weekend.
But although this is the daily work car, it still has to stand out from the ever-growing crowd while it's flying through bends as two tons of angry metal. And few things are more brazen than Schnitzer's Falcon body kit.
The Aachen firm offers a much more muted kit for the wallflowers, but this one puts both barrels to the face. The bulging arches add 40mm to each side-yes, that's one and a half inches in total-and there's a whole new front bumper assembly and rear valance with a jutting rear lip spoiler and side skirts. Almost comically, the front bumper comes with an adjustable lip spoiler made from weight-saving carbon fiber, while the rear gets that diffuser. You have to love the sheer audacity.
Schnitzer fitted a carbon mid-section to the hood and it comes with a gigantic window to the car's soul, showing off the badge and new carbon detailing on the 4.4-liter twin-turbo. It's not quite in Ferrari's league, but it will win major league bragging rights when a friend rolls up in his diesel variant. As will the polished steel vents sliced into the front.
Other external mods include the visibily light 22-inch five-spoke wheels, which are clothed in relative rubberbands from Michelin. Considering the base car is about as comfortable as a fall down the Statue of Liberty's steps, this should be a recipe for unmitigated disaster. But it isn't.
The original X6 M bent physics when it came to the driving experience, and the Schnitzer is better just about everywhere. For a start, there's the extra 100 hp ACS liberated with the ECU and 100-cell rear silencer, as well as the small matter of 604 lb-ft of torque that bodes well for the next generation M5.
The base car wasn't lacking in the trousers department, but this thing is ridiculous. There's no drama, no fight for traction, and the only audible way to detect the extra power is the burbling note from the V8. From a standing start this car just flies and it feels every bit as tight as a thoroughbred sports car, without the wheel-fidgeting histrionics.
It simply acquires the kind of speed that could bankrupt a normal man in fines or fuel, never mind both, bursting through 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, allegedly, but I'd bet real money it's faster. And at the top end Schnitzer fitted a 360-kph speedo, but the top end is limited to "just" 300 kph (186 mph). Still, that's two-tons-plus of metal approaching 200 mph. Take a moment to digest that tidbit.
Schnitzer's ever-friendly marketing and P.R. man Oliver Linstedt insists that the speed isn't the most amazing thing. It's the fact that at 180 mph you can drive the car with one hand. So we do, and you can; you don't even really feel the speed.
Suddenly all that mass works for the car, and the left lane on the autobahn is perhaps the only place in the world you could call the X6 M's natural environment, which is unfortunate seeing as most are confined within L.A., Moscow, Dubai, and more recently, China's pot-holed goat tracks.
But here it all makes sense, it all works to perfection, and then we peel off and barrel towards our photo location at semi-breakneck speed. Here's where the original car suffered: Schnitzer's relatively minor chassis additions have worked wonders.
Ditching the BMW runflats, Schnitzer has gone with grippier rubber and dropped the suspension 25mm without losing a single nugget of ride quality. It's a better ride, and I don't know how.
The corners were where the base M blew people away with its incredulous cornering skills and uncanny ability to hide its weight. With the new settings and rubber the Schnitzer hangs on even better, corners even flatter, and just carves through bends when it should be flapping on its roof like an upturned turtle.
Weeks before our test, this car lapped Hockenheim in one minute 15 seconds, a little over five seconds off a tuned Corvette ZR1. "Not bad" doesn't quite cover it.
There's another notional racing touch, too: The suspension is fully adjustable and Schnitzer provides recommended settings for the Nürburgring and other tracks. But you have to take the wheels off to go to work on the camber and rebound, and-let's be honest-nobody will. If you have the money for this car there's already a far more entertaining track toy in the garage. Once again, I suspect this is a bragging rights thing, but the setup Schnitzer provides is more than good enough to leave the road with scars.
It's a brilliant piece of engineering that, with the deft touch of a master tuning house, has just gotten better. Of course the X6, and especially the M variant, was a case of epic bad timing from BMW because the world at large has moved on. Big, thirsty dinosaurs like this simply cannot survive in the long run and the likes of the X6 will turn to hybrids, or simply to dust like the Hummer before it.
But that is then and this is now, and those that can should celebrate such acts of lunacy, rage against the dying of the light, and fly one last rebellious middle finger to the world at large. It is obscene. It is disgusting. And it is everything that's wrong with the world today. But if you had the money, you probably wouldn't care either.
4.4-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve, twin-turbocharged. AC Schnitzer 100-cell rear silencer and software
Bilstein adjustable coilovers and antiroll bars
Wheels and Tires
AC Schnitzer Type V, 10x22 (f), 11.5x22 (r)
Michelin Diamar, 295/30
Peak Power: 650 hp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 604 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.4 sec.
Top Speed: 186 mph