2010 BMW X6 M: First Drive

With an odd shape, 555-hp and true BMW driving dynamics, the X6 M is destined to become a cult classic

2010 BMW X6 M: First Drive

Perhaps the word you can best use to describe BMW’s new X6 M is: why? When the regular X6 came out, there were those who sat up and wondered – a vehicle comparable in size and stature to the X5 but with less rear seat and luggage room? Now they’ve gone and souped it up, with an even more powerful twin turbo 4.4-liter V8 engine, firmed up the suspension and fitted upgraded brakes with composite front calipers, pads and larger discs, resulting in an M tuned special.


HIDEOUS TO BEHOLD, BUT LUXURIOUS AND SPORTY INSIDE

The X6 M is many things, but pretty isn’t one of them. It looks like it was styled by a committee, the back half done at 4:30 pm on a Friday. Factor this in with the bulging fenders; wide kidney grille and even bolder front fascia than the standard truck (two of those big triple nostrils are need to feed the intercoolers) and the result is, well, unique. And in this day and age that’s perhaps a good thing. You won’t mistake it for anything else, except perhaps a Pontiac Aztek, though don’t expect to find a folding tent when you lift that rear hatch – even one hand stitched from leather.

FAST FACTS

1. The X6 M is powered by a 4.4-liter V8 with 555-hp and 500 ft-lbs of torque, enabling it to hit 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds!

2. Handling highlights include a rear bias xDrive system, a standard self-leveling rear suspension and Electronic Damping control that can actually adjust the ride height for even sportier handling.

3. In testing, an X6 M lapped the Nürburgring as fast as an E46 M3.

4. It’s not cheap at $88,900 but that’s far less than a $126,000 Cayenne Turbo S.

Inside the X6 M is a blend of X5, regular 5 and 7-series sedans, and something all its own. It feels a lot more intimate than X5, the smaller greenhouse lending a more jet fighter like feel. Back seat room is about three steps short of useless, but considering that, (according to BMW), most X6s are occupied by a single soul most of time, perhaps that’s a moot point. They could have built this thing with two doors, but then it might look even worse.

The seats are incredibly supportive, but not too harsh, which afflicts more than a few Teutonic autobahn burners. They’re also good at holding you in place, which is most welcomed, because if you buy one of these trucks, chances are you’re going to spend a lot of time blasting through corners and the last thing you want is having your backside sliding all over the place like David Starsky in his Gran Torino.

The front seats have also got 20 individual adjustments for rake, lumbar and thigh support. The iDrive feature, like most of Munich’s more recent offerings, has been toned down and is both easier to use and less interfering.

The shifter that controls the M enhanced six-speed ZF automatic transmission is awkward at first, especially setting reverse and park, but once you’ve mastered it, things start to improve. In manual mode, move it aft to shift up and forward to shift down. Although some other manufactures do the same, in this application it seems a lot more logical and fluid. And in all honesty, manual mode is the only way you should drive the X6 M.

A POSITIVELY RIDICULOUS 555-HORSEPOWER

Under the hood, is an essentially re-worked engine. It might displace the same 4.4-liters as the regular X6 V8, but the M folks have added a bunch of new parts, including specific pistons, stronger heads that incorporate revised camshafts with unique Double VANOS timing, revised intake manifold, new twin scroll Honeywell turbos (pegged a maximum 17.4 lbs of boost) and less restrictive exhaust. The result is 555 horsepower at 6000 rpm and a monster 500 ft-lbs of torque at just 1500 revs.

What this means is that when you honk on the gas pedal, this 5,300 lb xDrive-equipped monster, blasts to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds! And either using the shifter or steering wheel mounted paddles it just bangs the gears, much like an old Baldwin Motion Camaro with a shift kit, albeit with a lot more finesse.

A Launch Control feature is designed to deliver consistent performance off the line, but in all honesty, it’s not that much fun and it’s more satisfying accelerating on your own terms without it. On country roads, the second-third up shift in particular is tantalizing, you just want to keep slowing down, dropping a gear, stomping on the throttle and holding on.

CORNER CARVER SUPREME

But as fun as straight-line grunt is, when you push it through the corners, the X6 M really comes into its own. With standard 20-inch wheels (the rears a massive 11-inches wide) and Bridgestone Dueler ultra low profile tires, plus the sport suspension with intelligent shock valving, it’s nothing short of sublime through the twisties.

The steering is firm, but it works so well – stab the throttle, point it and it goes where you want. There’s surprisingly little understeer and almost no body roll. Instead you get sports car like reflexes and phenomenal grip. Start messing around a bit and it’s possible to defeat the stability control system and coax a real four-wheel drift – drift, in a 5300 lb truck! Not that we recommend that on the street, of course.

As you’d expect, the brakes are up to the job of hauling this 2.5-ton monster down from speed – time and again we found no problems, no signs of fade, no matter how times we tried panic stops.

AS AN OFF-ROADER IT’S A JOKE, BUT IT CAN TOW

BMW equips this vehicle with Hill Descent Control, but you really have to wonder why. Even on loose gravel, it’s out of its depth, the big Bridgestones offering little in the way of assistance in providing extra traction. Venture any further away from tarmac and there’s no question, you’re going to get stuck. On the other side of coin, however, this rig does tow. In fact it will pull up to 6000 lbs, which makes it the perfect tool for hauling your M3 race car to the track on weekends, with far more fun and style than the average milquetoast 1-ton dually.

Although BMW is currently pushing its Efficiency Dynamics wag, indicating you can indulge in your driving fun without being wasteful, the X6 M is no champ in the fuel economy stakes. On the average run, without getting on the gas too much, you’re looking about 13 miles per gallon in town and 18 on the open road, but considering that it’s so tempting to get on the throttle, most drivers are likely to get even less.

In terms of pricing, the X6 M starts at $88,900, but in perhaps typical BMW fashion, there are numerous options you can add. Start being generous and before long the price is well north of 100 grand – a fairly princely sum by all accounts, but within the realm of such grand standers as the Range Rover Sport Supercharged and Porsche Cayenne Turbo. The closer performance monster, the Cayenne Turbo S, is vastly more expensive at $126,300. It does, however, offer real passenger and cargo room.

THE VERDICT

There’s no question, that the X6 M makes about as much sense in the current climate as wading through snow in a pair of flip flops. It’s pricey, heavy and impractical, but ridiculously fast and fun, a combination that from many angles is very hard to resist. And as with many such vehicles, history is likely to judge it rather well. For long after the boring sensible conveyances we’re festooned with today have been recycled into toasters and microwaves there will be those that still cherish vehicles like the X6 M.

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