The classic cars from the ‘70s and ‘80s you want to save from extinction the most
BMW X6 M review (2009 onwards)
Image © BMW
What – BMW X6M
Where – Atlanta, USA
Date – July 2009
Price – £77,425
Available – October 2009
Key rivals – Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Mercedes ML 63 AMG, Audi Q7 V12
Summary - Very fast, very accomplished and looks are unmistakable. But lacks the M edge that UK buyers will be seeking.
We like – dazzling speed, engine response, technical ability of chassis, looks, ride quality
We don’t like – remote, lacks the expected M edge, bland interior – plus the inevitable price/economy/it’s an SUV moans…
BMW's mighty new X6M is surely wrong car, wrong time, no? Recessions and downsizing trends don't show much sympathy to 555hp SUVs. BMW has just announced a 316d, it's most economical 3 Series ever. What's it doing selling this £77k monster? Creating a mad marketing halo car for the X6 range, that's what. The X6M was always going to come out. Because it's not a car for us. Just as Aston Martin is with the mighty Lagonda, BMW has eyes on the Middle and Far Eastern markets with this beast. In a good year, BMW may sell 50 or so in the UK. Elsewhere, they'll be shifting thousands.
We still need to judge it with UK eyes though, not UAE. And to these eyes, subtle it 'aint. The X6 is no shrinking violet anyway; pump the bumpers, drill out the air intakes and lash the M aero kit with bodycolour paint... and you've got something damn gaudy in print, but carrying menace on the road. M cues include four exhausts, M-badged side gills and the M3's door mirrors. Huge swathes of front bumper have been chopped away, to feed the engine bay with air. It achieves the unlikely feat of making the mad-look standard X6 look malnourished. This fact alone is why it will sell.
555hp. Boy, do you know it. BMW has designed and patented a special exhaust manifold, ensuring this 4.4-litre turbo V8 has the response of, well, a non-turbo. Boot the throttle and pickup is vicious, brutal - uncomfortable, even. There's so much force, you soon learn to meter your right foot.Masses of pulling power from low revs add to the ferocity - really, so long as you've a few thousand revs showing, you'll fly. Impressive?Undoubtedly. However, the impression of speed is reduced by both your height off the ground, and a muffled, anodyne engine note. Inside needs the rawness you hear from outside.
Even the four exhausts make but the noise of distant thunder on gearshifts. Luckily, the gearchange reminds you of the sheer forces on tap. The six-speed auto is terrifically fast in changing gear - too much so on downshifts, where it will happily yank neck muscles. There are too many downshifts, too, because it's lacking gears. Designing a seven or eight-speed auto man enough to handle this power reliably is not yet possible. Thus, the compromises of six: ratios are too widely spaced. Often, you can't find just the right gear for the corner. At least the metal paddle-shifts are tactile, and the drivetrain pretty slack-free.
Ride and handling
Not only is this BMW M's first turbo, it's also the performance division's first all-wheel drive. Even so, it was determined to make it feel rear-drive. Using the X6's trick xDrive running gear, and the power-juggling rear axle, it's achieved this. Get it right, floor it mid-corner, and you'll feel the rear driving you out. Thing is, it takes confidence to put yourself in this situation. It's unnatural to be driving such a large, heavy car in an M3-like manner; the weight of the X6M doesn't help, meaning it's not hard to come away feeling it's a dull, nose-heavy understeerer - particularly on track.
You almost have to take a step back, not let power dominate, and drive it at seven tenths. Here, too-light low-speed steering becomes a helm with OK weight. It's accurate, precise; off-centre response is positive, too indeed, as is the feel of the chassis to small steering tweaks. It's immediate, agile - way more than one so heavy ought.315-section 20-inch rubber means there's no shortage of grip (yet it still looks under-wheel'd...). They also, surprisingly, don't spoil the ride, with the X6M providing surprising absorbency and, of course, total body control. A masterclass in accomplishment, then. But is it fun? No. Satisfying, yes. As in other areas, though, it's just too damn polished and remote.
Apart from the usual too-thick M steering wheel, and those cheap-looking M dials, there's little different here. Sure, BMW fits a cracking set of sports seats, but shouldn't the £77k range-topper offer more to feel special? It's all rather underwhelming - with the lack of aural stimulation, it's easy to forget you're in an M. For an M car, though, it's exceedingly practical (well, for four, anyway). The boot is big, it can tow, the 4WD system summons similar levels of traction in slippy conditions and, as it's only 10mm lower than standard, it still offers the off-road prowess of a regular X6. Desert-storming sheiks demand it, apparently...
Economy and safety
BMW reckons this engine is 50 percent more fuel efficient than it rightly should be, given its power, torque and performance. But it still only averages 20.3 mpg, and emits a scorching 325g/km of CO2. Green is a relative term. It's better on the safety front - yes, all the passive stuff like airbags are present and correct. But the active side that means you'll be able to avoid accidents in the first place. ESP is enhanced by a central computer controlling both suspension and power distribution. This ensures you're always getting as much grip as is physically possible - which gives it such logic-defying agility. The brakes are monster, too.
MSN Cars Verdict
BMW's given us the X6M because it's there. Other countries will lap it up. Us? We don't need it, so we don't need to love it. So it goes. We're awe-struck by its accomplishment; it's insanely fast, all the time; the chassis does a gameful job of keeping up, too.But it's a machine that's been designed for others first. Outside, it's impactful - particularly all the turbo roar if the driver's on it. But the interior won't turn heads, while the drive is similarly soulless. It's less objectionable than a Cayenne Turbo, because it looks the part. But, for us, it's no M car.
Engine Petrol 4,395cc V8 twin-turbo
Power (bhp) 555@6,000rpm
Torque (lb/ft) 501@1,500-5,650rpm
0-62mph (secs) 4.7
Top speed (mph) 171 (derestricted)
Economy (mpg) 20.3
CO2 (g/km)/Tax (%)325/35
Rating BMW X6M
Ride and handling ***
Fuel economy **
MSN Cars verdict ***
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
On the road with the landmark Lambos for special golden anniversary drive.
Date 13/05/13, Duration 4:26, Views 8617