There’s no point wisecracking about BMW’s coupe-like X6 SUV – BMW has heard all the jokes. And while you might find this “lifestyle” proposition a 4x4 too far, its German maker is happy to have the last laugh; the X6 sells well, just not in traditional 4x4 markets.
You’ll need to look further afield to the likes of Russia, China, the Middle East and the Americas to fully appreciate the X6’s popularity. Granted, you’ll also see a few in Knightsbridge, but it’s away from old world markets where premium aspirational models like the X6 are put on higher pedestals than the equivalent sports cars. A 911 is pretty useless for transporting family or friends, yet a muscular X6 will tick all the right look-at-me boxes.
Now, wouldn’t it be great if you could combine the performance of Porsche’s popular sports coupe with the practicality of an SUV? BMW is way ahead of you thanks to its X6 M. This revised X6 ups the ante with a power hike, improved driving dynamics and an environmental boost that sees it output more but consume and emit less.
Packing a twin turbo 4.4-litre petrol V8, the X6 M produces 567bhp and 553lb ft of torque. Both figures are up slightly on the previous car and, crucially, position the big BMW ahead of Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo and the brutal Mercedes ML 63 AMG. Still not impressed? The car’s zero to 62mph sprint time, at 4.2 seconds, is slap bang in the middle of high performance saloon territory. Not bad for a Chelsea tractor, albeit one on steroids.
This X6 is not afraid of corners. Or poorly surfaced roads. Or even a combination of the two. The short story is one of a rather large SUV delivering a surprisingly entertaining driving experience. I say surprisingly because, well, something this size and shape shouldn’t really be able to streak up the road like a scalded M5 or stop on a dime.
The long story is a tale of large, uprated brakes capable of taming the X6 M’s exuberant character. The stopping power is both reassuring and impressive. This system, like many, has been boosted on the journey from first to second-gen X6 M. That the car can deliver a firm yet measured ride is down to not just the improved suspension but also the inclusion of BMW’s Active Dynamic system. It may offer the familiar Comfort and Sport modes, but it’s still hard not to be impressed by the overall feeling of composure
Still, for all the trick improvements made, one thing dominates the proceedings: that V8 engine. It might be cleaner and more frugal than before, but it’s still mighty loud when you give it its head. The car’s exhaust contains some added wizardry to help amplify the noise exiting the tailpipes, but the ominous rumble when loping along at commuter speed never lets you forget the potential under your right foot.
Stamp on that pedal at any speed and the elastic power delivery from that V8 propels the X6 M forward with a purposeful shove. Fortunately the attached eight-speed auto gearbox is up to the task. Complete with paddleshifters and multiple driver switchable modes to fine tune its responses, it doesn’t take long before you’ve knocked the stubby shifter into manual and changing gear with the enthusiasm of a Formula One driver.
Along with those many gearbox modes, you can also play with the dampers and electronic stability control. The net result of any button pushing, even if you don’t switch everything off, is a car that’ll slip and slide its way around corners with the finesse of something much smaller and lighter if you’re happy to do the steering with the throttle. No, the X6 M doesn’t shrink around you like a finely tuned sports coupe. It does, however, feel a lot more agile than it looks.
What about the ownership experience? You’ll need deep pockets irrespective of the claimed fuel economy improvements and an X5 M – yes, there’s also a fast X5 – offers more cabin and boot space. When not ragging the X6 the impression is of being sat in a plush 5 Series, only higher off the ground. Hardly a surprise, really. And you’d buy an M5 if you really did want the ultimate driving experience. The X6 M doesn’t disgrace itself, and that is the real surprise.
0-62MPH: 4.2 secs
TOP SPEED: 155mph
CO2 G/KM: 258g/km
MPG COMBINED: 24.4mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★☆☆