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Car reviews - BMW - X6 - M

Our Opinion

We like
Incredible grip, twin-turbo V8 performance, one-of-a-kind personality, quality, luxury, attitude, presence, value for money against some other rivals
Room for improvement
Pointless, anti-social, aggressive, thirsty, ugly

9 Dec 2009

BMW has a sense of humour.

Not only does it create a coupe-like SUV just in time for the worst global financial crisis since the silent movie era ended but the company chooses to launch the M-division’s X6 M version on the same day as a range of eco-minded diesels are also released on the Australian new-car market.

BMW’s logic is that even the 14.3L/100km X6 M has enough EfficientDynamics in it to benefit, since that fuel consumption figure is a whole lot lower than some of this car’s competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG.

Tragically, though, we’d never know, because the best we could manage when we drove the latest BMW M-car – and the first SUV to ever wear the hallowed initial – was about 35.0L/100km.

That’s because BMW chose to only let us drive the X6 M flat out as fast as we could on the challenging Phillip Island track near Melbourne.

The thinking behind this is that the X6 – always the most car like of all the luxury SUVs out there – is transformed into a vehicle of almost supernatural ability, response and feel for what amounts to a 2.5-tonne elephant of a vehicle.

And it’s true – this BMW bends the rules the moment you tip it into the first corner you encounter, since the combination of a trick rear diff, xDrive all-wheel drive torque transfer, a hydraulically controlled anti-roll bar, and car-like front and rear suspension design (all massaged by M GmbH by the way) create an SUV that is much closer to a sports sedan than a truck.

Throw in an explosive 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 with a set of lungs deep enough to blow Dorothy from Kansas to Krypton, and you have the makings of an epically powerful machine.

And all this is in normal mode.

Slot the auto-only lever into Sport and you press the M-Sport button on the steering wheel spoke and straight-line acceleration goes from bloody quick to blisteringly so, hurling you horizon-wards with a mental soundtrack to match.

Be brave enough to switch the stability and traction controls off – we weren’t for long that’s for sure – and there is enough sideways sliding action to have you figure skating this like no SUV ever has in history – but remaining safe, composed and in control the whole time.

Here, more than anywhere else, the X6 M feels worthy of the badge.

But the sheer talent of the BMW around corners ultimately is its undoing, because although there is nothing else on earth like it that will keep up (perhaps except for the X5 M coming in January 2010), soon even the X6 M starts to make promises that simply cannot be delivered.

We found that the height of the SUV, mixed with its almost unbelievable grip and flat cornering attitude, just makes you drive harder and faster because it just doesn’t feel that fast, to the point where even M GmbH can’t quite beat the laws of physics.

At insane speeds around the racetrack the X6M finally begins to oversteer, but by then you’re in awe at how planted and controllable the whole shebang is anyway as it gently begins to run wide.

Plus it’s hard to feel electrified by the experience because the steering – though responsive and super accurate – is bereft of the sort of tactility and feedback you might expect from an M machine. It’s just too remote to be a real sports car.

The X6 M is the sort of vehicle that you walk away from with a newfound respect for its talents and capabilities … but walk away you are happy to do, because the BMW lacks the interaction and intimacy that you might demand from an M-badged car.

There were several M3s parked at the Phillip Island track and in the end they served as timely reminders that there is no way you can expect to get the same sort of sensations or control from an X6 M – a massive missile of a machine that just can’t be laser guided like some other BMWs can.

But that’s not the point anyway, we know. The X6 M is for the family person who needs a vehicle with perhaps the most extreme automotive personality traits available on earth.

And it succeeds brilliantly.

Sadly we can’t tell you how the 20-inch wheeled behemoth rides on our patchy roads or just how efficiently dynamic BMW’s engineers have been once reality seeps in and you’re looking at filling up yet another empty tank of premium unleaded.

But we can tell you that the X6 M will have you laughing out loud as you hurl it impossibly fast from one apex to another.

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