James Riswick, New and Used Car Editor
The 2010 BMW X6 M takes rational car-buying, sticks it in a burlap sack, beats it with reeds and tosses it off a 12-story bridge into the gaping maws of hungry crocodiles. It's the sort of novelty item that a wealthy enthusiast with 18 other cars might purchase as a keepsake — a reminder of the precise moment when BMW went absolutely bonkers.
This 5,200-pound SUV features a coupelike roof line, four seats, 20-inch summer tires and a 555-horsepower twin-turbo V8 that brings it all up to 60 mph faster than an M3. It endlessly impresses by doing things you'll be shocked a big SUV can do, yet it's not as lithe and entertaining as a proper performance sedan or a full-blown sports car. At the same time, it can only seat four people, and its limited cargo capacity makes it barely more useful than a small wagon.
In other words, if you want a functional SUV, why not buy the mechanically identical X5 M? And if you want an actual sports car with four doors, why not buy a Porsche Panamera?
But then again, rationality sometimes has little to do with automotive decision-making. Sometimes a company builds a car simply because it can — and when it does, you can bet that Russian oilmen and otherwise well-off humans will line up to buy one. BMW's high-performance M division had long insisted that it would never make an SUV, but nonetheless it went to work on the X6 and created a true engineering marvel — something worthy of keeping for decades in your 19-car garage. Just don't expect much of a reason to buy one beyond that.
The 2010 BMW X6 M is powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that produces 555 hp and 500 pound-feet of torque. Turbo lag is nonexistent, and the power delivery is awe-inspiring and giggle-inducing, yet surprisingly quiet. Press the driver-programmable M button on the steering wheel, however, and the exhausts let out a gnarly bark during upshifts under full throttle.
The six-speed automatic is surprisingly slow to downshift in regular mode, presumably to maximize fuel economy — but at just 14 mpg combined, we have to wonder what the point is. Putting the transmission in Sport mode gives you the rapid gearchanges you'd expect from a BMW with an M badge. Manual shifts can be performed from the console-mounted gear selector or wheel-mounted shift paddles.
Nail the throttle from a stop and you'll reach 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds. That makes the X6 M the quickest SUV we've ever tested, edging out the X5 M (4.5 seconds) and Mercedes-Benz ML63 (4.7 seconds). Humongous 15-inch-diameter brake rotors are utilized to bring the X6 M to a stop from 60 in just 107 feet, another Edmunds-recorded SUV best.
But to be worthy of all its M badges, the 2010 BMW X6 M must also go around corners better than most other vehicles on the road. It turns out this beast is mostly up to the task, remaining absolutely flat through corners and providing the exceptional steering feel and precision we expect from the M division. On our skid pad, it pulled 0.91g, and it sped through the slalom cones at 68.6 mph — far from M3 territory, but again tops for any SUV we've ever tested.
There's an important caveat, however. Despite the X6 M's impressive ability to shrink around the driver in an open environment, a tight, twisty road will make it balloon right back up again. That canyon wall or country ditch will suddenly seem too close for comfort — you may know the X6 M can technically take that corner, but you'll be apprehensive about whether you can guide it through without scraping the paint. It's an issue of perception more than performance, but it prevents the X6 M from being as fun as its non-SUV-based M brethren.
Though it definitely rides firmly for an SUV, the 2010 BMW X6 M is in its element on extended highway journeys. Wind and road noise is kept well in check, which contributes to an overall inability to tell how fast you're going at any given time. With the elevated driving position, buttoned-down suspension and 555 horses as co-conspirators, it's easy to find yourself suddenly cruising at extralegal speeds. As such, utilizing cruise control and the optional head-up display is a good idea.
The standard sport seats offer a wealth of standard adjustments and also have adjustable side bolsters and four-way lumbar support. Just as with the regular X6, the backseat seats only two people — between the two seats is a drop-down armrest and a small center cupholder/cubby combo. Rear headroom is actually pretty decent. We managed to fit a 6-foot-4-inch passenger back there, but the seatback is a tad upright and does not recline as in some other SUVs. Fitting a child seat was no problem in either the front- or rear-facing positions.
The X6's sloping profile hampers both rear visibility and cargo space. Take a look rearward and the tall back end and thick rear roof pillars will make you thankful for the $1,800 Driver Assistance package and its rearview camera. With the rear seats in their upright and locked position, the X6 M features 25 cubic feet of cargo space under its rigid cargo cover. That's the norm for most SUVs in this general size class and enough to swallow four golf bags, but drop that backseat and remove the cargo cover and the X6 reveals its limitations. Its 60 cubic feet of maximum cargo space trail all competitors, and the sloping roof line makes fitting bulky items more difficult than SUV owners have come to expect.
The 2010 BMW X6 M comes standard with BMW's latest navigation system and accompanying iDrive electronics interface. While there is still a bit of a learning curve involved, this technology no longer draws protestations as its earlier editions did. In fact, some functions like the iPod interface or Bluetooth phone control benefit greatly from iDrive. The complicated climate controls can similarly be difficult to figure out at first, but their range of personalized adjustability will be appreciated.
Design/Fit and Finish
We'll let you decide on the X6's styling, which certainly gets more "interesting" with the M version's more aggressive front and rear fascias, quad tailpipes, bigger wheels and special colors like our tester's Melbourne Red Metallic. For better or for worse, there's nothing else on the road like the X6 M. The interior gets some unique colors as well, plus an optional trim that looks like carbon fiber but feels like leather. Otherwise, the same excellent cabin quality and construction is carried over from the X6.
Who should consider this vehicle
It's hard to think of a rational argument for buying a 2010 BMW X6 M. You'd have to be the sort of person who wants an SUV, but not its cargo capacity. You'd want it to perform better than all other SUVs, but not better than high-performance sport sedans. You'd also have to love its strange styling. Doesn't seem like a long list of folks. On the other hand, if you simply have a slot in your 19-spot garage that needs filling, there's something to be said for this bonkers BMW.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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