The 2015 BMW X6 M is a five-passenger SUV, or as BMW calls it, a "Sports Activity Coupe" owing to the vehicle's sloping roof line. The X6 M is mechanically identical to the 2015 BMW X5 M, but its curvier, rather bulbous body and that aforementioned roof line endow it with less passenger space and cargo room than BMW's more traditional SUV. Ultimately the X6 M is about two things: style and performance. It has oodles of both.
What Is It?
The 2015 BMW X6 M is the ultra-high-performance version of the X6, itself the SUV-as-coupe version of BMW's X5 crossover SUV. The X6 M was designed for all-out performance driving, with a powerful twin-turbocharged V8 engine, stiff suspension and extremely wide summer tires. Even though it comes standard with all-wheel drive, this is a pavement-only vehicle.
This is the second generation of the X6 M for BMW. Although at first glance it looks much the same as last year's model, the sheet metal is, in fact, new. It's slightly longer and wider, yet weighs about 140 pounds less than the outgoing version. It's also now a full five-passenger vehicle, as before it only had two rear seats.
Other changes for 2015 include more power and torque from the twin-turbo V8 engine, an upgrade to an eight-speed automatic transmission (from a six-speed) and an improved, three-level version of the dynamic stability control system to allow more wheel slip during aggressive cornering.
The X6 M rides on the same 115.5-inch wheelbase as the X5 M but measures 193.8 inches overall, about an inch longer than the X5. The X6 M's coupe-ish body puts a crimp on cabin space and cargo capacity. The X6 M has just 26.6 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats and 59.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded versus the X5 M's more usable 35.8 cubic feet and 76.7 max capacity. It should be noted that the Porsche Cayenne Turbo actually has slightly less base cargo capacity than the X6 M, at 23.6 cubic feet.
The X6 M is only available with one engine, a reworked 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 rated at 567 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers are up by 12 and 53, respectively, compared to the outgoing model. Also new for 2015 is an eight-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle shifters, replacing last year's six-speed in the interest of improved fuel economy and even quicker acceleration.
Pricing for the 2015 BMW X6 M starts at $103,050. Standard features include four-zone climate control, a Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with 600 watts and 16 speakers, navigation with a 10.2-inch display screen, a power tailgate, front and rear parking sonar and adaptive cruise control.
What's It Like Out on the Road?
This is not a plush, take-the-kids-to-the-park kind of SUV. It's a seriously sporting machine. Nearly everything about it is frenetic, from the abrupt response of the gas pedal to the quick-revving engine to the short gearing. Even if you're not trying to leave a stoplight quickly, this amped-up BMW will anyway. It's that sensitive to inputs, even when the drivetrain settings are put in their less aggressive modes.
If you're familiar with BMW, you'll know that this brand is famous for delivering an almost magical blend of handling versus ride comfort. With the X6 M, this is not so obvious. The ride is far from what we'd call supple, even when the three-mode adaptive dampers are set to their most comfortable. It's never unbearable, but you might find the ride a bit busier than you would expect, even of a performance SUV.
The return for all this seriousness is a thoroughly exciting driving machine. The engine is mystifyingly powerful, with brutal acceleration off the line. Of course it puts all that power to the road immediately thanks to the all-wheel-drive system, with BMW claiming a 0-60-mph sprint of just 4.0 seconds. The engine has an offbeat sound to it, kind of like a seriously amped-up flat-4 note. The exhaust is loud enough to remind everyone of the performance on tap but without being over-the-top obnoxious about it.
The steering is quick, but not to the point that it's darty during everyday driving. It offers good feedback to the driver and there is a natural amount of effort. The grip level of the X6 M is so high that few drivers will ever push this car to its limits on public roads. We never once got the huge summer tires, 285/35ZR21 front and 325/30ZR21 at the rear, to break traction during our road drive. The X6 M takes corners with almost zero body roll and just goads you to take each turn more quickly than the last. On tighter roads the X6 M's high stance and chubby curb weight (5,185 pounds) do become noticeable, and in those situations you'll probably wish you were in a more low-slung sport sedan.
We imagine that over time and with more familiarization, we would get smoother with our inputs around town. But no matter what you do, it's hard to forget you're driving one of the most driver-oriented SUVs ever created, one that seems to be constantly egging you on to dip into its vast amounts of power and grip.
Does It Live Up to the M Badge?
To answer that, we took the X6 M on track at the Circuit of the Americas outside of Austin, Texas. On this 20-turn high-speed track we found out that, without question, these X6s are proper "M" machines.
Possibly most impressive was that the brakes held up to the torture of track use. It's not an easy job for a brake system to haul down a nearly 5,200-pound vehicle from high speeds, yet the X6 M was able to do it lap after lap, and with minimal cool-down time. The brake pedal stayed completely judder-free, although travel was on the long side. After the ultra-high-speed back straight, the X6 M did exhibit some back-and-forth sway during full-force braking, but that's not unexpected given its high stance, and the brakes continued to give full confidence that the X6 would slow down in time for corner entry.
The X6 M's on-track handling was impressive, too. Thanks to a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system and rear torque vectoring, you can steer the X6 M with the throttle. What do we mean? Step on the gas pedal hard just before the corner's apex (midpoint) and the system will allow the rear tires to break loose slightly. This helps turn the car without running wide. Plus it's just dang fun. And, despite its weight, the X6 M was responsive during sweepers, too, with alterations in throttle translating to immediate grip changes to the front tires.
But maybe it's the X6 M's bursts of speed between corners that wow the most. Or the huge power down long straights. It seems like it just keeps accelerating harder and harder, and the engine never runs out of steam, the twin-turbo V8 keeping the X6 M barreling forward. We made good use of the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters on the track, and we appreciated the huge gear indicator on the optional head-up display on the windshield, helping us keep our eyes up for the next turn.
What's the Interior Like?
The front leather sport seats have firm padding but are comfortable and highly adjustable, including the seatback bolsters. The seats are heavily contoured, so you really feel as if you sit down in them rather than on top, and the side bolstering is fantastic for holding you in place. This was particularly noticeable during the high g-loads on the racetrack.
The rear seat now has room for three, although the contouring of the outboard seats means the middle seat is more of a hump. Thanks to the sloping roof line it's quite a bit more difficult to get into the rear seat compared to the front. You have to angle your head to avoid smacking the roof, plus the rear doors don't open very wide.
Once you're in, the seats are comfy and you have good headroom, at least until you lean back, then anyone around average height and above will brush their head on the roof. The X5 M has an extra inch of headroom in the rear if that's a deal breaker for you. The X6 does have solid rear knee room and foot room, so it doesn't feel completely cramped.
Although there might not be an abundance of space inside the X6 M, the interior itself looks, feels and smells fantastic. There's tightly stitched leather everywhere, a gorgeous Alcantara headliner and carbon-fiber trim. And, yes, there's a thick-rimmed leather-wrapped steering wheel that feels oh-so-good in your hands. The 10.2-inch navigation screen is super-wide and has great graphics. All controls work with that bit of extra heft that tells you, yes, this is an expensive and well-built vehicle.
What Safety Features Does It Offer?
The 2015 BMW X6 M comes standard with stability and traction control, high-performance antilock brakes with automatic drying, hill-descent control, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
Also standard are the BMW Assist eCall and BMW Remote Services emergency communications systems, which provide automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery, remote lock/unlock, a smartphone app with remote vehicle functions and on-demand emergency response via an SOS button.
The optional Driver Assistance Plus package bundles active blind-spot monitoring, a side- and top-view camera system and speed limit information. The X6 M further offers an infrared night-vision system with pedestrian detection.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Can You Expect?
The EPA rates the 2015 BMW X6 M at 16 mpg combined (14 city/19 highway) with the eight-speed automatic transmission. The previous car, the 2014 X6 M with a six-speed automatic transmission, was rated at 15 mpg combined (13 city/17 highway).
In comparison, the EPA rates the 2015 Porsche Cayenne Turbo at 17 mpg combined (14 city/21 highway) and the 2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport at 16 mpg combined (14 city/19 highway).
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
2015 Audi RS 7: If a "four-door coupe" really is your thing, you may want to check out the Audi RS 7 as an alternative choice. This four-door hatchback is much more a car than an SUV, and because of that it sits far lower to the ground for better handling dynamics. It's not short on go-fastness, either, with a 560-hp 4.0-liter turbo V8. In Edmunds testing, it hit 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds. Cargo capacity behind the rear seats is a few cubic feet less than the X6 M, and at about $107,000, it's more expensive.
2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR: Land Rover has drastically improved the Range Rover Sport for 2015, to the point that it's now up to snuff dynamically with the likes of the Porsche and BMW. Even better, there's an SVR model with a 550-hp supercharged V8. The Range Rover Sport weighs nearly 5,500 pounds, so it isn't quite as athletic as the X6 M. But as a Land Rover it boasts off-road ability as well as British panache. Cargo capacity only just slightly betters the X6 M, and the SVR model is about $7,000 more expensive than the BMW.
2015 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG: The ML63 AMG is more like a traditional SUV in terms of its shape and usability than the BMW, but it's still got a plenty raunchy motor, with a 5.5-liter turbocharged V8 that ranges from 518 to 550 hp. It's not quite as athletic through the twisties as its more low-slung competitors, but it has considerably more cargo room and undercuts the BMW by a few thousand dollars.
2015 Porsche Cayenne Turbo: BMW might not want to admit it, but the Porsche Cayenne Turbo is the SUV by which all other performance SUVs are judged. It has slightly less horsepower (520) but the same torque (553 lb-ft) as the BMW X6 M. As a Porsche, the Cayenne is known for its handling, and it helps that it's a few hundred pounds lighter than the BMW. It also has a top-level interior, but like the X6 M it is short on cargo room. It also costs about $10,000 more than the BMW.
Why Should You Consider This SUV?
Because you want a performance SUV that can embarrass dedicated sports cars at track days. And because you love the X6 M's styling. This is a polarizing vehicle; either you love its bodywork or you hate it. If you love it, embrace your inner weirdness and your (and its) lack of practicality. Buy it and go have yourself some full-blown driving fun.
Why Should You Think Twice About This SUV?
Because the BMW X5 M can do everything the X6 M can do, but with better everyday practicality and a less in-your-face style. Also avoid the X6 M if you're looking for more of a dual-personality SUV. The X6 M is a serious, rather frenetic driving machine all the time. It never feels like a luxury cruiser.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.