Unbelievable performance, nimble handling, and subtle M Performance styling cues.
Base price: $180,000
Powertrain and performance: 3.0-litre triple-turbo diesel six, 280kW/740Nm, 8-speed automatic, full-time four-wheel drive, Combined economy 7.7 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 5.3 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4876mm long, 1684mm high, luggage capacity 570-1450 litres, fuel tank 85 litres, 20-inch wheels on 275/40 front and 315/35 rear tyres.
We like: Unbelievable performance, nimble handling, and subtle M Performance styling cues.
We don’t like: Interior not up to Audi or Mercedes-Benz standard, poor rear visibility.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
As you might know, there are now three levels of BMW ‘M’ machines. There are M Sport packages, which focus mainly on styling and equipment (albeit with suspension modifications). There are also the genuine BMW Motorsport models – M3, M5, M6 and so on – which are the last word in high performance and pretty much track-ready. Simple. But in the middle is a new range called M Performance, which isn’t quite bespoke Motorsport models but are still built around M-modified engine, transmission and chassis packages.
One thing M Performance has allowed BMW to do is bring those motorsport values into cars that can still work as everyday drivers. BMW Motorsport has never produced a diesel production model, for example, but under the M Performance brand it can and does. That’s where the X6 comes in. True, there are proper M-versions of the X6 and sister X5 available. But with monster V8 petrol engines and monster kerb weights, they are niche in the extreme. On paper, the M Performance versions seem to make so much more sense in SUV-world: turbo-diesel power to balance high performance with more socially acceptable fuel consumption, yet still enough chassis-prowess to reward the enthusiast driver.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? There’s a reason Performance has a capital letter for this car. BMW M has developed a unique diesel engine with three (yes, count them) turbochargers for the X6 M50d and X5 M50d. It produces an outrageous 740Nm of torque (X6 M 680Nm) and delivers it pretty much any time you want it. The eight-speed automatic transmission has also been especially calibrated for this car. While the X6’s rather unusual coupe-like styling is not for everybody, there’s no point going on about it because if you prefer the same type of vehicle in a less controversial wrapper (or with seven seats) you can have the X5.
The X6 does have a slight dynamic advantage over the X5 by being wider and lower. However, I do think it a bit cynical of BMW to give the X6 an even bigger lead in the corners by specifying it with Dynamic Performance Control: essentially a torque vectoring system that can dramatically reduce under steer and help ‘push’ the car through tight corners, by shifting power between the rear wheels, as well as front-to-rear like a standard four-wheel drive system. It works brilliantly well, giving the massive X6 a level of agility you wouldn’t believe. But despite the shared underpinnings, you can’t have Dynamic Performance Control on any X5 except for the X5 M. How odd for BMW to handicap the car in that way.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? Surprisingly so. The X6’s dramatic roofline does limit rear headroom, but it’s still entirely habitable for adult passengers. BMW has at last seen sense and made the X6 a proper five-seater as well: originally it was a four-chair proposition, as the company tried desperately to reinforce the car’s coupe credentials. Rear visibility is still limited, but the X6 comes as standard not only with parking radar and rear view camera, but also BMW’s novel ‘top view’ system, which uses cameras around the car to create a Google Earth-type picture of the car when you’re parking. The loading lip for the boot is high but volume-wise it’s deceptively large (570 litres, so more than a Holden Commodore for example) and still benefits from split/folding rear seats.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? When it comes to the X6, I think you’ll know whether you’re attracted to the car’s unique styling and packaging without having to be told. One thing’s for sure: in M Performance specification, the X6 M50d’s outrageous triple-turbo-diesel and chassis package make it a far superior everyday machine than the ‘genuine’ X6 M.
Air conditioning: Four-zone climate
Audio: CD, iPod compatible
Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
Blind spot warning: No
Cruise control: Yes with braking function
Driver footrest: Yes
Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon adaptive
Head-up display: Yes
Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
Lane guidance: No
Leather upholstery: Yes
Parking radar: Yes with camera and top view
Power boot or tailgate: Yes
Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: Yes
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Self-parking technology: No
Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
Steering reach adjustment: Yes
Trip computer: Yes
Find a BMW X6 HERE