Muscle cars are all well and good, but nothing says “get out of my way” like a hulking crossover with a front end so full of grille it looks as if it could suck the air out of Ford Field faster than the Detroit Lions. One glance of a BMW X6 M in your rear-view mirror and you know that you are being tracked down by one bad-ass SUV.
The X6 M is the hot-rodded version of the third-generation X6, which is the slope-back sibling of the more conventional X5. Both the X5 and X6 have been redesigned for 2020, and the folks at BMW’s Motorsport division are now releasing their high-horsepower makeover. We sampled both the X5 M and X6 M at a recent BMW launch event on the roads between Phoenix and Prescott, Arizona, and found the driving experience to be identical, so choosing between the two is really about style.
Should you choose the X6’s fastback styling, you’ll be giving up seven cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row compared to the X5, and 13 cubic feet with the second row folded. Choosing the X6 will also cost you $3500 more than the X5 M.
We like the X6’s standard engines a lot, but the X6 M is next level stuff. It makes good on the rearview-mirror threat with its twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 that pounds out 600 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 553 lb-ft of torque between 1800 and 5690 rpm. Should that not be enough, and you have $9000 more to spend, the Competition package punches the output up to 617 horses—as if the X6 M needed more muscle. Torque is unchanged.
On the standard version, the M division tones up the chassis with revised adaptive dampers, an active front anti-roll bar, stiffer engine mounts, additional front-wheel camber, and staggered Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires—sized 295/35R-21 in front and 315/35R-21 at the rear. Competition models add several standard goodies to an already comprehensively equipped SUV. Mechanical revisions include a strut-tower brace, a deeper-voiced sport exhaust system, a special track-driving mode, and 22-inch rear wheels. Areas of the interior not covered in merino leather in the standard X6 M are slathered in it, there are special Competition seatbelt colors, and the exterior trim is blacked out.
The all-wheel-drive system sends the majority of the power rearward to an electronic limited-slip rear differential. As in all modern M cars, there are many ways to mix and match the three driving modes—Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus—with the eight-speed automatic transmission’s three shift programs. BMW claims a zero-to-60-mph time of 3.8 seconds for the X6 M, which sounds conservative considering we coaxed a 3.8-second run out a V-8–powered X6 M50i, which has 77 fewer horses under its hood. BMW says the Competition model will accelerate to 60 mph a tenth of a second quicker than the standard X6 M.
Out on the road, the X6 M Competition will make you feel like the master of all you survey. Only a handful of cars can pull away from it; you pass on two-lanes with arrogance, not mere confidence; and when equipped with the $2500 M Driver’s package that our test car had, top speed is raised from 155 mph to a claimed 177.
This brute-ute is more than just a straight-line rocket, however. It will take something special—and a skilled driver wheeling it—to leave it behind on twisting roads. Thanks to its stiff springs and sticky tires, it feels as if it can tear serpentine two-lanes to shreds. Its brakes refuse to fade no matter how high the speedo needle swings between corners. Triple-digit speeds arrive in a neck-straining whoosh—and with a rich roll of thunder from the exhaust if you’ve selected the Sport Plus or Track modes. The only complaint we have is that steering feedback evaporates as you corner hard. But that doesn’t slow this thing down.
Like anything with this much power, driving the X6 M on public roads is as frustrating as it is satisfying. So much pent-up power, so much handling in reserve, so few places to unleash the animal. It’s comfortable enough on the highway—at least on the well-preserved Arizona pavement—to use as an everyday commuter. But where’s the fun in that? The call of the mighty V-8 is irresistible and will have you filling rearview mirrors with the get-out-of-my-way face of an X6 M.