Niche within niches is a peculiarly German phenomenon, as the BMW X6M hammerhead proves. Now in its second-gen guise, the SUV flagship offers more power yet greater efficiency. But the point of it isn't any clearer
WHAT IS IT?
With more performance-orientated luxury-branded SUVs arriving with each passing season, one of the originals – the BMW X6M – steps out with a new set of clothes, increased performance, lower fuel consumption, a completely redesigned interior and improved value. Each boosts the US-built niche-mobile’s appeal.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
BMW made around 19,000 versions of the old X5M and X6M from 2009 to 2013, with just 415 landing in Australia, but only around 30 per cent of buyers chose the latter in this country, making it a rare beast indeed. Now in its second-gen, F86 guise, the latest X6M ushers in small but worthwhile improvements in all key areas.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Faster, more economical and better equipped, the $194,700 X6M does occupy a place in BMW’s pantheon of performance SUVs, but when the $8800 cheaper X5M offers an identical driving experience in a better looking, roomier and more practical package, then we cannot see the point of it. Try the X6 M50d or – better still – the 80K-cheaper X5 40d instead.
PLUS: Individuality, power, torque, handling, roadholding, attitude
MINUS: Styling, queasy ride, thirst, clunky gear lever, divorced feel
THE WHEELS REVIEW
ONLY about 100 Australians bought the previous BMW X6M over five years, and – frankly – this stuns us.
Sure, at nearly $200K a pop, that’s a lot of dough. But if you’re keen on something as brash and bolshie as an X6, why not buy the ultimate version? Why not brag about its 4.7-second 0-100km/h capability?
Now a second-gen X6M hits town to remedy that, starting from $194,700. That’s $4125 more than before, but BMW claims there is around $15K worth of extra equipment thrown in, including driver assist systems like M Sport seats, auto parking and lane-change warning, 21-inch alloys, tyre pressure monitors, Harmon Kardon audio, digital radio, and ConnectedDrive internet service.
And that does not include the generational performance, specification and efficiency gains BMW has achieved.
As with all of the current F16 X6s, the F86 M uses a variation of the same platform and running gear as the previous-gen E71, though the engine has been massaged to deliver 15kW more power and 70Nm more torque. Combined with a 100kg weight drop, it helps the 423kW/750Nm 4.4-litre direct-injection bi-turbo V8 petrol powerhouse lop half a second off the 2.3-tonne Bimmer’s 0-100 sprint time.
Aided by a slick-shifting eight (instead of six) speed torque-converter auto, the newcomer hunkers down and rockets off the line with almost unshakeable fanaticism, bursting through the three-digit barrier before being noticed. If one of the multi-configurable sharper-reacting steering and transmission modes is chosen, there’s extra exhaust theatre for more entertainment. Yet even then, the BMW’s performance is smooth, refined… and highly addictive.
Probably even more impressive is the X6M’s ability to glide through corners, the Dynamic Drive active anti-roll tech keeping the massive SUV planted fair and square even at silly speeds. The M-tuned and honed MacPherson strut front and multi-link independent rear end is essentially the same as before, with air suspension and adaptive dampers also fitted as standard. Ferocious brakes also help keep everything in check.
Additionally, the switchable stability system allows for some degree of tail-light out shenanigans, aided by the usually 60/40 rear/front AWD torque split’s rear-drive bias – another M exclusive. It’s quite incongruous.
There are, however, chinks in the X6M’s dynamic armour, like the lack of any real driver connection to the vehicle, since everything feels like it’s doing all the work for you; the interminably jittery ride quality on roads that are anything other than baby-bottom smooth is tiresome, and unfortunately that’s often accompanied by carsick-inducing pitching; and the joystick gear lever is all-too-easily bumped from Drive to Manual mode, resulting a unintentional visits to the rev limiter.
The latest X6’s interior is a highlight in terms of front-seat space, driving interface, dashboard design/layout and overall quality. And the M-specific tombstone-style front seats are glorious. But for an $8800 premium over the X5M, the X6M offers less… less rear headroom (though their wheelbases are the same); 70 litres less luggage space (though the one-piece tailgate is more practical than the former’s wagon-esque split system); and less… handsomeness. We know which BMW would get our wad of cash.
Nevertheless, fans could rightly argue that the overtly aggressive styling is this vehicle’s raison d’être, backed up by its slightly lower centre of gravity and 10kg weight saving make for a sharper dynamic experience – perhaps the best in the SUV business.
So if you like what you see, can stomach the unsettled and unsettling ride, annoying gear lever, and 18L/100km-plus thirst we experienced, then the X6M has improved enough over its pretty samey predecessor to warrant a look-in, especially as to score a faster SUV, the next stop is the $285K Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.
Seen in this context, don’t be surprised if sales for the second-gen model outstrip those of the last one.
Model: BMW F86 X6M
Engine: 4395cc V8, dohc, 32v bi-turbo
Max power: 423kW @ 6000-6500rpm
Max torque: 750Nm @ 2200-5000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed auto
Fuel economy: 11.1L/100km
On sale: Now