Pros: Ridiculous acceleration; ridiculous handling; adult-friendly back seat with three-across option; usable cargo space
Cons: Limited cargo capacity relative to X5 M
The 2012 BMW X6 M is such an audacious exercise that we can't help admiring BMW for actually building the thing. Let's be honest-even the regular X6 is a rather daring vehicle, although we've found plenty of things about it to appreciate. Now imagine a group of people looking at the slick-handling X6 xDrive50i with its twin-turbocharged 400-horsepower V8 and exclaiming: "It's not athletic enough! And it needs more power!" That's what happened when the maniacs at BMW's Motorsport division got their hands on the X6, and that's why we now have the 555-hp, 100 percent insane X6 M.
A case can be made that, relative to the standard model, the X6 M is actually less compromised than the X5 M. Unlike the X5, the X6 is explicitly for pavement only, so you're not losing any bushwhacking ability by giving it the full M treatment. Also unlike the X5, the X6 doesn't offer a third row, so you can't complain that the M guys cost you a couple of seats. Indeed, the X6 M offers largely the same versatility as the X6. It just happens to be as capable on a winding road as most dedicated sports cars, not to mention quicker in a straight line.
That's why the X6 M is without question our favorite X6, and frankly one of our favorite four-door vehicles of any stripe. We still can't believe BMW actually built a 555-hp all-wheel-drive hatchback with a hard-core sport suspension and a real back seat, but the 2012 BMW X6 exists, and we want one.
Comfort & Utility
The X6 M comes in one feature-packed trim level. Standard equipment includes 20-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned adaptive dampers, a self-leveling rear air suspension, a power liftgate, adaptive xenon headlamps with retractable washers, foglamps, a sunroof, keyless entry with push-button ignition, extended leather upholstery, 14-way M sport seats with driver memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity, a 16-speaker audio system with dual subwoofers and the hard-drive-based iDrive information and entertainment system with navigation, digital music storage and a wide-screen display.
If that's not enough for you, some of the more notable options include quad-zone automatic climate control, 20-way multi-contour sport seats, a leather-trimmed dashboard, an 825-watt audio system (crushing the base system's measly 600 watts) and a rear-seat entertainment system.
The X6 M's standard front sport seats are fantastic, offering support comparable to the X5 M's but in a more intimate, coupelike driving position. The optional multi-contour chairs, however, are worth their weight in gold; they're phenomenally supportive and comfortable. The gauges are classic BMW-white-on-black numerals that change to orange on black at night. The dashboard is similarly recognizable as a BMW design, although the X6 is aging rapidly and we find newer BMW dashboards to be a little nicer in materials and build quality.
We find the X6 M's standard rear bucket seats more comfortable for two passengers than the X5 M's rear bench. BMW raised the hip point of the back row for X6 duty, which means you sit up higher with better thigh support. There's an available middle seat, but we think the rear compartment is cooler with just the business-class buckets.
As for cargo space, the X6 M may pale in comparison to the boxier X5 M, but it's actually not bad at all relative to smaller crossovers, boasting 25.6 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks and 59.7 cubic feet with those seatbacks folded.
The X6 M may have a somewhat dated interior relative to newer BMW products, but its technology is quite modern. Every X6 M comes with the hard-drive-based version of iDrive, which includes a beautifully crisp wide-screen display and plenty of digital music storage. The iDrive interface has improved dramatically from its controversial early years, now featuring a vastly better menu structure and numerous physical buttons next to the controller knob for direct access to common pathways. It's one of the best information and entertainment systems on the market, and we appreciate that it's controlled by that console-mounted control knob instead of a touchscreen, so there's no need to lean forward and smudge the screen with your fingertips.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The X6 M is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 rated at 555 horsepower and 501 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a satisfactory six-speed automatic. Acceleration is 100 percent mental in the X6 M; there's no way a 5,000-pound SUV should be able to cover ground like a Corvette, but that's exactly what this BMW does. Our only quibble is with the flatulent noises emitted by the exhaust system during full-throttle upshifts. You don't want to be making embarrassing sounds while you're out-sprinting Porsches to the next stoplight, do you?
All X6 M models get an exclusive all-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring to let you put maximum power to the pavement in all situations. Fuel economy is a dismal 12 mpg city/17 mpg highway.
The 2012 BMW X6 M comes with standard stability control, four-wheel ABS and six airbags (front, front side and full-length side curtain).
Neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the X6.
The X6 M's lowered sport suspension does a ridiculously good job of keeping this massive SUV planted at speeds you won't believe until you drive the thing for yourself. In fact, the X6 M is even more capable than the already insane X5 M. Yet the ride remains more than tolerable, which is a tribute to the fundamental goodness of this aging platform. The steering is amazingly precise for a vehicle of this type. Among SUVs, only the far more expensive Porsche Cayenne Turbo can do what the X6 M does dynamically.
Other Cars to Consider
Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG: Now equipped with a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8, the AMG-tuned ML has plenty of firepower in a straight line. Corners are another matter.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo: The Cayenne is a good match for the X6 M but, man, is it expensive.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8: The hot-rod Grand Cherokee isn't the best dancer in this class, but it gives you the massive grunt of a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 for about half the price of the BMW.
We'll take the multi-contour seats, the 825-watt stereo and, what the heck, how about every other available option as well? The X6 M definitely isn't about holding back.