DRIVEN: BMW X6M
The PH team tries out the most controversial BMW of the year
So when a bright red BMW X6M was dropped off in our car park the other week we realised that this really was not a car that we could review in the normal way - everyone wanted a say. So here, in shamelessly subjective words, is what we thought of it...
Although my colleagues will not agree I have always enjoyed driving the X6, and have been fortunate enough to cover 1000 miles in the 35d and a few hundred in the 50i too. It offers decent interior space and fantastic (for what it is) handling. It's never been a subtle car though, and its looks divides opinion like no other. And that's before you add in the bright red paint and 'M' body kit fitted to the X6M. First impressions tell you that this car, while not lacking in aggression, seems to be trying a little too hard to look fast and the M badge stuck on the boot looks embarrassingly like you have stuck one on yourself after a visit to the parts counter.
Oddly, the car lacks any aural aggression to back up the visuals and sounds a little disappointing from both inside and out after the initial start up rumble disappears. It feels fast, but not as fast as the figures suggest and the beefed-up chassis translates to a hard ride (though you can't deny that it does sharpen up the handling too). The gearbox is beautiful, as is the case with most 'M' cars, offering perfect shifts in manual mode and working intuitively when in auto, but it just seems to lack the involving feel of a true M car. I still like the X6, I'd still buy one, too, were I in the market for a car like this, but it wouldn't be the M version. The 50i sounds better, goes almost as hard, has more subtle looks, handles well enough and is cheaper too. Less is more in this case.
Unlike Mr Garlick, I have never been, in any measure, an X6 lover. While I appreciate how it handles fantastically, if you want a sporty off-roader an X5 will provide 90 per cent of the X6's dynamic ability and 200 per cent of the X6's practicality. Conversely, if you want the nth degree of handling in a BMW, buy a 3-series.
With that in mind, you'll probably understand when I say that I don't really like the X6M. I'm not particularly bothered about the flatulence-in-a-bathtub engine note or even the ludicrous £77k basic list price. The 547bhp twin-turbo monster is also sensationally fast and handles superbly, for what it is. And that's the problem. What it is.
The BMW X6M is a 2.3-ton 4x4 with only four seats a ridiculously lairy body kit. From a company that once described itself as a maker of 'the ultimate driving machine' it grates. And from the motorsport arm of the same company - the division that gave us the M1, the original M635 CSi and a series of stunning M3s and M5s, it really feels wrong.
Pointlessness. The lack of meaning. The X6M. Perhaps that's a little unfair, but when you look at the other cars being produced by the Munich manufacturer you do have to question why it even exists. The whole X6 concept seems a little strange in the first place: a car with only four seats, not much more boot space than a 3-series and so huge that the parking sensors have their own postcodes. Now stick in a massive twin-turbo V8 and you have the ultimate waste of money.
Personally, the idea of twin turbos and a big block sounds like the type of specification I would dream to put in my road car, but that car would be much smaller and wouldn't have a tendency to roll off at a corner. The X6M is just a little too wallowy, even on the super M button settings (blimey, you are a glutton for punishment, Pete - Riggers) and, being twice the height of the public around you, you don't get the same speed sensation of something lower and more, well, discreet.
For me, sharp handling is key to a car, and it isn't just the X6 that will get me moaning, but most SUVs. If you are towing a race car then you will be forgiven, but for thinking it will protect your little darlings as you block the road and make school crossings even more dangerous, you won't. But in a way you have to applaud BMW for creating something so against the eco-mould.
If manufacturers stopped producing this type of car then the drive to work would be far duller.
So maybe the point of this car is that it is pointless, which is a conundrum in itself - and one I kind of like.