BMW’s M performance cars have always had a pretty simple strategy: take the standard car, boost its performance immensely, then put it on sale. The 2010 BMW X6 M sticks to this tried and true formula, but it adds a few new tricks to the M Division’s bag, namely a new twin turbo V8, all-wheel drive, and an exclusive automatic transmission.
The big story on the X6 M is the engine. The 4.4-liter twin turbo V8 is a variant of the same V8 that first debuted in the base X6 last year (there was also an inline-six model). The inclusion of a tubrocharger on an M vehicle is news in itself. The recent M cars have all embraced the bigger, naturally aspirated engine route. The M3 has a big V8 (the regular 3-Series has inline six engines) and the M5 and M6 have even bigger V10s (the 5-Series and 6-Series models have inline sixes and V8s). So, the X6 M is the first M model to have the same engine displacement as the base model, with the addition of finely tuned turbochargers.
And the setup of those turbochargers is one of the most exciting parts. The exhaust manifold of this V8 sits in between the two banks of cylinders, in the crux of the V, as opposed to the more conventional setup on the outside of each bank. The exhaust is funneled back through four channels and then into two tubes. These tubes are what power the turbines and provide the turbocharger’s boost. The incredible precision of the setup, and the smaller distance between the exhaust gases, turbines, and intake valves makes the turbo very responsive. Unlike most other turbocharged cars, there is very little discernible lag between stomping on the gas pedal and the engine outputting full power. And that power adds up to 555 horses and 501 lb-ft of torque. And that torque is fully on tap from 1,500 RPM to 5,600 RPM, while the horses peak at 6,000, right before the 7,000 RPM redline.
That power adds up to a 0-to-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds, very impressive for an automatic gearbox, AWD, and 5,300 pounds of weight. The transmission is an upgraded version of the ZF auto found on the stock X6 and it is very responsive. BMW initially caught some heat for the X6 M because it would be the first M car offered exclusively with an automatic transmission and no manual option. Well, the ZF does just fine, and there are steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for those who want complete control over their ride. But, most drivers will let those paddles to go waste because the computer behind the transmission is very good at what it does.
The AWD system is a perfect match for the transmission. It is the same system as featured on the stock X6, but it has been tweaked to squeeze extra performance out of the enhanced power. And, its impressive grip allows you to do things that you wouldn’t expect an SUV to do, like powerslide through a corner at 80 mph without the slightest hint of losing control.
Well, I used the acronym SUV in the previous paragraph, and BMW would probably take issue with that. You see, back when the X5, BMW’s first crossover was introduced, they went to great lengths to brand it an SAV (for Sport Activity Vehicle) instead of SUV. When the X6 came around, they called it an SAC (for Sport Activity Coupe). The exterior styling is pretty coupe-like, in fact it resembles a taller sports sedan like BMW’s 5-Series more than a traditional SUV. That sloping roofline is a bit of a problem for tall passengers sitting in the rear seat, but that’s about the only interior compromise (except from a little less cargo room). But if you’re seriously considering an X6 M, practicality isn’t at the top of your requirements list.
The X6 M is a serious performance machine, despite the fact that it is a crossover vehicle. It is packed with new technology and represents some huge steps forward for BMW’s M Division. One can’t help but wonder, though, when powering through an AWD-assisted turn or feeling the immediate response of the powerful turbos, what this technology would be like on an M3, M5, or M6. The M Division has recently indicated in interviews with the automotive press that the next generation of M sedans and coupes would likely be using some variation of this twin turbo V8 (or a smaller turbo I6 in the M3), and that’s pretty exciting considering that the technology was able to turn a crossover into one of the best performance vehicles of the year.