Remember that famous Evolution of Man graphic? You know, the one that traces human development by morphing from knuckle dragging ape to upright Homo erectus? The last frame has humanity sitting in front of a computer. So here’s the automotive equivalent.
If the origin of the species is the Daimler Benz three-wheeler of 1888, then parked at the latest, fastest computer sits the 2016 BMW X6 M, a high point in automotive evolution, (at least of the piston-flapping internal combustion kind).
This 5,200-pound brute is a crossfit decathlete in the mold of great all-rounders like Bruce Jenner (before he was Mr. Kardashian and pre-Caitlyn) or the Great Brit, Daly Thompson. A thickly muscled freak of engineering, it is a ride for show-offs who can’t make up their minds if they want an SUV, a sports coupe or a car for days at the racetrack. The X6 M (for Motorsport) does it all for a lazy $100K plus options, which believe it or not, includes a tow bar, just to prove the point that it’s got versatility.
Considering there are 81 combinations of engine, transmission and suspension output on tap, there’s no doubt BMW’s engineers are as big a bunch of show-offs as their customers. Operating this thing to its full potential requires a post-grad short course and an Enigma machine to translate all the German acronyms. So, MDM doesn’t mean Mild Drift Mode, although it amounts to the same thing as long as the DSC and the DDC are talking to each other.
This Brute is A Crossfit Decathlete
The Munich maker has notched up some impressive PBs with the X6 M – from the standalone Motorsport division. But here’s the showstopper.
It produces more torque, also known as raw, shove-in-the-back propulsion, than any road-going BMW Ever Made. Although BMW qualifies the claim by restricting it to all-wheel drive models, a flick through the old tech manuals fails to find a beefier road-going engine from Bavaria.
This includes all past and present V12s, monster V10s, turbos, whatever…
In fact, at 553lb/ft and 567 horsepower, it has more oomph than most earthmoving equipment. Perfect for the school drop-off in peak commute, honey.
Now, car geeks might argue that the 30th anniversary M5 sedan produces more power (it does, slightly) but it falls well short of the X6 M’s twisting force number.
And that’s the one that generally counts if acceleration is your thing.
The big lungs come courtesy of a 1.2gal bi-turbo V8 with a pair of Twin Scroll turbochargers sucking premium fuel and banging through its upshifts via a new eight-speed transmission and the heaviest-duty tail shaft ever built by BMW.
All accompanied by what its maker describes as “an emotionally rich soundtrack.” So if it’s not as operatic as the supercharged Jaguar V8, the noise is sufficiently lush to make it a viable listening alternative to the 16-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system or the optional Bang and Olufsen surround sound.
It’s all-wheel drive, of course, with torque vectoring to ensure the grunt is apportioned where the grip is best. The specially developed 21-inch Michelin tires with their own back-story. The key environmental considerations for the car were the track temperatures and humidity levels at the Nurburgring, where the adaptive damped chassis (with its servo-controlled roll bars and airbags) got its tuning and where the engine, cooling system and brakes were race-spec’d then pounded around the famous North Circuit, for lap after lap, to prove the package worthy of the M badge.
So Michelin’s engineers worked hard for two years to keep up, making 1,400 customized test tires then a further 500 in pre-production. This is the first BMW sold in many markets running on 21-inch magnesium-rich wheels. Mind the curbs on those bespoke 30 profile rubber bands and forget about off-roading. Cross-country isn’t part of the X6 deal. This isn’t a Range Rover with a raked roof.
To ease everyone’s conscience there’s a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency versus the previous model, which translates to the same reduction in the key greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. But let’s not kid anyone. The X6 M is no earth hugging exercise in sustainability. It is a rollicking, rude ride that launches from rest to 60 in 4.0 seconds despite its beefy underpinnings.
There’s a guttural surge before it hits the rev limiter and detonates to the next upshift with none of the wheezy theatrics of many waste gate-equipped turbo engines. What you hear is German efficiency. Zing, pop-bang, shift.
In football parlance, the X6 M is a big unit — a linebacker — and is based on the X5 SUV. But unlike that successful and perfectly practical family hauler, the X6 does not present to those on the other side of the tinted glass as a four-wheeled wedding ring.
It puts style first, practicality second. Imagine a BMW coupe roof welded to an X5 SUV underbody. Fair to say buyers looking for luggage capacity and rear-seat headroom aren’t the types who will want the X6 M anyway.
This high-rise flying wedge might be big on the outside but it is more tailored inside with one of the best screen based nav and infotainment systems around, the usual Heads Up Display and three-mode electric steering which progressively tightens up road feel and wheel effort with accompanying whirrs and buzzes from the servo assistant.
Like all good cars it tends to shrink around the driver as familiarity builds with distance but there’s no disguising the heft of the X6 M on narrow, twisty roads. It swallows the corners whole but casts a big shadow on the blacktop.
While the dynamics are jaw-dropping, so is the technical complexity and the sheer, unadulaterated capability. This is an all-rounder for the ages.
The famous Lotus designer Colin Chapman built his empire on the premise of “lighten and simplicate.”
The X6 M consigns that to history, burying it under a welter of algorithms, processors, fiber optics, whirring servomotors, actuators and air bagged suspension.
Karl Benz couldn’t comprehend turbochargers that spin at 170,000 revs per minute.
Likewise most critics couldn’t comprehend the original X6 when it was launched in 2009. They panned it for being an indulgent, excessive and not very efficient thing that couldn’t make up its mind what it was.
But the buyers have proved them wrong with more than 250,000 sold and Mercedes was forced to fast-track a rival. Ain’t evolution a wonderful thing!