Driving Impression: BMW X6 M and X6 M50d
As if the BMW X6 SUV/coupe wasn’t brash enough, the company’s M Division has got involved, producing both sporty petrol and diesel derivatives. The result? Two of the most amusing, frenetic and mind-bending performance SUVs around
Text: GG van Rooyen
Once upon a time, not that long ago, it was easy to navigate a BMW price list. Yes, there were cars that started with numbers such as 3, 5 and 7 – but, essentially, there were only two kinds of BMW – standard Beemers and those that had been tuned by the company’s legendary M Division.
Skip forward to 2015 and the BMW price list has become a morass of options and specifications.
Take, for example, the X6. There are really just four engine options — the 35i, 40d, 50i and M50d (not including the X6M). But that doesn’t mean there are only four choices. Each engine option is also available in either Pure Extravagance or M Sport specification. This means there are effectively 12 versions to choose from. And you still haven’t glanced at all the optional extras.
Gone are the days when a vehicle with an M badge was necessarily an “M car”. Realising the marketing potential of that shiny little M, BMW has started slapping it on everything. It is on watches, jackets, bags and shoes. And, most worryingly, it is on cars that really don’t deserve to sport it (pun intended).
Thankfully, there are still proper M cars. Vehicles such as the M3 and M4 are examples of these, and benefit from the exquisite tuning by the M division.
But now there are also M Performance cars – vehicles that enjoy some of the benefits of M Division’s fiddling but aren’t proper M cars. The X6 M50d is an example of this.
And then there is the rather dubious M Sport package. This is nothing more than a styling (and marginal performance) package that clads any BMW – and I do mean any BMW – in M Division regalia. Nothing, for example, prevents the proud owner of a new 116i from fitting an M Sport package to his or her 1 Series.
So don’t assume that the “M car” next to you at the traffic light deserves special respect. Statistically, it’s far more likely to be an entry-level Beemer with an M Sport package than an actual M car.
BMW X6 M50d
But what about BMW’s new M Performance cars – specifically, the X6 M50d? Does an oilburning SUV truly deserve to have an M badge?
No doubt there are purists who baulk at the thought of a diesel SUV sporting BMW’s M insignia, but I would encourage them to take the M50d for a test drive.
Living with the M50d is a wonderful experience. The 2993cc engine is powered by no less than three turbochargers, which deliver 280 kW of power and 740 Nm of torque. Thanks to this fancy blower set-up, power is also delivered in wonderfully linear and progressive fashion. Turbo lag is virtually non-existent.
Highlight figures include a (limited) top speed of 250 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time of 5,2 seconds. Despite this, BMW claims fuel consumption of 6,6 litres per 100km. That might be a tad optimistic, but you can easily keep it at around eight or nine litres per 100km without nursing the car.
Overall, driving the M50d on a daily basis is very easy. The vehicle does a great job of hiding its vicious nature. Leave the SUV in Comfort mode and keep your inputs subtle, and you’d never guess that the M50d is capable of such ferociousness.
But put your foot down, and the X6 will unleash its great power. With 740 Nm of torque available at low revs (2000 r/min) the M50d is very quickly out of the gate. The eight-speed sport gearbox has no trouble keeping up with the engine, swapping cogs quickly and virtually imperceptibly.
Race up to a corner and the large ventilated disks will surprise you with their ability to slow down the hulking X6. The SUV has a tare weight of 2120kg, but it doesn’t seem that way when you press down on the brakes. Yes, you can sense the immense weight, but the brakes slow it down with surprising ease.
Through a corner, the vehicle remains tight and controlled, especially when placed in Sport mode. This is thanks to the adaptive M Sport suspension, which is standard. It really does a great job of providing the X6 with a coupe-like feel.
The M50d is so good, in fact, that it is hard to believe it could be bettered. What more could the X6M offer?
Quite a lot more, as it turns out. The M50d can be very sedate when you drive it in a civilised fashion, and you have to poke it before it bares its teeth. This is not the case with the X6M. It is a rabid, frenetic animal that just wants to lunge at you. Its true nature is on display at all times.
Simply setting off from standstill in controlled fashion is tricky. Touch the throttle, and X6M wants to launch itself out of the gate in Kamikaze fashion.
It also doesn’t matter how serenely you attempt to trundle down the road, its beefy 4395cc engine continuously growls like a caged animal. Put your foot down, and it will snarl and howl like a hellhound.
If you drive an X6M, you’d better get used to odd looks from pedestrians and other motorists. Its ostentatious soundtrack attracts a lot of attention.
Nothing can prepare you for the brutal nature of the X6M. This model blows the M50d’s impressive statistics out of the water. Thanks to a mind-melting 423 kW of power and 750 Nm of torque (that’s 10 Nm more than the oilburner offers!), the X6M goes from 0-100 km/h in 4,2 seconds – a full second quicker than the M50d.
And it isn’t merely the power output that makes the X6M so impressive. A modified upper wishbone allows a further increase in cornering force potential and agility. Firmer suspension spring tuning and a 10mm drop in ride height team up with the Dynamic Drive active roll stabilisation system to reduce body-roll and movement.
The xDrive system employs an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch to allow fully variable distribution of drive between the front and rear axles – from 100% at the rear to 100% at the front. This ensures good traction in all road conditions. In the interests of greater agility, xDrive brings a rear-biased default set-up to the X6M.
A Dynamic Performance Control system oversees the continuous distribution of drive between the rear wheels, regardless of engine output. Working in combination with the xDrive all-wheel-drive system, the result is better agility and traction.
With the X6M, the engineers at M Division have taken all the dials and cranked them up to eleven. The vehicle is almost ludicrously overpowered. Absolutely no one needs an X6M. This amount of power can only lead to trouble.
But there is no denying that driving the X6M is an intoxicating experience. Your head will probably tell you that buying an X6M is a bad idea, but your heart will be begging you to sign the contract.
BMW X6 M50d and X6M
ENGINE Three-litre, in-line 6, turbodiesel 4,4-litre,V8, bi-turbo
POWER 280 kW @ 4000 r/min 423 kW @ 6000 r/min
TORQUE 740 Nm @ 2000 r/min 750 Nm @ 2200 r/min
TRANSMISSION Eight-speed auto Eight-speed auto
TOP SPEED 250 km/h (limited) 250 km/h (limited)
0 -100 KM/H 5,2 seconds 4,2 seconds
FUEL 6,6 l/100km (claimed) 11,1 l/100km (claimed)
PRICE R1 327 000 R1 676 500