The 2020 BMW X6 M Competition in this purple Ametrin Metallic paint is a flex. It’s arrogant, nonsensical, ostentatious and oh-so-fun to drive.
I was in a constant battle with my senses the whole week this car sat in the driveway. On top of being less utilitarian than a similar X5, the design is polarizing. It’s reminiscent of a beached whale when examined in profile, and the rear end is offensively frumpy. Visibility is horrid. Yet, the gorgeous purple paint and M Competition trimmings kept reeling me back in.
The comments section is all too predictable with a vehicle like this one. It’s ugly. It’s useless. Why would anyone buy this? Crossover coupes tend to raise my hackles, too, but humor me for a second. This BMW has a normal-sized kidney grille with black-painted vertical slats exposing enough cooling hardware to keep engine temps low on Venus. The front bumper’s real, and functional side air intakes reveal even more intensive cooling gear. Bulging fenders flare out in usual M fashion to accommodate the lethal rubber within — 295/35ZR21 front and 315/30ZR22 rear. The tires have so little sidewall that they look like rubber bands stretched around the gigantic multi-spoke M wheels that expose massive brakes (six-piston front, single-piston rear calipers). You get two spoilers, one extending from where the roof line begins to slope, and the other tacked onto the liftgate lip. A real (and loud) quad exhaust with black-painted tips exits out the rear diffuser trim. There is a lot more, too.
It’s as if BMW designed the X6 as the M and M Competition models first with the standard xDrive40i as an afterthought. It just looks like a pedestrian joke in comparison. For the utility-compromised, sportier shape to work, it needs the rest of the stage dressing. Done up with all of the functional scoops, vents, winged mirrors and more, it’s easier to understand the appeal. It looks like it’s ready to gap Corvettes and Mustangs, but in a body style apparently more relevant for more buyers these days.
This car announces its arrival. My friend could tell I was in the driveway because their house was vibrating. Its deep rumble comes courtesy BMW’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 tied to an eight-speed automatic transmission and that quad exhaust. In Competition guise it makes 617 horsepower, 553 pound-feet of torque and revs out to 7,200 rpm. The output of all BMW engines these days seems criminally underrated, and this one is no exception. It is relentless in its power delivery. Some BMWs sound synthesized and fake from the cabin (partly because BMW literally pumps in synthesized noises into the cabin), but the M Competition version of this V8 has an unmistakably real mechanical growl in the upper rev ranges.
This X6 M Competition simply assaults your senses with uncanny grip. Want to launch it in the rain? No problem. With warm tires it flies off the line just as clinically as it does in the dry. Cornering grip is freakish. The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires cling to the tarmac like your tongue would to a frozen pole. With the dampers in Sport Plus, body roll is nearly undetectable from the cabin. This chassis’ sheer stiffness is something to behold. Nothing moves, sways or leans. Naming it “Competition” would suggest this, but this 5,375-pound crossover seems like it would be creepily good on a racetrack. I was unusually exhausted and breathless after hustling it around my standard testing route.
As any proper M car does, this one will go sideways in a hurry. You can’t disconnect the front axle like you can in an M5 or M8, but a tap of the TCS button provides a more aggressive torque apportionment to the rear wheels and unfurls a longer leash. It’s all you can use safely on the road, but stability control can be switched off for track shenanigans, too.
There are a few complaints. The brakes have two modes — Comfort and Sport — since it’s a brake-by-wire setup, and the pedal isn’t stiff enough in either mode for an M vehicle. BMW’s variable ratio steering is still bad at communicating what’s going on with the tires, while the steering wheel itself is unreasonably thick. This is hardly a new BMW complaint. The eight-speed transmission is perfect for daily use and when left to its own devices in Sport Plus, but it’s missing the crispness of Porsche’s PDK or Mercedes’ multi-clutch transmissions when using the paddles. Lastly, and this goes for all BMWs: Stop using tiny, plastic paddle shifters on six-figure M cars. The Subaru Outback has better paddles, and its transmission doesn’t even have gears.