BMW calls its X6 M a "Sports Activity Coupe." That BMW felt the need to coin such a meaningless label is a tip-off that we're dealing with an identity crisis. The M Series, after all, is Beemer's performance line, which includes some fine coupes. Is there really a need for a vehicle that attempts to be all things — crossover, SUV, sports car — to all people?
Appearance: Up front, it's all BMW, with the familiar split grille and sleek headlights. In the back, though, the X6 suffers from a malady that has become all too common to crossovers: a big butt. The X6 sits high — too high — and seems out of proportion to the rest of the vehicle. In profile, the X6 is sleek with a roofline that slopes sharply to the rear, which compromises visibility and cargo room. Think of it as sort of a four-door sports coupe that sits up high, or that's the closest we can come to what BMW designers had in mind.
Performance: The 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 produces 555 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. It's enough to throw you back in your seat. But don't worry, you'll recover in time to hit the nearest gas station — frequently — with its 12 city, 17 highway mpg. In manual-shift mode, we didn't care for the paddles, which Lyra thought were hard to reach because of the thick steering wheel. Peter didn't like that both paddles do the same thing — counter to the setup in many cars. We both opted for the console shifter in the manual mode, which was light and responsive, but again, counterintutiveness strikes: You have to pull down to upshift and push up to downshift. The X6 has all-wheel drive, but its "sports activity" should probably be kept on pavement, not off-road.
Interior: The cockpit was probably our favorite part of the X6, with its sleek, modern design, Merino leather, carbon-fiber dash and aluminum trim. Of course, there is BMW's iDrive, which uses a dial to navigate the media center. We find it easier than a touchscreen, but can see why it can confound drivers who yearn for simple push buttons. The dash also features a head-up display, which projects speed on the windshield so you don't lose track of how fast you're going. The navigation screen is clear and bright, and there is a backup camera with a helpful overhead view, as well as parking assist. But why no blind-spot warning system? The rear seats are comfortable — like a recliner, according to one of our passengers — but there's not a lot of legroom. Lyra loved the power tailgate, which is helpful for shorter drivers.
Our 3 favorites
Handling: It may not corner like a coupe, but it comes close.
Shifting: If you can get used to the quirks, the gear changes are smooth and handle all that power well.
Glove box: I can't help it, I like the two-piece opening.
Adaptive brake lights: The harder you brake, the brighter the taillights. It makes so much sense.
Leather seats: Snuggle up in living room comfort.
Corona headlight rings: They look sharp and really pop.
The bottom line: If you want a 555-horsepower performance car and are willing to pay upward of 100 grand, why not buy a proper sports coupe? For a little more money, in fact, enthusiasts can find that in BMW's M6 coupe.