Personally, I’ve never been a fan of SUV “Coupes”. Just the idea of them has never really appealed to me and I feel as if they’re inherently compromised, both as an SUV and as a sports car. Chopping off the roof to add style makes it less practical, thus defeating the entire purpose of buying an SUV.
Yet trying to make it sporty still doesn’t work because it’s a massive SUV that still won’t handle well. All the while, it just becomes an odd looking ‘Tweener that doesn’t really have a real place in the world. Yet after spending a week in the BMW X6 M50i, I realized that maybe none of that actually matters.
As I picked up my Manhattan Green X6 M50i test car, the Big Bimmer and I got off to a bad start. I’m the father of a toddler, so swapping car seats in an out of press vehicles is something I’ve become very accustomed to and, dare I say, quite good at. Yet trying to do so in the X6 frustrated me to the point of cursing at it out loud in a public parking lot.
For starters, the door opening is narrow, making squeezing the seat in annoying, but that’s a minor problem. The larger problem is fitting the rear seat anchor. Typically in an SUV, you just pop the trunk and hook the strap onto the back of the seat. But the X6’s trunk has such a high sill that I had to jump up into it and clip it on.
However, the headrests don’t move, because they’re only one inch from the headliner to begin with, so after fiddling with it for a minute I had to run the strap on the side of it. So annoying.
The worse part about all of that was the fact that I had picked up the X6 as I was dropping off an M340i and the 3er was so much easier to fit a car seat into. How is a massive SUV more difficult to fit a car seat into than a much smaller sports sedan? So right off the bat, prior to even starting it up, the BMW X6 M50i and I weren’t the best of friends. As I started driving it, though, we began to gel. In fact, and I don’t like saying this out loud, I actually started to like driving it.
Once in its absurdly comfortable seats, the BMW X6 started to charm me. Its driving position is spot-on, with million-way adjustable seats that can provide the perfect seating position for nearly anyone. I usually struggle to get comfortable behind the wheel of large SUVs because I’m relatively short.
However, I was able to adjust my seat to near perfection; nice and low while still being able to see over the dash, the steering wheel perfectly in front of my chest at just the right arms length away and sat at just the right distance from the pedals. I was pleasantly surprised.
The forward view out is also quite good, shockingly. The view out the back is atrocious but I guess that’s part of the price you pay for its styling. Forward, though, the X6 has great visibility and that’s confidence-inspiring in such an incredibly large SUV.
When I actually started to drive the BMW X6 M50i, I soon realized that it’s actually a nicer car to drive that I anticipated. Its suspension absorbs bumps with aplomb and has a suppleness that belies its massive curb weight. Steering, while completely devoid of feedback, is accurate and responsive.
Although, it does seem to have that modern BMW feel, where the weight barely increases as you increase steering lock, so it can feel very artificial. In a luxury car like the X6, that’s not so much of a problem. It would be nice if BMW gave it better steering but it’s not a deal-breaker.
Plus, you’re not going to care about the steering much once you set off. The mighty 4.4 liter twin-turbo V8 under its hood completely steals the show, with its 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. Just dip your right toe into the throttle and you’re met with instant forward thrust, the sort that wouldn’t feel out of place in an exotic supercar. Or a V-2 rocket.
It sounds great, too, with a sharp bark on start-up, followed by a deep burble at idle and a howl near redline. Sure, most of what you hear from inside the cabin is fake but at least it’s pleasant sounding fakery. It does sound good from outside the car, though.
What’s even more impressive is that the chassis can keep up with the engine. String the big X6 M50i through some twistier roads and, so long as you don’t get into license-losing speed, it will handle them with surprising capability. That’s not to say it’s particularly enjoyable to do, as the BMW X6 M50i is still just that — an X6. It weighs about as much as a medium-size woolly mammoth and has a center of gravity of an NBA player. So it’s not exactly a canyon-carver. That said, it will handle a twisty road admirably if asked to do so.
Honestly, though, that’s not how you want to drive the X6 M50i. Instead, you’ll want to just cruise along, letting its tidal wave of torque push you down the road, as its squishy suspension soaks up all the bumps. It’s a calm, comfortable luxury boat at heart, regardless of any of BMW’s “sporty” marketing. That’s not an insult, as the world needs big, comfy couches on wheels, but that is indeed what it is and what’s it’s shockingly good at.
The interior of the X6 M50i is a big part of why it’s such a great cruiser. It’s fabulous. Or at least the front passenger compartment is. The materials are stellar, build-quality is granite-like and its seats are heavenly. I could happily cross the Continental US in an X6 M50i. Now that I think about it, the big Bimmer might even be on my short list of cars with which to make such a trip.
Move to the back seats and trunk and things go a bit downhill. The back seat is tiny for an SUV of ample size, the sloping roof-line drastically impedes headroom and also limits rear cargo space. I realize that practicality is the price to pay for style but I look at a car like the Audi Q8, which has a far bigger back seat and trunk, and wonder if BMW could have maybe given it a slightly less aggressive roof-line to make the X6 a bit more practical. I feel like there must have been a middle ground, between form and function, that would have worked better.
Personally, in the name of full transparency, I don’t much like the X6 M50i. I’ll admit, it’s great to drive and it’s shockingly fast. But so too is the BMW X5 M50i and, for me, that car is better looking, more practical and less obnoxious. I also just can’t get on board with its looks, as hard as I tried. That said, I also understand I’m not the X6 M50i’s target audience. I understand that its customers are willing to pay that practicality price for its unique styling and there are a lot of said customers.
So the bottom line is this — if you like sporty looking SUV “Coupes”, you’ll love the X6 M50i. If you’re into that sort of thing, it’s flipping brilliant. If you aren’t though, you’re not going to like it. It sacrifices too much function in the name of its form. But I guess style doesn’t need to make sense, does it?