The six-speed automatic transmission also has a sport setting, but it's not controlled by the M button. You need to pull BMW's funky-looking shifter from Drive to Sport yourself, which also substantially affects the car's performance. Where Drive mode feels benign and sluggish, Sport uses sensors to look for opportunities to downshift. Get up speed in a straight, then bang on the brakes as you plow toward a turn, and this transmission puts itself into an appropriately low gear, usually second, and holds it as the tachometer pushes redline, shifting up only before fuel cutoff.
As third gear can take the X6 M up to 100 mph, it's the go-to driving gear, able to handle most situations. The Sport mode uses second for the harder turns, when the tail of this all-wheel-drive behemoth rotates out. The transmission has a very capable automatic mode, but we did some of our own shifting, too, slapping the paddles around, finding reasonably fast gear changes. The paddles also work in standard Drive mode, useful when you want extra oomph for passing, but will switch back to automatic if you leave them alone for a few seconds.
All this power and performance takes a horrible toll on fuel economy, as you might expect. EPA on the X6 M is a gut-wrenching 12 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. We managed to pull 15.8 mpg out of it, but that involved ample gentle freeway driving mixed in with pounding it over mountain courses.
As a helpful feature for driving roads with frequent elevation changes, BMW supplies maps for the navigation system with topographical features and really remarkable rendering. Next to Audi, BMW has the best-looking maps in the business. This navigation system stores its maps on an 80GB hard drive, the biggest you will find in a production car.
We were quite pleased with the navigation system's routing function, as it dynamically avoids traffic. On one journey, the system told us to take a road that didn't seem to be in the direction we wanted to go. But as we wanted to test the system, we let it have its way, figuring it would end in beautiful disaster or a happy surprise. And, after some miles, it became clear the car knew where we wanted to go, taking this alternate route to avoid some traffic jam nastiness.
As the X6 M uses a hard drive for map storage, BMW makes 15GB available for music storage. And in this car, we needed it, as the iPod/USB port wasn't on its option sheet. iPod connectivity comes with BMW's Premium Sound package, which wasn't included on our X6 M. You would think that, in a $90,000 car, a USB port could be thrown in as standard. The car did have an auxiliary input and HD radio. No satellite radio, although that is also an available option.
Lacking the Premium Sound package, we were stuck with the standard 12-speaker, 230-watt amplifier audio system, as opposed to the 16-speaker, 600-watt optional system. But where we've found BMW's premium systems to produce very heavy sound that steps all over the high frequencies, this standard system seemed much more balanced. With the lower wattage amp, we did need to turn the volume way up on occasion, but the sound was very refined, letting us hear the light details in multilayered recordings. Bass was adequate, but not excessive.
There is another way to get iPod connectivity without opting for the $1,400 Premium Sound package: you can get the $150 Smartphone Integration option. BMW says it works with the iPhone and similar devices, allowing access to music, recharging the device, and improving cell reception.
Short of that option, Bluetooth phone integration is standard, and fairly good. This system imports your phone's contact list when you pair a new phone, making it available on the LCD. Unfortunately, you can't use voice command to dial by name, as you can with Ford, Lexus, and Kia models.
The 2010 BMW X6 M is one of the more impractical cars we've driven, the X6 body design having the stance of an SUV but none of the interior room. However, it is also incredibly technically advanced. From engine bay to suspension, BMW poured the expertise of a small country of engineers into its development. That a heavy pseudo-SUV can carve corners and blast to 60 mph in well less than 5 seconds like the X6 M is nothing short of a technical marvel. Too bad about the fuel economy.
The cabin tech is also very good, although we wish BMW wouldn't nitpick over each option. Fortunately, navigation and Bluetooth do come as standard in the X6 M. There are a few useful driver aid features, such as a rearview camera, head-up display, and automatic high beams. But what's missing in the X6 M are features such as blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control, and lane drift warning, which are features that can be found in much less expensive cars.
|Model||2010 BMW X6 M|
|Power train||Twin turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8|
|EPA fuel economy||12 mpg city/17 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||15.8 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard hard-drive-based system with live traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||Standard MP3 compatible single in-dash CD; optional six disc CD/DVD changer|
|MP3 player support||Optional iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||USB drive port, satellite radio, HD radio, internal hard drive|
|Audio system||Optional 600-watt amplifier, 16 speakers|
|Driver aids||Optional head-up display, rear-view camera, top-down camera|
|Price as tested||$92,625|