Crow tastes better with the right seasoning.
After writing a less-than-favorable review of the 2010 BMW 5 Series GT, I had visions of putting Mangus Hirschfield behind the wheel of the 2010 X6 M.
BMW refers to the X6 as a sports activity coupe but that has always felt disingenuous. The vehicle has more doors (five) than seats (four), and its gangly body makes it look like a lunar rover. The X6 seems to have an identity crisis.
Hirshcfield, a German sexologist in the early 1900s, might be able to help; after all, he did coin the term transvestism. I figured he could help wade through the perils of judging something by its cover.
But after a day of driving the X6 M, I realized you just can't spell Adam's Apple with an M. Looks aren't everything; even in today's hyper-shallow world.
Somewhere south of Saginaw, I was well over the suggested speed along Interstate 75. It was pouring rain and there were semi trucks in the left and right lanes in front of me.
Splitting big rigs on the edges of three lanes is never fun. Add to that the blinding wall of water both kicked back, and I thought I might be trapped behind them all the way to Grand Blanc.
But then I tapped the aluminum paddle shifter twice, dropping the X6 M into fourth gear, and it roared with laughter -- pulling all 555 horsepower from its 4.4-liter twin turbocharged V-8. I was through the crease faster than Barry Sanders.
The acceleration above 70 mph is fantastic. BMW includes a new twin scroll twin turbos with a crossover exhaust manifold, which obviously sounds very important. The result is a clean, efficient power boost that launches this vehicle whenever you want to. Who doesn't want 500 pound-feet of delicious torque at his or her beck and call? People who don't drive M's, that's who.
But that power wouldn't have anywhere to go if the lightning-fast six-speed automatic transmission wasn't so silky. The electronic shift mounted between the two front seats is still a little awkward.
Three different drive modes
There are three different modes that the transmission works under: Drive, Sport or Manual. Sport mode provides a more aggressive shifting, holding gears longer and letting you stay in the engine's power curve longer. Manual mode lets you become downright abusive -- riding gears right to redline. (It's smart enough to not let you blow the engine, though, I had to see what would happen.)
But most of the time, I drove the X6 M in Drive mode, using the paddle shifters when I wanted to get a little extra power, then moving it back into the automatic mode.
Even Hirschfield would approve of the X6 M's dual personality. It's one thing during the day, and a completely different one on hot corners.
The more I drove it, the more I wanted to push this car-like trucky thing. One of the first BMWs with an all-wheel drive system, the X6 M sticks nicely to the road through big and little turns.
The ride was excellent. The X6 M comes standard with BMW's adaptive drive, which combines electronic dampening control and active roll stabilization. This system is constantly monitoring what's happening, what kind of inputs the driver is providing and what the road is saying. Then it adjusts. Of course, the 20-inch high performance tires and big brakes make the X6 M brake like a roadster.
BMW's Servotronic steering is firm and makes you want to drive faster. It's speed sensitive, but can be set for regular driving or sport driving, which tightens it up a little more. The X6 M just feels right on the road.
Plush, comfortable interior
And I felt as if all was right sitting in this truck-like car thing. The interior is beautiful.
The white Merino leather seats are plush and comfortable. (Though I would never own a vehicle with white interior anything due to Dunkin' Donuts coffee sloshing and Big Mac lettuce spillage.) The M seats provide extra bolstering for hard corners.
Of course, this being an M, BMW feels obligated to remind you why you plunked down $90,000 for it. There's the M door sill, M steering wheel, M floor mats, M head rests and the M center console. Forrest Mars never saw this many M&Ms, and he holds the patent for them.
But even with the so many Ms around the cabin, nothing feels in your face or overstated. The cabin feels luxurious with a touch of speed. The lines are long and horizontal and covered in leather. It's stable and there's a simplicity inside that calms your nerves at the times you need a steady hand and confidence, like barreling between two big trucks.
Easy to operate iDrive
Then there's the iDrive.
After testing a series of BMW's this year, I am starting to take a more German approach to the iDrive. Americans are just stupid.
Please don't be offended by that if you are not the brightest LED in the headlamp, but there's an owner's manual in the glove box and not everything good in life needs to be figured out in three minutes with the lights off. The iDrive provides lots of function. It's easy to operate and lets you keep your hand on the wheel while you're doing it.
If you get stumped, look it up. BMW writes one in English.
There are, of course, all of the premium features you'd expect on the X6 M: The standard glass roof, the dual climate zones in front -- and you can get dual climate zones in the second row too.
There's a heads-up display that includes navigation guidance, cruise control settings and, of course, your speed. There are automatic high beams that adjust to oncoming traffic.
Then there is the back-up camera system. This provides a bird's eye view of the vehicle and everything around it. It comes on automatically when you put the vehicle in reverse and can be turned on when you select the parking distance control button. It's excellent for seeing what's right in front of you as well, such as pulling into a tight space or a garage.
Driving the X6 M changed the way I looked at this vehicle.
Some of that gangly look disappeared as the vehicle's performance matured my perception. It has a toughness, a meanness too that it didn't have before. It may not be pretty or sexy, but it's certainly handsome in the same way Tom Petty is handsome.
Hirschfield would, no doubt, be proud of the way I grew during a week of testing the X6 M.
It still may only seat four people, but my advice is to just not be the fifth person invited to ride in it.
The X6 M earns its M badge by what it can do, not by how it looks.
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Exterior: Good. Angular design is smart and clean and stance is aggressive. Subtle M badges only add to the mystique.
Interior: Excellent. Both rows provide about the same comfort, which is excellent. Lots of techy features that fit in with the stunning design.
Performance: Excellent: From the extra cool rear view back-up system to the 555 horsepower, the X6 M is one of the biggest sports cars around.
Pros: Excellent handling, great steering and tons of power.
Cons: A price tag that tops $90,000.
**** Excellent *** Good ** Fair * Poor