Behind the Wheel
2020 BMW X6 M Competition Review: Brawny big brother stands out for all the right reasons
When a kid in the school yard is bigger and stronger than all the others, it's often thought that they're a bully. The sheer brawn of the person makes them stand out on matter how much they try to fit in, even if deep down, despite their athletic prowess, they're just a gentle giant. That's pretty much the story of the 2020 BMW X6 M Competition.
It's the largest of the high-riding hatchback-style sports activity vehicles that BMW sells and it's easy to think of it as the SUV opposite of the BMW X7, which is noted for its long body and three rows of seating. If you're picturing a slightly larger version of the BMW X4, you'd be on the right path.
The SUV is more of a high-riding hatchback than what you'd typically think of as a sport utility vehicle.Photo courtesy of BMW
The model was redesigned for 2020 giving it more width and length, and a longer wheelbase. It's also an inch shorter. The result is a muscular vehicle that isn't horribly attractive, but it's not the ugliest in the BMW lineup either thanks to the design of the new 4 Series Coupe. It gets the full M design treatment, complete with blacked out exterior elements that are traditionally covered with chrome, like the fenders, mirror caps, tailpipes, badging, and rear diffuser.
The X6 M Competition's twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine is a beast delivering 617 horsepower, 553 pound-feet of torque, and dismal fuel economy (15 mpg combined). But, it can get from zero to 60 seconds in 3.7 seconds so the trade off with Mother Earth's ozone layer almost feels worth it, especially when you're pressing the limits of acceptable speed heading into a corner only to have the model stick the pavement like a champ.
The elegant shifter pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission to deliver smooth shifts but moving the SUV into Sport mode and utilizing the paddle shifters is why you're spending the extra tens of thousands on this particular X6. Go for it. Enjoy.
BMW's standard center console experience works well here too.Photo courtesy of BMW
Together, the beef and the brawn make sense - they're complimentary, well-engineered, and typically BMW.
The X6's interior is rather ordinary for the BMW family. There's no design risks, bold strokes, or surprises. With as much effort as was put into the powertrain and drive dynamics, it falls flat, tumbling right from the BMW playbook, despite the best efforts of the SUV's glossy carbon fiber accents and two-tone quilted leather upholstery.
That's not to say that it's too perfectly functional to be good. BMW routinely delivers one of the best user experiences for in-cabin tech and that continues in the X6. The finely crafted interior features materials befitting the car's price tag (starting at $117,600) and it delivers a quiet drive experience when your foot isn't toying with the accelerator.
The cabin is appropriately refined.Photo courtesy of BMW
Along with BMW's finely-tuned engine performance comes BMW's finely-tuned stopping power. This was, unfortunately, put to the test as I made my way through my neighborhood in a classic scenario where a ball rolled out into the street and was followed by a small child who didn't look to see if there was a car coming. A quick swerve, a slam on the brakes, a little curb rash on one of the SUV's standard 21-inch wheels, and the ball and child were safe.
While many cars could perform this type of behavior, it's important to note that safety technology didn't step in during this scenario, despite the X6 being loaded up with BMW's latest and greatest. It was up to human engagement. The model, despite being engineered for exhilarating performance on a track at high speed, is just as good performing in mundane life scenarios, like stopping quickly at low speed.
The model is available with offset 21-inch wheels up front and 22-inchers at the rear.Photo courtesy of BMW
That ying and yang is the anthesis of the X6, really. It's the brawny big brother in the crowd who isn't afraid to let its more gentle soul show through when required.