Exploring Tasmania’s South in the X6 M Competition

We take the fastest and most expensive BMW SUV ever made for a drive, and prove that pointless cars may just have a point.

Photos: Grace Uziallo

Have you ever answered a question that nobody ever asked? Explaining your answer to a captivated audience might seem routine at first, but soon enough, you might start to realise that those who haven’t lost your attention are now staring at you with a strange look on their face.

BMW answered that question that nobody asked in 2008 with the X6 which introduced an entire new vehicle category we all know as the SUV coupe; and despite all the stares and controversy, it’s clear that they really don’t care about the negativity.

A menacing front end.

Although you’d be a bit embarrassed after speaking, BMW certainly doesn’t feel that way. After a decade and two whole generations of a car that nobody asked for (and no we aren’t talking about the PT Cruiser Convertible), say hello to the new 2020 BMW X6 M Competition.

With a base price of $213,900, the one we tested was equipped with a range of optional extras, bringing up the total to a hefty $228,725. Pitching itself against other SUV coupes ranging from the Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe to the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, BMW’s new leviathan is far from public-spirited.

A stylish coupe rear design.

Our trip took us along a beautiful forest/coastal road near Tasmania’s southern tip, one we’d like to call a short and sweet version of the southern New South Wales coastline.

The first thing we noticed after embarking was it’s sheer size and height off the ground; and this sprung a common military vehicle to mind – a tank. However, as we were soon to discover, the X6 M Competition is anything but a tank.

Factory black-pack, standard on Competition models.

Sporting a familiar fuel-guzzling 4.4L twin-turbo V8 engine from it’s saloon cousin, the X6 M Competition packs the same devilish 460kW (617 hp) of power and 750Nm of torque as the M5 Competition, propelling it from a standstill to 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds – and you feel it.

Coming out of corners, the power potential is always within grasp – unleashed by a mere tap of the throttle. If the pedal is pushed any further and the auto-box downshifts, a moment of suspense would be felt, followed by something we cannot describe other than immense acceleration.

Electronic instruments in Sport Plus mode centrally positions vehicle speed and current gear.

Gear changes prove extremely smooth when left in fully automatic drive mode; and with a setting specifically made for fast and harsh shifts, downshifting with paddles proves to be a very satisfying experience. With a flick of the gear-lever to the right, the designated mode changes from ‘d’ to ‘s’, and full manual-shift mode is engaged. Unlike some automatic transmissions, the gearbox refuses to upshift by itself at the limiter – and although we do like this feature, it remains our only gripe. Being a ZF 8-speed, shifts feel as fast and refined as you would expect from a brand new M car; but in full-manual mode, it lacks ever-so-slightly on the response from paddles during acceleration, especially when compared to a DCT gearbox you’d find in a car like an M4.

Although it’s an SUV, BMW hasn’t forgotten about aerodynamics.

To give you an idea of this – starting from first gear at full throttle, there is a millisecond window to click the ‘up’ paddle before the engine reaches its 7,200rpm redline, and although this is part in-due to the high revving nature of the engine, the slight delay in response of the manual gear change could easily be felt. Therefore, we often found ourselves sticking to the automatic mode and letting the computer decide the upshifts, especially when accelerating from a standstill. We still respect BMW’s decision however, as the torque converter proves to be a more reliable choice than a DCT, especially when considering the engine’s substantial power output.

These wheels may look tiny, but they are far from small. It’s the car that’s big.

With a kerb weight of 2295kg, you might expect that for a car so large and heavy, handling wouldn’t be in its repertoire – however, you’d be somewhat a fool for thinking that. With front/rear staggered 295/315 wide Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres and 21/22 inch wheels respectively, the car grips onto the road like a boa constrictor grips onto prey; and quite surprisingly – corners can be taken with unbelievable speed. It’s like a Dreamworld ride on rails.

BMW Laser headlights.

Assisted through each turn with a clever rear differential, active roll bars and beyond powerful brakes, the M in X6 M has made understeer a thing of the past. Adaptive dampers as opposed to air-suspension is a suprising choice, ditching luxury and smooth ride quality for driving dynamics, so if you’re a chauffer or just in the market for an aggressive-looking SUV, this isn’t the car for you. The full-fleged M car is not built with soccer mums and businessmen in mind – and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.

A picturesque sunset in Hobart.

Through an array of customisable of drive modes, the X6 M Competition can be fine-tuned to suit exactly the driver’s needs, from suspension stiffness and gearbox shift points to throttle and surprisingly – brake response. We’ll admit, we were too busy enjoying the twisty roads of Southern Tasmania to try out all the refinement options. Luckily for us, there are several preset drive modes available which were ample for the trip.

BMW individual bi-colour Merino leather seats.

Whilst the M division worked its magic on the performance, BMW has been hard at work on the interior, remaining true to its luxury roots. The seats enshrouded us as we pushed through tight corners, and kept our limbs still and intact during hard acceleration. The interior itself is dotted with carbon fibre trim, and for those who forget what car they’re in, don’t worry, BMW’s got that one covered too. Attention to small details means that BMW hasn’t missed a spot of quality on the inside, even if it means littering the cabin with M badges.

A stylish interior.

In terms of technology, driver assistance packages are available onboard, including impressive autonomous drive modes and parking aids. The dual 12.3-inch onboard displays are crystal clear and customisable to a large degree, and the heads-up display helped us manage our speed more than we’re willing to admit.

The exterior design may be controversial to some.

Fast and bulky SUV’s have always lacked in the handling department; flaunting heavy V8’s and straight-line performance whilst losing all their authority around the slightest of corners. Despite the fact that the seats are a bit high up and the car is now larger than ever before, the new X6 M Competition is here to redefine the luxury sports utility vehicle, giving us an experience that truly left us astonished for days ahead.

An SUV that puts others to shame – it’s niche, but you really have to drive it to believe it.

Contentious to some, but the X6 M Competition redefines the SUV.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

AutoNews Australia

Special thanks to Casey Price, Senior Sales Executive at Hobart BMW for providing the vehicle, and Grace Uziallo for the photography.

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