Why does BMW make the X6? Why is it called a "Sports Activity Coupe" when it has four doors? Why would anyone think that a sloping roof looks good on an SUV? Why would buyers want a vehicle with SUV ride height but far less practicality?
Further, why would they make an M version of such a vehicle? Why would they give it the twin-turbo V8 engine from the M5, with 567 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque? Why would they make it go from a stop to 60 mph in just four seconds? Why would BMW make it, as they like to say, fit for a run on the Nordschleife?
After driving it, I have decided this is the wrong way to think about the X6 M. When you talk about this unusual car, the question isn't "Why?," it's "Why not?"
(Full disclosure: BMW needed me to drive the X6 M so badly they invited me out to Circuit of the Americas to hoon it hard with a bunch of international motoring journalists. I was the only American on the trip, so I gave everyone suggestions about barbecue, firearms and freedom.)
Now on its second generation, the X6 M is brand new for this year, and it's as perplexing as ever.
The tough thing about the X6 M is that it defies categorization, so it's hard for us to know what to expect from it. You drive a Nissan Versa, it's a subcompact sedan; you expect it to be slow and cheap. You drive a Corvette, it's a sports car, so you know it's going to be fast at the expense of normality. You drive a Ford Escape, it's a crossover, so it should be roomy and better on road than off.
It's very hard to fit the X6 in to all these categories we have, let alone its hopped-up M version. Its sibling, the X5 M, is much easier to figure out. It's big, it's practical, it can haul stuff and it can haul ass, because it has the same mighty engine.
I do get why they launched the X6 M here. It's the most Texan car in BMW's lineup. It's big, it's brash, it's powerful, it's expensive — the base price is $102,100! — and it makes a grand statement. Specifically, it's very Dallas. The only way it could be more Texan is if it had a bed, a tailgate and a trim level called King Ranch Edition.
Technically, the X6 M is a car Jalops should dig, because it's weird and also very fast, two things we like. Probably the reasons we don't are the polarizing looks, the price tag, and the fact that an X6 buyer is probably insufferable to at least some degree.
Or you're just not convinced the X6 M is special. What if I told you it has an oil sump system that allows it to hit hit up to 1.2 g without creating a problem for the engine's oil supply? That it has mixed-size Pirelli P Zero tires front and rear to create the ideal combo of steering feel and traction? That its radiators are designed for track duty? That it has launch control?
You still probably don't care. Which is fine, because it's not my job to sell you this car, merely to tell you it's better than you realize.
It's almost certainly a visual improvement over its predecessor, which looked like an X5 that had been in an unfortunate rollover accident. With its wide haunches and sleek, swooping lines, this new X6 looks like what the designers were probably going for all along. Each of our testers in Austin came in a bright, ostentatious color called Long Beach Blue. It's quite striking in that shade; good or bad, it's definitely a car you stare at for a while.
Inside the X6 M, there is leather. All the leather, I think. So many cows died to make this happen. Our cars' brown Merino leather had an almost orange shade that makes it stand out just as much as the exterior does. Befitting its price tag, it's vastly more premium-feeling than the 228i I drove later that day.
At the same time, the X6 doesn't have an interior where everything is easy to work and figure out; no one will get inside and say "Oh yeah, this makes total sense." Between the iDrive knob, the limited selection of center panel buttons, and the fact that the wonky gear selector doesn't even have a park button or position, the learning curve is a steep one.
So what's it like to drive? Damn quick. Acceleration from the M5-sourced, twin-turbo V8 is abundant, even downright violent when you mash the throttle. We may be jaded in the Era of Hellcat, but I still think it's incredibly impressive when a 5,185-pound car moves from a stop to 60 mph in just four seconds.
It's never manic or uncivilized, though. All that power comes on only when you command it to, like when you require triple digit speeds on the Autobahn or 85 mph on Texas' State Highway 130 toll road.
It's a big, Teutonic land missile on the highway, and on the winding back roads around Austin, the power never makes the car feel so crazy that it can get away from you.
When you do get on the power you're treated to a bellowing baritone from the twin-turbo V8. Even if it's piped in through the speakers these days, it makes a great, addicting sound, and the exhaust note is loud enough at speed that it made quite the symphony running laps around Circuit of the Americas later that day.
Out on the back roads, the X6 M is as close to a corner-carver as a hefty SUV can be, really. It stays pretty flat in the corners, and while I wouldn't call it tail-happy, the rear bias in the all-wheel drive system is readily apparent. The compound brakes, with large six-piston fixed callipers at the front and single-piston floating callipers at the rear, are supremely confident.
Want some M toys? It's got plenty. There's three modes of stability control, as well as adjustable dampers, throttle control and steering. Hitting the M1 button on the steering wheel puts most of those into "sport" mode, and if you want to go even further you hit M2 — it's so hardcore you have to punch it twice to confirm you're hardcore enough to drive it.
But my biggest gripe with the X6 M lies with its electric steering. The X-cars used to have steering as good as any BMW, and now they seem to have all the negative qualities that come with going electric. It may have fancy staggered tire sizes, but the steering is still too numb, too artificial-feeling.
Mind you, it's direct at communicating your inputs, especially in the more sporting settings, but it always kind of feels like a video game wheel. It's not as good as the steering on that 228i, and many critics (not me, I think it's fine) have called it out for being vague and lifeless.
I capped off my test of the X6 M with a six-lap run around COTA following Marco Wittmann, 2014's DTM driver's champion, also in an X6 M. I struggled to keep up with him for two reasons: 1.) He is a highly successful, highly talented racing driver and 2.) I am not. Hauling the X6 M's mass through the corners is a trip, but I still got it up to about 130 mph on the Circuit's back straight.
The experience taught me that believe it or not, this X6 M is good enough for track duty. No, it's not directly derived from a motorsports program, but most M cars haven't been that way in a while. Instead it's a high-level car, one that takes talent and bravery to master in a competitive setting. It's not for fools. As modern M is more AMG-ish than ever, this car deserves that M badge.
In the end, it was hard for me not to like the X6 M on some level. It's too well-executed not to. Personally, I'd opt for the X5 M for the same power and ability with seven extra cubic feet of cargo space and several extra inches of front and rear headroom.
Who's going to buy the X6 M? The people who want one, who have the means and don't ask "Why?" when they look at it. I'll hold out for my King Ranch Edition, though.