Four hours. In total I spent four hours sitting, stationary, in a 2020 BMW X6 M50i, inhaling the musk of its rich black leather, fiddling with all sorts of random menu settings, adjusting the seat just so, and listening to the “caring car music” selection on the infotainment screen, on a random Tuesday in December. All because my nine-month-old boy, Benji, didn’t seem interested in waking up.
(Full Disclosure: I wanted to drive a car, BMW loaned us this one. It was left in a parking garage in Manhattan for me to pick up with a full tank of fuel.)
The thing that you have to understand about Benji is that he’s great in every way, except that he’s not a great sleeper. Never has been, and I pray to the heavens that someday he will be. Every time some other parent tells me that their darling little Petunia or Horatio or whatever has been sleeping through the night since before conception, I want to punch their big dumb smug face.
For the first five months of his wonderful little life, I would get home from work around 7 p.m., at which point I would immediately take over childcare duties from my wife, who was on maternity leave. She’d been up with him since two in the morning because that’s when her shift started.
The minute I got home, she’d pop a melatonin gummy, and try to get a few precious hours of slumber, before having to get up at the obscene hour of 2 a.m. to start the whole thing over again. We put his bassinet in the living room of our one-bedroom apartment, so that the person who was off shift could maybe get a little sleep. Maybe.
Benji would sleep for half an hour at a time, or an hour if we were lucky. Some nights he wouldn’t sleep in his bassinet at all, owing to digestive issues despite all the fanciest formula we could find. We’d have to sit there on the couch in our living room holding him upright for hours while he slept, periodically getting up to pace with him back and forth across the living room in the darkness, gently singing and rocking him back to sleep.
And that’s if he didn’t need an emergency diaper change at some point, which led to all sorts of midnight screaming.
When he turned five months old, it seemed to better. To this day I’m not really sure how it happened, but all of a sudden there was a 50/50 chance he’d sleep through the night. We’d put him to sleep around 7:30 in the evening, and he’d wake up around 6:30 the next morning. Some nights he’d still wake up two or three times over the course of the night, but after months of CIA-level sleep deprivation torture tactics, it was a huge relief.
And then teething started. And then the eight-month sleep regression started. And then daycare started, which meant an endless stream of sickness for weeks at a time, where he’d be back to waking up multiple times in the evening, either because his nose was so stuffed he couldn’t breathe, or because his ears hurt with infection, or because he needed to puke.
After only about a month of a 50/50 chance of him sleeping for 11 hours straight, we’re back to a mom and dad with bloodshot eyes and foggy brains. Even then, I’m not the one puking and unable to breathe with achy ears, so I knew he had it unimaginably worse.
Which is why I was sitting in that BMW, outside our house, or in a shopping mall parking garage, or outside the coffee shop, unable to open a door or scratch my nose or move a muscle, mostly just listening to my son breathe, lest he wake up. The man needed sleep.
We were running around all over the suburbs on a random Tuesday because his day care was closed due to, I kid you not, rain. I guess they were worried it might get icy or something and shut the whole place down, but it was just rain. They closed the local schools, too, which also meant they closed the local libraries, which meant that all the potential playgroups were canceled.
It was my turn to take a day off of work and watch him, and a big bruiser of a BMW with 523 HP and 553 lb-ft of torque sounded like a much better time for the both of us than sitting at home, staring at each other and the same set of toys for 12 hours straight until we both went insane with cabin fever.
I know, I know, the X6M might be a better choice for the Automotive Enthusiast™, but even without a baby, I tend to prefer the skim milk version of the M cars these days over the full-fat ones. Sacrilege, of course, but they’re just better to drive and live with on anywhere that isn’t a track.
Is the brawny, beefy, and bold 617 horsepower of the wild X6M Competition more fun than the piddly, weak, and cowardly 523 horses in the X6 M50i? I guess, if you’re strictly a digits person, who also prefers to live in a 12,000 square foot manse in the middle of nowhere where none of your friends ever come to visit you because your entire standard of “fun” is “me like big numbers.”
But gimme those 523 horses any day of the week. Even with a monumental estimated curb weight of around 5,200 pounds, once you start getting into the 600s you start running into some practical difficulties. “Oh, I would very much like to see what happens when I press this pedal all the way to the floor,” you say, but before you even get halfway through the travel you’ve been arrested for reckless steering of a whole building or whatever and you’re in jail and your large BMW has been impounded.
It doesn’t help things that the X6M has suspension stiffer than diamonds and wheels with approximately the same diameter as the sun (22 inches, to be precise), so if you’re going to be driving anywhere that isn’t perfectly smooth all the time always, be prepared to spend many days sitting on the side of the road while shelling out fistfuls of cash for new wheels and tires. And we haven’t even gotten to what it does to your back.
So yeah, give me the M-lite. The X6 M50i, even though it’s not the truly crazy one in the X6 lineup, while not uncomfortable, is still stiff in comfort mode. It will still punch the front of your face into the back of your face, with a manufacturer’s estimated zero to 60 mph time of 3.8 seconds. And it will still make a great twin-turbo V8 noise, albeit piped through the speakers like pretty much every fast BMW nowadays.
It’s just a lot more usable. Especially when you have a baby.
Now I’m not saying everyone with a BMW X6 M50i will be sporting an infant in tow, especially considering the financial pain that this one’s $99,645 purchase price brings. Maybe you’ve got a trust fund, or whatever.
But I was genuinely shocked at how good of a baby wagon this thing actually was. I went into it expecting it to just be a miserable week, begging for my Lexus wagon back. This one was also equipped with the 22-inch wheels, this one had the X6’s silly sloping roof, and this one had a suspension that, like I said, can still be a bit stiff.
For all that, however, it went better than I thought. The wheels didn’t shatter, and while the sloping roof made getting Benji over the high sill of his car seat a little more clunky than usual, it wasn’t impossible. And that suspension, for all of its slight firmness, lulled him into a deeper sleep than I could’ve thought possible. Two hours in the morning, a half-hour in the afternoon, and then another hour and a half from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
His car seat meant that he wasn’t coddled in the surprisingly soft leather himself, but maybe the wealthy aromas filled his little nostrils, letting him relax. Maybe the perfume bottle in the glove box, which BMW claims will leave behind some sort of scent even though I couldn’t detect it, provided an easing of his own tensions. Maybe the 523 horsepower, which I had to use ever so carefully to prevent his chin smacking into his chest, gave him just the distraction he needed to snooze away.
Which meant that getting him to bed on time was its own nightmare. But that was my problem, not the BMW’s.