In recent years, the prevailing trend for automakers has been to downsize engines, add hybrid powertrains and engineer their overall lineups to be lighter and more efficient in the face of rising gas prices and government mandates.

This, however, is not one of those kinds of cars. Not even close.

The 2013 BMW X6 M is a big, burly, fast, heavy, expensive and powerful SUV that guzzles fuel like a college student inhales beer on spring break. And it's not the only vehicle out there like this. The performance SUV segment contains more members than you may think. Along with the X6 M are cars like the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, Ford Explorer Sport, Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG and Porsche Cayenne Turbo, all of which boast massive horsepower numbers and sporty handling dynamics and looks.

On paper, the X6 M's performance looks impressive. Its 4.4L twin-turbo V8 produces 555 horsepower, 500 lb-ft of torque and allows the car to sprint from 0-60 mph in just 5.1 seconds. In addition, it utilizes an adaptive sport suspension and BMW's intelligent all-wheel drive system and it comes with all of the expertise and experience that goes into engineering BMW's "M" line of performance products.

But this vehicle costs a lot. And not just to buy. In addition to its $92,900 sticker price, X6 M buyers can expect to feel the pain of a dismal 14 combined mpg coupled with about $4.50 for a gallon of premium gas (depending on your location). With a 22 gallon tank, that means filling up the X6 M costs nearly $100 each time. Ouch.

I sold some stock in order to pay for a drive down to Southern California for the Memorial Day weekend. (No, really. I did.) I figured a 5 hour jaunt each way would determine whether the fun of the X6 M's performance and power were enough to make up for what I see as its inherent impracticality. The verdict? Read on to find out.

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The Basics

Sticker Price: $92,900
Invoice Price: $85,470

As Tested Price: $100,895

Engine: 4.4L twin-turbo V8

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Performance: 555 horsepower, 500 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds

Fuel Economy: 12 mpg city, 17 mpg highway

Seating: 5 people (technically)

Cargo Capacity: 59.7 cubic feet

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Exterior Design

I'm not going to sugar coat it: This is an ugly car. The X6 M is designed to be what BMW calls a Sports Activity Coupe. What this means is that the exterior of the car reflects a combination of a coupe (even though it has four doors) and an SUV. This results in a large, awkward and aggressive looking vehicle with a weird sloping roof and a rear end that comes to a point. From the side, it kind of looks like a muscular duck.

The outside of the X6 M does do a good job at portraying its powerful nature, though. The raised hood hints at the giant engine contained underneath and its aggressive stance and big wheels all let onlookers know just how athletic this vehicle is on the road.

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Interior

Inside the X6 M, things are much more aesthetically pleasing. It's not a conventional luxury interior, in that there isn't any wood grain paneling or seat massagers. But this is a very comfortable place to be. I spent about 12 hours in this car total over the course of my road trip and even though its sport-tuned suspension provides a stiffer ride than most luxury SUVs, I found that I experienced very little driver fatigue.

The seats are designed for more aggressive driving, meaning they're not as plush as you might expect, but they're far from uncomfortable. They provided good support, especially when cornering hard at high speeds (which is what you're supposed to do with this thing). Engine and road noise is also negligible, which is impressive considering how big the engine is and how fast this vehicle can go.

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Passenger And Cargo Space

Passenger room is good, for the most part. Head and shoulder room are more than adequate up front. Leg room is acceptable in the back, although taller rear seat passengers will feel claustrophobic when it comes to head room. The sloped roof makes things a little tight up there.

The X6 M only realistically seats four people total. There's an area for a fifth passenger in the back in between the two bucket seats, but no one is going to enjoy being in that spot.

Cargo capacity is rated at 59.7 feet. It's not great for an SUV. You won't have a problem fitting suitcases or groceries, but you'll need a different vehicle for some of the bigger ticket items at your local hardware superstore. That said, it's a $100,000 car. If you're planning to haul lumber in it, you might have to adjust your expectations.

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Driving Dynamics

As you probably guessed, the X6 M is fast. Very fast. Floor the gas pedal and it feels like you're taking off in a 767, your stomach dropping due to the 500 lb-ft of torque. Going from a complete stop to 60 mph takes the blink of an eye, even in spite of the X6 M's hefty 5,324 lb curb weight. Though the cabin is whisper quiet, the deep bellow of the twin-turbo V8 still seeps in and it makes your hair stand on end (BMW helps amp up the drama by pumping the engine noise into the cabin through the speakers). I love this engine. I wanted to pay to have it removed and take it home with me so I could admire it while sipping a nice Grenache. It's that beautiful.

For the most part, it handles very well. Its sporty suspension and steering make it very responsive to driver input. But, at times, it becomes obvious that it's a very heavy vehicle -- namely around tighter corners. I think this is a result of its center of gravity being too high. It weighs only about 100 pounds more than the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, which I drove right after the X6 M, but it just doesn't seem to tackle tight corners at high speeds as well. The high center of gravity makes it feel slightly sluggish, like there's a few inches of mud on the road that you're trying to plow through.

Despite this being tuned to be a super sporty ride, it's pretty nice to drive for long periods of time on the freeway. You definitely feel more of the bumps on the road than you would in a smooth-rolling crossover like a Lexus RX, but I had no complaints about the way it drove over rough highway. And, believe me, I put a lot of highway behind me on this trip.

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Tech And Infotainment

The X6 M's infotainment system is called BMW ConnectedDrive. It's a little clunky at first, but once you get the hang of using the knob to navigate folders, I think the system works pretty well. Optional features include remote- control functions and Real-Time Traffic Information, BMW TeleServices and integration of mobile devices.

The X6 M also employs a great heads up display (HUD), which shows your speed and turn-by-turn directions on the windshield. While I think it's both a convenient and safe feature to include, there is a big flaw: You can't see it while wearing sunglasses with polarized lenses, which X6 M buyers are almost certainly going to be wearing. This renders the feature almost entirely useless during day driving if you have nice shades.

To be fair, this same problem occurs with HUDs in cars like the Chevrolet Corvette. Someone needs to address it. Until it's fixed, you'll need a cheap pair of sunglasses to wear while driving your six-figure car.

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Bottom Line

After my road trip with the X6 M, I was still a little torn on how I truly felt about it. On the one hand, it's not really practical or versatile. The backseat is fairly cramped, cargo capacity isn't great, it costs a ton of money, it's ugly and fuel economy is atrocious (I spent well over $200).

On the other hand, it's just so much fun to drive. BMW rarely disappoints when it comes to driving dynamics and in spite of it feeling heavy on some tighter corners, it's absolutely astounding to be behind the wheel, even if it's just for a quick jaunt to the supermarket. The reality is there aren't that many cars out there that evoke this kind of primal feeling within when the engine turns on anymore. That's worth a lot, in my opinion.

But is it worth the money? Getting back to the question I posed at the beginning of this review: Is X6 M's performance and power were enough to make up for what I see as its inherent impracticality? It depends on the kind of buyer you are. This car fails as an SUV considering it lacks any real versatility, only seating 4 people and coming equipped with a relatively small cargo area. If you're shopping for a luxury SUV, I would definitely point you in another direction.

But it more than succeeds as a sports car. I even think that the hefty price tag is worth the amount of power, technology and engineering genius that come with this vehicle. It's an utter delight to drive, guaranteed to put a smile on your face and goosebumps on your skin. If you're looking for something fast, furious and a little different, give this a drive.

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