2009 BMW X6 Expert Review:Autoblog
You know things have gone awry when BMW now offers three different flavors of non-cars, all of them antithetical to the Bavarian brand's classical claim to fame. The X6 is the latest addition to the range, joining the X3 and X5, and BMW is calling it a Sports Activity Coupe, creating an acronym that's oddly prescient for a vehicle that's essentially a post-bris X5. Beyond the looks that are an acquired taste, we wanted to know if there's BMW goodness baked into the X6, so we swiped the keys to an X6 XDrive 35i for a week with the SAC to find out.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.
Recent BMW styling has been a study in how much ugly consumers will accept if it's wearing a Roundel. The X6 looks like two different vehicles, each individually cool, yet when merged add up to a pile of automotive offal. The fastback roofline would befit a coupey looking sedan; married as it is to an extra chunky lower body, it recalls the unloved Pontiac Aztek, a comparison we heard more than once during the X6's visit.
Climbing aboard might reward one with a crack to the temple from the rakish A-pillar. Back seat passengers are also shorted slightly on headroom by the fast hatch angle. The sportish appearance also limits usefulness in the cargo area for taller items. Interior volume is only down about 5 cubic feet when compared to the squarer X5, though neither vehicle is an example of space efficiency. The X6's gigantic gluteus region appears useful, but a
grocery outing ended with the tragic loss of two eggs, a first for a garage visitor. Oh, and whomever dreamt up the two-position hatch, which defaults to the "bash your forehead" level and requires a tediously-executed bounce before it will raise all the way, deliver that person a beating.
Appointments inside are BMW fare – rich looking and quality feeling. If the seats are any indication, Germans like to have their rumps coddled. Multifunction switches set motors whirring away somewhere deep inside the seat, allowing front seat occupants to dial up lumbar relief and proper support. Muted accents of brushed metal and dark wood dress up what would otherwise be a deep, dark cavern; the main color inside is schwarz.
Having iDrive facilitates a relatively clean panel, and the center stack in the X6 has buttonry for the most commonly used controls. Smartly, radio volume and HVAC temperature controls are on rotary dials, though a rocker switch for fan speed mars the experience slightly. Many, many other functions are accessible with the iDrive's multifunction knob and a trip through more menus than a call to the cable company. While the endless layers of functions have been retuned for more user friendliness, it's still somewhat inscrutable. X6 buyers will be thrilled with a complex in-car-electronics setup sporting a navigation system that's bested by those in cars costing thousands less. Perfect. The misery makes it more desirable, you know. One thing we did appreciate is that the nav can be programmed while on the move, allowing our co-pilot to plug in destinations without us having to stop.
The 35i version of the X6 is powered by BMW's much lauded 300-horsepower twin-turbo inline-six, which copes admirably with 5,000 pounds of burden. Hooked up to a six-speed automatic, the powertrain is beyond reproach. There is a twin-turbo V8 version, the 50i, but that's just wheeled insanity. Driving the X6 is simple once you learn how BMW thinks it should be done. Grab the shifter, which feels exactly like the handle of a Conair
curling iron, and select your gear with toylike action. Other than an aloof shifter, the rest of the driving experience lives up to the badging.
It takes courage to fling this much mass around, but the X6 can take it. 5,000 pounds have never danced better. Torque vectoring pushes the engine's 300 pound-feet around across the rear axle, making the most of available traction to effectively lay the power down. Electronics in unlikely drivetrain components gets the swaybars and shock absorbers into the act, as both are active systems. Despite the Bolshoi moves when pushed, the X6 feels like it's tripping over its feet with the large wheel and tire upgrade package that ours wore. Wide cross-sections make the X6 a strong tramliner, giving the steering wheel a mind of its own, and narrower, taller tires would smooth out the ride, which is firm.
The X6 doesn't carry out everyday tasks any better than other stylish CUVs; the Infiniti FX and Ford Edge spring readily to mind. Buyers seeking more practicality will likely head for the X5, while the X6 doesn't compromise much from its sibling if form trumps function. All of the expected electronics are packed into the X6, which the hardcore fans will defend to the death, and the rest of us will let pass with a "not that bad." Not everyone will get the X6, but then again, it's not for everyone. Judging from the price, it's only for the legally blind or fiercely brand loyal willing to burn cash or available credit on a vehicle that's less filling than its Hungry-Man mass suggests.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.
I must be missing the gene that makes high-riding vehicles appealing to so many other people. As a car enthusiast and an engineer, I can certainly appreciate the performance that companies like BMW and Infiniti have managed to wrangle from vehicles like the X6 and the EX35. But there is absolutely nothing in the new 2009 BMW X6 that couldn't be done better in a vehicle with a normal car-like ride height. After all, who is going off-roading in one of these? The best explanation I could get out of BMW officials for the existence of the X6 is that many drivers like that commanding view of their surroundings that the elevated altitude provides.
According to BMW, the X6 is designed to provide stylish coupe looks with the high performance people expect of a BMW and the utility of an SUV. As is so often the case, vehicles that try to fit too many categories at once end up not fitting any of them very well. It's not all bad news for the new X6, though. While it's not my cup of tea, there are undoubtedly some who will love this beast. Read on after the jump to find out if the X6 is something you might want in your garage.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.
The brand from Munich is hosting the world's automotive press in several waves this week at its U.S. manufacturing base in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The purpose of this gathering is the driving launch of this latest product for a niche no one knew existed. BMW calls the X6 a Sport Activity Coupe, and given that the market seems to be accepting the idea of four-door coupes, that part is at least plausible. In the light of day, the X6 actually appears more visually appealing than it did under the auto show lights at Cobo Hall in January when we first saw the production version. BMW actually started building the X6 the same week it debuted in January and has now completed the ramp up to full production.
The basic shape of the X6 catches your eye with its sloping roof-line and a surface that captures light at various angles. The creases in that surface provide visual interest without looking like the clash of ideas that some of the earlier Bangle-era BMWs had. There are none of the odd cut-lines or seemingly randomly tacked on visual elements like the trunk of the current 7-series. The tall stance afforded by the big wheels gives the appearance of a vehicle that could enter the Dakar rally. With the luxury interior gutted and some sand tires, the X6 would look right at home racing across the Sahara, much like the Porsche 959 did in the late '80s.
However, we did not come to South Carolina to drive the X6 in the desert. Instead, we paired off and BMW provided each of us with keys to either an X6 xDrive35i or X6 xDrive50i. By the way, we talked to BMW about that new nomenclature and how clumsy it is. Although they acknowledge that the names are longer than might be desirable, they wanted the name to reflect the powertrain combination and fully expect people to refer to their cars as X5, X6 etc. But I digress. Lou Ann Hammond from Carlist.com and I set off in a white 35i on a 150-mile route set up by BMW to let us evaluate the X6 in a variety of conditions.
The test route meandered northwest from Greenville, South Carolina up into the mountains through Caesar's Head State Park and on to Brevard, North Carolina. Along the way we passed through Table Rock State Park. In the mountains we encountered plenty of serpentine pavement where we were able to thoroughly exercise the sporting pretensions of the X6. The 35i we had was propelled by the same twin turbo 3.0L inline-six that has provided such fine service in recent 3- and 5-Series models. Neither of those cars, however, have to haul around quite as much mass as the X6. The 35i weighs in at 4,728 lbs. empty.
BMW claims a 0-60 time of 6.7 seconds from the 306-hp, 295 lb-ft six-cylinder. While that is certainly plausible on level ground, accelerating uphill out of a tight turn has the engine feeling like it's working pretty hard. It never really felt slow, but it certainly didn't feel relaxed. The X6 has a pretty sophisticated drivetrain with a torque vectoring xDrive system that sends power not only to the corners that have grip, but can also redirect it to help the vehicle turn in on corners. Electronically controlled clutches on either side of the rear differential assign the torque much like Acura's Super Handling-All Wheel Drive. Unlike the Acura system that disengages under braking, the BMW set up works all the time.
Adaptive damping and anti-roll control help keep the X6 relatively parallel to the ground even under hard cornering. However, even the most sophisticated chassis hardware can't change the laws of physics. The X6 is a two and a half ton vehicle, the antithesis of everything the late Colin Chapman stood for. He would have been appalled at the thought of calling something so heavy a sport vehicle. For something this porky, however, it was amazingly nimble.
One driver on our ride did manage to find the limits, though, as a cold fog descended on the mountain region we were driving through. As the temperature dipped into the low 30s, he approached a corner a little too hot and slid off the road. Fortunately, the only injury was too the X6, but it served as a reminder that physics will always win. Nonetheless, the six-cylinder X6 proved to be reasonably well balanced even if you could feel all of that weight.
From Brevard we turned back south eventually ending up in Laurens, South Carolina, home to Michelin's U.S. proving ground. At the track we got to swap for a 50i powered by BMW's new 4.4L twin-turbo V8. This new engine is unusually compact thanks to packaging that stuffs the two turbochargers into the valley between the banks. Direct injection puts the premium gas straight into the combustion chamber, and the engine is able to use a 10:1 compression ratio without worries of pre-ignition. The bottom line is 407 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque.
Unfortunately, the extra ability to increase velocity also comes with an extra 300 lbs, most of which sits over the front axle. At the Michelin facility, there were both wet and dry tracks set up that included slalom and double lane change sections. On those agility tests, the X6 was surprisingly adept, changing direction and avoiding obstacles easily. However, when pushed hard on the track, the V8-powered X6 understeered more than the the six-cylinder version as the condition of the tires attests (see below). The front tires showed substantial shoulder wear while the rears had much more even wear.
So what does all this mean? There are undoubtedly some out there who will like the combination of this coupe-like body style and SUV ride height. Almost certainly no one who actually chooses to buy an X6 will drive it with anywhere near the aggression we did this week. Personally I wouldn't mind seeing something like this body sitting on a 5-Series chassis lower to the ground and with about 1,500 lbs less mass.
What about the supposed utility of the X6? The cargo area behind the seats holds 20.1 cu.ft of stuff. Folding down the back seats increases that to 51 cu.ft. Yes, that back seat. Upon seeing the sloping back light, there were obvious concerns about space for passengers back there. Leg room is no problem, but head room depends largely on the body proportions of the passengers. One attendee who had several inches of height on my 5'10" stature had no problem with head room. Those with a longer torso like myself will find their head hitting the roof. That downward sloping roof-line combined with a relatively high trailing edge to the lid also means the rear glass is little more than a horizontal slit. Fortunately, most American drivers don't seem to look at what's coming up behind them anyway, so that shouldn't really pose a problem for them. Otherwise, outward visibility is fine.
The driver's environment is pretty standard fare for current BMWs, including the oft-maligned i-Drive interface. The six-speed automatic also includes paddle shifters on the steering wheel. One interior design element that BMW made a point of mentioning is the ability for the cup holders to hold two 44-ounce drinks, which means the X6 will certainly be welcome at 7-Eleven. With the X6 now in full production at the Spartanburg plant, BMW is declining to say how many they hope to sell. They did indicate that exports will should account for about half of production, with Europe, the Middle East and Russia as the primary markets. Lou Ann and I agreed that BMW should help the U.S. trade deficit and export them all. Or at least make them into Dakar rally specials.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Outside the crossover box into coupe-ville.
So called crossover SUVs are becoming more like cars and the BMW X6 pushed this idea further with the X6. BMW calls it a Sports Activity Coupe. The BMW X6 is a high-riding, four-passenger, four-door coupe, a combination of sports car and SUV.
The X6 is offered in two twin-turbocharged models, with inline-6 or V8 power. Both engines provide ample power for everyday use and even for towing. The V8 makes the X6 a hot rod, but we recommend the inline-6 because it has plenty of pep and is more fuel efficient. Shifter paddles on the steering wheel add to the sporty character of the X6.
We found the X6 handles well on the road and on the track. It's better than any SUV but not as good as BMW's own sporty coupes and sport roadsters. It corners with little body lean, but the stiff suspension makes the ride somewhat harsh, especially with the Sport Package and optional 20-inch wheels. We recommend buyers test these options before they buy.
Inside, the ambience is upscale, with lots of leather and soft-touch surfaces. BMW's iDrive control system is standard. It can complicate some interior controls, but programmable buttons are provided to ease control of some of your favorite functions.
Front-seat passengers have plenty of room, though visibility to the rear is restricted by a small, flat rear window. Two rear-seat occupants should be comfortable, too, provided they're not tall.
The rear hatch lifts up and the rear seat folds down to give the X6 a nice amount of cargo storage space. It's on par with other hatchbacks but isn't as good as an SUV. Also, the liftover is higher, so you'll have to lift cargo higher when loading.
The X6 was all-new for 2008, and only minor changes in equipment have been made for 2009: A power liftgate has been added to the Premium Package, and the Cold Weather Package now comes with heated seats for everyone, not just the front-seat passengers.
It's hard to pigeonhole the X6. It rides high, so it doesn't handle as well as a sport coupe, and it doesn't have the cargo and people carrying capacity of an SUV. Overall, it's a fine vehicle. Pricing is high, especially for the V8 model, so we recommend the six-cylinder model for anyone considering this vehicle.
The 2009 BMW X6 is offered in two models, both with xDrive all-wheel drive. The X6 xDrive35i uses BMW's twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that makes 300 horsepower. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that can be controlled manually via the shifter or a pair of steering wheel paddles. xDrive is meant for street use and lacks low-range gearing.
The X6 xDrive35i ($55,900) comes with leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, power tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control with brake function to maintain the set speed down hills, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, interior air filter, 60/40 split folding rear seat, power mirrors with tilt-down back-up aid, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, power sunroof, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, auxiliary input jack, outside-temperature indicator, rain-sensing variable-intermittent wipers with heated washer nozzles, rear cargo shade, bi-xenon adaptive automatic headlights, theft-deterrent system, front cornering lights, fog lights, and P255/50R19 run-flat tires on alloy wheels.
The X6 xDrive50i ($66,650) has a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine that produces 400 horsepower. It uses the same six-speed automatic and comes with xDrive. To all of the xDrive35i's conveniences it adds 20-way power multi-contour front seats, and a navigation system with voice activation and real-time traffic information. (It no longer comes with a load-leveling suspension.)
Several option packages are available. A ventilated seat package ($1,100) for the xDrive50i adds front ventilated seats and an active driver's seat that subtly changes the contours of its left and right halves periodically to reduce body fatigue. The same package for the xDrive35i ($2,100) also has 20-way adjustable multi-contour seats. A Cold Weather package ($1,250) has a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, retractable headlight washers, and a ski bag for the rear seat pass-through. A Premium package ($2,200) now adds a power rear liftgate, plus a universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power folding and auto-dimming exterior mirrors, four-way power adjustable lumbar support for the front seats, a digital compass for the rearview mirror, ambient lighting, a rear storage system, a Bluetooth cell phone link, and BMW Assist emergency and concierge service. The Premium Sound package ($2,000) has a 600-watt audio system with 16 speakers and two subwoofers, digital equalizing for each seating position, a 6-disc CD/DVD changer, and an iPod and USB adapter. The Rear Climate package ($900) includes rear side window shades, four-zone automatic climate control, and privacy glass. A Technology package for the xDrive35i ($2,000) adds a rearview camera and the navigation system.
A Sport package is offered for each model. Three versions are offered for the xDrive35i. The basic package ($3,700) comes with P255/50R19 all-season run-flat tires on light alloy wheels, BMW's Adaptive Drive with Active Roll Stabilization and Electronic Damping Control, 10-way power adjustable front sport seats, Shadowline exterior side window trim, and an anthracite headliner. P275/40R20 front and P315/35R20 rear run-flat performance tires ($950) can be added to the package, as can BMW's 20-way adjustable multi-contour seats ($1,200). The xDrive50i has sport, multi-contour seats standard, but otherwise the Sport package ($3,200) items are the same.
Additional options: rear DVD entertainment ($1,700), BMW's Active Steering ($1,500-1,550), BMW's Comfort Access keyless entry and starting ($1,000), soft-close automatic doors ($600), running boards ($300), a rearview camera ($400), heated front seats ($500), multi-contour front seats ($1,200), heated rear seats ($350), a navigation system ($1,900), a head-up display ($1,200), BMW Assist with Bluetooth ($750), HD radio ($350), Sirius satellite radio ($595), space-saver spare tire ($150), and upgraded Nappa leather ($2,400). This last now includes a leather-covered instrument panel, which is also available as a stand-alone ($1,900).
Safety features include dual front airbags; front side-impact airbags; curtain side airbags with rollover deployment; tire-pressure monitor; front and rear park assist; traction control; electronic stability control with cornering brake control and Trailer Sway Control; Hill Descent Control; Hill Start Assist; and ABS with electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, brake drying and brake fade compensation. The only safety option is the rearview camera.
The BMW X6 is in a class by itself. That's not a value judgment. It really is in a class by itself. There are no other raised four-door coupe/SUVs on the market.
The X6 shares its basic architecture with the X5 SUV (or SAV for Sports Activity Vehicle in BMW parlance), but it is modified for the X6. The wheelbase is the same, but the X6 is about two inches wider and the rear track is 2.2 inches wider. The X6's coupe-like body design also makes it three inches lower than the X5. The X6's raised ride height (with a ground clearance of 8.5 inches) means it is classified as a truck.
On the road, the X6 has a definite presence. For starters, there's the twin-kidney BMW grille. The X6 differs from the X5 and announces its performance character with lots of front end cooling. A small mesh grille is located beneath the twin kidney grilles and a larger lower air intake, also with a mesh grille, is found along the bottom of the front fascia. More noticeable are two massive air intakes that house round fog lights located beneath the cat's eye-style headlights.
It's from the side that the X6 makes its biggest statement. If you would only see the X6 from the beltline down, you'd think it's an SUV. After all, the wheelwells house massive tires, yet the wheel openings are so massive that there is plenty of air around the tires. It's the greenhouse, however, that defines the vehicle. The roof reaches the peak of its height just behind the windshield and steadily slopes down to the rear end where it culminates in a built-in spoiler. When viewed from the rear, this spoiler is part of the hatchback and it resembles the high trunk that debuted on the 7 Series.
The rear view shows a wide, rounded shape. It doesn't look quite like a sports car, though, because the rear end is fairly tall and chunky, not sleek and slim like a BMW 6 Series or Porsche 911. Nonetheless, like a sports car, the high rear end and sloped roof give the X6 the look of a predator hunched and ready to attack.
The overall ambience of the BMW X6 cabin is decidedly upscale. Just about every BMW has a nice, if somewhat staid, interior, but the X6 is more luxurious than most of the line. Soft-touch surfaces abound and the few plastics that are to be found are solid and tastefully finished. The standard dash is nicely padded, and is even nicer with the optional leather covering. Real wood trim is used throughout.
The driver grips a substantial steering wheel with aluminum shift paddles and looks upon a hooded instrument cluster that features a prominent speedometer and tachometer. Outlined in silver, the gauges feature black faces with white numbers and needles. Inset and shrouded, the gauges are easy to read, as is the digital trip computer information that is displayed between the two gauges. The trip computer information is accessed through a button on the turn signal stalk.
To the driver's right is the center stack, which features an 8.8-inch screen that displays the navigation map (when navigation is ordered) and other functions of BMW's iDrive control system. Below the screen are two vents, a set of climate control buttons, and the radio controls. The radio controls are set low, and we had to momentarily take our eyes off the road to adjust the radio. Standard steering wheel controls help here, though. BMW also provided eight programmable buttons so specific radio stations, navigation destinations, and telephone numbers can be accessed instantly.
iDrive is controlled via a round aluminum knob and Menu button that both fall easily to hand on the center console. This system controls navigation, communication, climate, and entertainment functions. The iDrive system can require several steps to perform various functions, making tasks like finding a new radio station overly complicated, but we've found that it becomes easier once you get used to it.
The center console also features two cupholders covered by a shade in front of the shift knob, a small cubby to hold items such as change or a cell phone, and a deep console bin that is padded in leather when you order the leather dashboard. Knee pads on either side of the center console help keep passengers from banging their knees when the driver decides to charge hard into turns.
The driver's seating position is high like that of an SUV. There is plenty of head and leg room and the multi-adjustable seats should allow anyone to find a comfortable driving position. The front passenger has good room, too, but a long-legged colleague noted that the footwell's limited leg room meant he had to put the seat farther back than usual. Visibility to the rear is blocked by the sloped roofline, but the large mirrors help make up for that with a good view to the sides and rear.
The rear seat is fairly comfortable, though it only has seating for two, which leaves a lot of hip and shoulder room. Head room is generally good, though it starts to go away if you lean back or are quite tall. Leg room is good until the front seats are moved more than halfway back. Occupants in back have a handy center tray with two cupholders and a shallow tray with a rubberized bottom for holding small items. Getting in and out of the back is a little tough, as the door openings are small, requiring occupants to twist their ankles and turn sideways to slide in and out. Generally, the rear seat makes the X6 comfortable for four adults.
For cargo, the rear seat folds down 60/40 to create a mostly flat load floor. A pass-through for skis and other long items can be loaded without restricting passenger capacity. With the seats up, there is 25.6 cubic feet of cargo space, about the same as your average hatchback. That's appropriate because the X6 really is a hatchback. With the seats down, there's 59.7 cubic feet of cargo room, which is about the same as a 5 Series wagon. The rear hatch lifts in one piece, but the load floor is rather high and the coupe-like roof limits the height of packages that can be loaded. Overall, the X6 has the cargo flexibility of a typical hatchback, which is good, but it is not as spacious as most small SUVs.
All BMW X6 models come standard with xDrive all-wheel drive, which varies the power between the front and rear axles electronically. The X6 marks the debut of Dynamic Performance Control. DPC uses two planetary gear sets and two clutch packs in the rear differential to multiply torque to individual rear wheels. Sending more power to an outside wheel helps steer the vehicle through turns. We couldn't feel system working, even when we drove the X6 on a racetrack, but we can say the X6 handled impressively.
That statement is made with a caveat. While the X6 handles well, it doesn't feel like a sports car, due mostly to the high center of gravity. There's just no getting around mass, and the X6 weighs around 5,000 pounds. A 5 Series sedan, by comparison, weighs less than 4,000 pounds.
While we've driven V8 and six-cylinder models, all of them have been outfitted with the Sport Package with Adaptive Drive/Active Roll Stabilization, and 20-inch wheels with run-flat tires. We found that both the xDrive35i and xDrive50i had stiff suspension settings that combined with Active Roll Stabilization to help them corner flatter than any SUV. However, even with the Sport Package, the X6 has more body lean and tire squeal than you'd get in a BMW 3 Series. So don't expect the X6 to match the handling of a sports sedan.
We found the stiff suspension settings and short sidewalls on the X6s we drove can take their toll on rough roads. Even with the Electronic Damping Control in the Comfort setting, the X6 reacted harshly to sharp bumps and the ride was generally stiffer than many drivers would prefer for everyday use. We're guessing the standard 19-inch wheels and tires will help provide a softer ride, but they're still run-flat tires with short, stiff sidewalls, so we recommend you test drive the X6 before you buy to make sure you can live with the ride.
A 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine comes in the X6 xDrive50i. It makes 400 horsepower from 5500 to 6400 rpm and 450 pound-feet of torque from 1750-4500 rpm. BMW says the V8 is capable of powering the X6 from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. It certainly feels that quick. The 4.4-liter turbo doesn't have the immediate grunt from a stop of a larger V8, but after initial throttle application it makes power quickly and keeps it coming. Passing is a breeze, and the 4.4-liter V8 provides more power than you'll need for most purposes. Properly equipped, the xDrive50i can tow an impressive 7700 pounds.
The six-cylinder engine in the X6 xdrive35i isn't too shabby, either. It's BMW's twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6, which produces 300 horsepower from 5800 to 6250 rpm and 300 pound-feet of torque from 1400-5000 rpm. According to BMW, this engine makes the X6 capable of a 6.5 second 0-60 mph time, which is quite quick for a vehicle of this size. The six-cylinder returns decent EPA fuel economy ratings of 15 mpg City and 20 mpg Highway. With the towing package, the xDrive35i can tow a substantial 5940 pounds. Given the $10,750 cost difference, we'd recommend the 3.0-liter six, as it makes as much power as we need and provides better mileage.
Both engines work through a responsive six-speed automatic transmission. Drivers can shift manually via a pair of standard aluminum steering wheel shift paddles or through the gearshift. Tapping the paddles up or down shifts gears automatically; there is no need to put the gearshift in a sport mode. That gearshift, however, is a bit odd. Instead of the familiar gated PRNDL, it remains stationary and the driver hits a button and bumps it forward for Reverse or backward for Drive. Another button puts it in Park. It takes some time to get used to, but it takes up less space, which BMW uses for cupholders and small items storage.
Optional Active Steering varies the steering ratio based on speed. Active Steering makes the X6 easy to maneuver in tight quarters and keeps it stable at speed. We like it.
We liked the X6 brakes. A racetrack is the best test of brakes, and we heated them up pretty good in several laps. They remained strong, with no fade or pulsing evident. In hard stops on the track and the road, the X6 remained composed and stable, even coming down from more than 100 mph.
Like most BMWs, the BMW X6 is a fine automobile. It rides high like an SUV; it's fast; it handles well; and it's comfortable inside. Ride quality is a bit harsh, the price of admission is high, and compared to an SUV it has limited space inside for passengers and cargo.
Kirk Bell filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the X6 in South Carolina.
BMW X6 xdrive35i ($55,900); X6 xdrive50i ($66,650).
Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Options As Tested
Cold Weather package ($1,250) with heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, retractable headlight washers, and a ski bag for the rear seat pass-through; Premium Package ($2,200) with power liftgate, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power folding and auto-dimming exterior mirrors, 4-way power adjustable lumbar support for the front seats, digital compass, ambient lighting, rear storage system, Bluetooth cell phone link, and BMW Assist emergency and concierge service; Sport Package ($3,200) with Adaptive Drive with Active Roll Stabilization and Electronic Damping Control, Shadowline exterior side window trim, anthracite headliner; P275/40R20 front and P315/35R20 rear run-flat performance tires ($950) includes 155mph speed limiter; Active Steering ($1,500), rearview camera ($400), head-up display ($1,200).
BMW X6 xDrive50i ($66,650).
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