Essentially a derivative of the X5 sport-utility vehicle, the BMW X6 flaunts a sleeker, more fluid appearance. Regardless of BMW’s preferred nomenclature as a Sports Activity Coupe, the four-door X6 is not a coupe. Nor is it a true SUV. Since its debut, the X6 concept has been echoed by several premium automakers, including Mercedes-Benz and Range Rover. BMW itself markets a smaller X4 version.
Introduced for the 2008 model year, the X6 started the fashionable coupe-like SUV trend. For 2017, BMW has added a 10.2-inch touchscreen to its standard navigation and infotainment system, upgrading to iDrive 5.0. BMW’s xLine is now standard, including stainless steel underbody cladding and 19-inch Y-spoke wheels; 20-inch tires are an option. Premium and Executive option packages now include wireless charging and a wi-fi hotspot.
Powertrains essentially duplicate those available in BMW’s more upright-looking X5. A turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine goes into the rear-drive X6 sDrive35i, as well as the all-wheel-drive X6 xDrive35i. Working with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the six-cylinder version performs with passion.
A twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that develops 445 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque goes under the hood of the X6 xDrive50i, which comes only with all-wheel drive. BMW claims 0-60 mph acceleration in 4.6 seconds, versus 5 seconds for the X6 xDrive35i.
For those who crave even more muscle, the BMW X6 M comes with a stepped-up V8 that whips up 567 horsepower and 553 pound-feet. That’s sufficient to blast this comparative heavyweight to 60 mph in an even four seconds. The X6 M also gets an 8-speed automatic transmission, but with a taller first gear. Performance enhancements for the X6 M include stiffer springs, rear-axle air springs, adaptive shock absorbers, and high-performance brakes. Driving modes include a Sport+ setting that almost shuts down the stability-control system.
Available safety features for the BMW X6 include Night Vision with pedestrian, animal, and object detection. A Driver Assistance package includes a rearview camera and head-up display. Active-safety features, including forward collision and lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitoring and surround-view cameras, come in a Driver Assistance Plus group. Neither the National Highway Traffic Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the X6 models.
The 2017 BMW X6 comes in four versions. The X6 sDrive35i ($61,400) comes with the six-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive. Standard features include leather upholstery, heated front seats with driver’s memory, wood interior trim, a power liftgate, front/rear parking sensors, navigation with a 10.2-inch screen, and 19-inch wheels. The X6 xDrive35i ($63,700) is similar but with all-wheel drive.
X6 XDrive50i ($76,700) gets the V8 engine and all-wheel drive, along with 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound and most features that are optional for six-cylinder models. An Executive package adds soft-close doors, leather dashboard trim, a head-up display, sunshades, and ceramic-finish controls.
X6 M ($102,200), the super-performance version, unleashes a 567-horsepower V8, with all-wheel drive. Dynamic Damper Control with rear air suspension, quad tailpipes, 18-way power heated front seats, M-specific instruments, and 21-inch tires are standard. The X6 M gets its own Merino leather upholstery, Alcantara headliner, and aluminum trim.
Option groups include an M Sport package, Cold Weather and Lighting packages, and Dynamic Handling package. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Billed as a sports activity coupe, the four-door X6 is topped by a curvaceous roofline, giving it a fastback profile. Large air intakes suggest the performance potential of the X6. Side gills, on the other hand, come across as rather garish.
The X6 M gets bigger-yet air intakes, plus a scattered group of M badges to make clear that it’s a hottest model of them all.
More functional than some comparable vehicles for back-seat occupants, the rear bench can hold three passengers, though two will be more comfortable. The X6’s roofline tapers downward near the back end of the vehicle, so head clearance for occupants in the back row isn’t as restricted as it would be in other coupe-like models.
Leg space could be better, measuring an inch shorter than the X5 provides. Overall, though, the interior is a tad roomier than the X5. Four passengers should be content, though the less-fortunate fifth rider is likely to be squeezed.
Compared to the X5, too, cargo volume isn’t heavily penalized. Available space totals 26.6 cubic feet with the back seat up. The X6’s tall ride height makes the cargo floor readily accessible.
Regardless of engine, the X6 has little in common with a typical premium sedan, coupe, or crossover SUV. BMW technology results in refined, yet nearly insolent, performance, even from the six-cylinder model.
As for handling skills, just point the X6 toward a curve or corner, observing how its stability-control and traction-control systems pave the way for precisely satisfying reactions. Powerful brakes bring all the X6’s weight to a halt with little nosedive, with a level of confidence that even beats that of the smaller BMW X4 model. Push the gas pedal again, and the engine resumes speed with little delay. The only drawback is ride quality, which inevitably becomes a bit harsh over certain road surfaces.
Naturally, the X6 M is the logical choice for BMW devotees who seek a seriously boisterous experience. Simply knowing that such expert capabilities await, including the ability to transition from highway to race course, can be almost as stimulating as the actual experience.
Overall highway performance could be compared to the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, except that this shapely BMW keeps its rear end under better restraint. Remember, though, that no X6 qualifies as a full-fledged SUV, despite xDrive; so don’t expect this BMW to trudge through more than relatively mild off-the-pavement exercises.
Fuel economy isn’t a high point, which is no surprise. The six-cylinder is EPA-rated at 18/25 mpg City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive drops the EPA Highway estimate to 24 mpg. As expected, the X6 M is even less thrifty, EPA-rated at only 14/19 mpg City/Highway, or 16 mpg Combined.
Reaching beyond good looks, the BMW X6 benefits from a choice of three potent powertrains. Two V8s deliver especially compelling performance, though the six-cylinder isn’t far behind when pushing hard on the gas. Tech upgrades, as well as tantalizing wheel, trim, and interior options, as well as technology extras, make it quite easy to send prices soaring. If fashion doesn’t matter, you can save about $6,000 by choosing a six-cylinder X5 instead of the X6.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.