The BMW X6 illustrates the emergence and evolution of luxury crossover models over the past decade. Launched as an early 2009 model, it stood well apart from the usual squared-off, conventional-looking bodies with its coupe-like profile. Dubbed a Sports Activity Coupe despite its four doors, the hatchback X6 established the trend for tall, stylish vehicles topped with a sleek, sharply sloped roofline.
X6 was redesigned for the 2015 model year.
Little has changed for 2018, except for modest simplification of the options list. 2018 BMW X6 option packages (Premium, M Sport, Executive) are configured more like trim levels with the same designation. Trapezoidal tailpipes are standard on 35i models.
Two turbocharged engines remain available in regular X6 models. A 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder makes 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Stepping up a notch is a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, which develops 445 horsepower and 480 pound-feet. Both engines mate with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard with the six-cylinder engine. All-wheel drive is standard with the V8, and optional for the six.
Topping the lineup is the performance-packed X6 M, packing a hopped-up version of the V8 that generates 567 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to yield 4.0-second acceleration time to 60 mph.
With fine driving dynamics the rule, even the base six-cylinder X6 provides a polished driving experience, mixed with pleasure. Plenty of enticing options are available, but they add considerably to the X6’s price â€“ especially when full option packages need to be purchased.
Largely because of low sales volume, the X6 has not been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The closely related X5 has earned good crash-test scores, led by a five-star rating from the federal agency, but they don’t necessarily demonstrate that an X6 would fare equally well, despite similar structure.
Like its X5 cousin, the X6 can be fitted with a broad range of safety and collision-avoidance technology. A rearview camera is standard, but most other safety features are extra-cost options. They include automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning, adaptive headlights, night vision with pedestrian and animal detection, a head-up display, and surround-view camera, as well as a Parking Assistant.
Unlike the X5, the X6 isn’t offered in hybrid or diesel variants.
X6 sDrive35i ($62,700) has rear-wheel drive with the six-cylinder engine, leather upholstery, 19-inch alloy wheels, heated power front seats, and navigation with 10.2-inch screen. X6 xDrive35i ($65,000) has all-wheel drive. Premium Package adds keyless ignition, satellite radio, and wireless charging. The M Sport package provides a firmer suspension and heavier-bolstered seats. An Executive Package adds full LED headlights, soft-close doors, air conditioned seats, and Harman Kardon audio. CarPlay costs additional. (Prices are MSRP and do not include $995 destination charge.)
X6 xDrive50i ($77,450) substitutes the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine.
X6 M ($104,100) features a 567-horsepower V8 engine, along with an adaptive sport suspension, 21-inch wheels, all-wheel drive, and 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio.
Few vehicles draw such contrasting visual impressions as the BMW X6. Not everyone falls for the lushly sloped-roof profile; but for those who do, it’s a truly distinctive-looking vehicle, even after a decade on the market. Somehow, BMW designers made this eye-catching, still-daring crossover look somewhat pudgy, but also slinky.
BMW established the basic pattern, which has since been adopted by several premium manufacturers. BMW also offers a smaller version: the fashionable X4, derived from the company’s compact, conventionally-looking X3.
Differences between the X5 and X6 are negligible when viewed from the front. Below the beltline, too, the X6 looks almost like a traditional crossover. Higher up, the difference becomes dramatic.
Classy as well as tastefully refined, the X6 cabin promises a comfortable ride for as many as five occupants, provided the back-seaters aren’t too tall. Only a glance at the profile is needed to realize that rear headroom has to be restricted.
Front passengers can expect comfortable seats with multiple adjustments, promising a fine view ahead. In back, not only is headroom constricted, but entry/exit isn’t so easy.
The cargo hold also has problems. Tall items might not fit, due to the sloping back windows. Cargo volume totals almost 27 cubic feet, but BMW’s traditional-looking X5 crossover holds about 9 more. Considering usable space rather than numerical volume, the difference is even greater.
Every X6 feels solidly, carefully assembled. BMW offers a broad choice of interior trim, including several types of wood and aluminum. Leather upholstery comes in several grades. Each version is fitted with abundant standard equipment.
Ride quality is firm, and the X6 suspension controls body motions well. The electronic steering doesn’t give the driver the road feel that BMWs of the past transmitted.
Each engine, including the base model’s six-cylinder, is strong and willing, promising stimulating performance. Admirably smooth, the 3.0-liter delivers sufficient thrust to satisfy most drivers.
Still, the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 in the xDrive50i sends the pleasure quotient up a notch, helped by the prompt-shifting 8-speed transmission. Acceleration to 60 mph takes place in a brisk 4.7 seconds. Because the fashionable X6 tends to make a statement rather than merely provide lavish transportation, a V8 seems more appropriate for its mission, though gas mileage sinks significantly.
The X6 M delivers thunderous vigor when wanted, with its 567-horsepower V8 always waiting patiently for opportunities to leap into action. With its heftier anti-sway bars and special air suspension, the X6 M handles nearly as well as many lower-riding sports sedans.
Ranking as the most popular model, the six-cylinder xDrive35i is EPA-rated at 18/24 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. The rear-wheel-drive sDrive35i does a hair better, at 18/25/21 mpg. Despite its bountiful power, the X6M isn’t as thirsty as might be expected. Hardly frugal, though, it’s EPA-rated at 14/19 mpg City/Highway, or 16 mpg Combined. In all models, a stop/start system can shut the engine off at traffic lights.
The BMW X6 is satisfying to drive but may might not deliver quite as much motoring fun as its lush body suggests. Utility is somewhat limited by the design, but the cabin exudes a clearly upscale aura. No X6 falls short on either features or visual flair, amplified by a trio of strong engines. Inexpensive they are not, and adding options boosts the price into formidable territory.
Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.