by Jared Rosenholtz
Ten years after its release, the BMW X6 is still alive and kicking - or at least, twitching from time to time. It is a bold experiment in SUV design that seems to have more shortcomings than advantages, but it still appeals to enough buyers that the German manufacturer hasn't totally abandoned the concept - if the X4 is anything to go by. For the starting price of $62,950, you get a 300-horsepower inline-six engine that delivers 300 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to move this hefty vehicle along. But, unlike the cheaper X5 or Mercedes GLE, the X6 presents you with a sleek roofline that accentuates its athletic playfulness. The SUV has always had impressive handling dynamics for a vehicle of its size, but now it has the looks too, and all you have to sacrifice is a large chunk of cargo space and the comfort of your rear passengers.
The BMW X6 enters 2018 almost completely unchanged. As per the 2018 U.S. regulations, a rearview camera is now equipped as standard.
Taller than a regular sedan, but sleeker than a traditional SUV, the X6 rides on 19-inch alloy wheels. Xenon headlights sit elegantly on the front fascia, with a reserved BMW twin-kidney grille resting between them. LED fog lights are positioned just beneath the headlights, quite high in the bumper, and full LED adaptive headlights are available. The SUV's roof slopes down in typical coupe fashion, giving the car a sportier look but reducing the space in the rear. Daytime running lights are standard, and the large taillights are split across the power liftgate trunk.
As you'd expect from a high-riding SUV, albeit a mid-size one, the X6 has quite imposing dimensions. The 115.5-inch wheelbase suits the 193.8-inch length. With an impressive 8.3 inches of ground clearance, the vehicle has an overall height of 67 inches. Although not an off-road-focused vehicle, the X6 has an approach angle of 22.4 degrees, and a departure angle of 20.7 degrees, which allows it to deal with mid-size ruts and bumps without a hassle. The X6 is 78.3 inches wide, and its weight varies from 4,585 lbs on the sDrive35i to 5,080 lbs on the xDrive50i.
An impressive array of 15 colors are available to buyers of the X6. The non-metallic options are Alpine White and Jet Black, while the non-premium metallic palette consists of Black Sapphire, Space Gray, Glacier Silver, Dark Graphite, Mineral White, Flamenco Red, Dark Olive, Mineral Silver, and Atlas Cedar. While Carbon Black metallic does not incur an extra cost on its own, it is only available if the M Sport Package is equipped, which will cost $4,350 on the base model. The premium color palette comprises Azurite Black metallic, Pearl Silver metallic, and Ruby Black metallic, each costing $1,950 extra.
Two very impressive powertrains are available across the X6 range. Firstly, the 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six that comes with the sDrive35i and xDrive35i trims produces 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque; as a base engine, this impressively moves the bulky crossover with a surprising amount of haste. Thanks to the smooth shifts of the eight-speed automatic transmission, the 35i can sprint to 60 mph in around six seconds - no mean feat for such a heavy vehicle. This is around a full second faster than either the Audi Q7 or Merc GLE-Class when equipped with their base engines. If that isn't fast enough for the speed demons out there, then the 4.4-liter V8 powertrain will leave all competition in the dust with its 445 hp, 480 lb-ft, and 0 to 60 time of only 4.7 seconds. But, even with its top speed of 155 mph, the X6 isn't all about speed; it is about power too. When properly equipped, the X6 can tow up to 6,000 lbs. This isn't quite as much as competitors, or even the X5 on which the coupe SUV is based, but it's nothing to sneeze at either.
The turbocharged 3.0-liter TwinPower inline-six engine on the sDrive and xDrive35i trims delivers 300 hp and 300 lb-ft to either the rear wheels, or all four. Even the heavy 4,700 lb SUV bursts forward at impressive speed with that much power under the hood. You will not be left behind by even well-performing sedans at traffic lights in this standard guise, and merging or passing on the highway is both easy and fun, as you glide past those below you.
But for real power, and those who crave it, BMW offers the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine. The heart of a true beast, this engine delivers a whopping 445 hp and 480 lb-ft to all four wheels. Even genuine sports cars will have to flex their muscles to truly beat you from pull-off with so much power at the tips of your toes. And only the most impatient drivers would even try to pass you on the highway, as you hurtle along like a high-speed ICBM.
Regardless of engine choice or drivetrain configuration, the gears are rowed by a refined eight-speed automatic transmission that successfully selects the correct gear and allows you to accelerate seamlessly.
Despite the sporty styling of the chassis, the X6 is not a sports car. It has the power of one, especially when equipped with the available V8 engine, but its size will always play against its handling. Nonetheless, BMW has applied its expertise well with this SUV. The summer tires cling to the road well, and body roll is surprisingly tame for a vehicle of this size. However, steering is often a guessing game as the wheel gives little idea of what the tires are doing, and the high ground clearance of the X6 only serves to accentuate the detachment of the driver from the road further.
Still, the steering is light and responsive, and the choice between Comfort and Sport modes allows for a certain degree of control over how engaging the SUV can be. While the steering might not inspire as much confidence as we may like, the brakes don't disappoint. They are powerful and receptive to input. Despite the X6's 4,500 - 5,000 lb weight, it can be brought to a swift halt from 60 mph in just 108 feet.
As with the steering, ride comfort is strongly affected by the choice between Comfort and Sport mode. As the name implies, Comfort mode encourages the suspension to soak up road imperfections without letting the driver know they were even there. Combined with the plush seats around the cabin, this delivers a ride that lives up the luxury BMW brand. In Sport mode, the suspension stiffens, trading comfort for better control and engagement with the SUV.
Not surprising for a larger, heavier vehicle, the BMW X6 is quite thirsty. The most economical guise is the base sDrive35i, which gets an EPA-estimated 18/25/21 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. This is on par with the more economic guises of the BMW's main competitors like the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class. However, as you move up the trim levels, the X6 becomes more and more greedy, with the xDrive35i getting one mpg less for highway figures, while the xDrive 50i manages only a disappointing 15/21/17 mpg. With 22.4 gallons of premium fuel in the tank, the SUV can cover up to 470 miles between pricey pit stops.
The interior doesn't disappoint in terms of looks. Classic BMW premium style oozes from every surface, with leather-appointed seats coming standard and plenty of soft-touch surfaces. The cabin is well-built, but the sloping roof of the coupe design does negatively impact space and visibility. The list of features inside the cabin isn't overly long, but what there is, is laid out ergonomically with easy-to-use controls and interfaces. BMW's iDrive infotainment is straightforward and compatible with multiple devices. While cargo space isn't all that impressive, the rear seats do fold down, taking the edge off of this negative, but still, the 40/20/40 split does little to improve a slim offering.
There is seating for five people in the X6; whether there is space for all five is another question entirely. The front seats are as regal as you would expect from a premium German marque, with 14-way power adjustability and heating as standard. Outward visibility is good looking ahead, but the awkward design of the roof creates rather large blind-spots aft. And, speaking of the roof, the steep slope as it goes back infringes on headroom for rear passengers, making it unsuitable for taller adults who will struggle just to enter the vehicle. However, the rear seats are still plenty comfortable and do nicely for youngsters.
Leather-appointed seats are standard fare in the X6, emphasizing quality and comfort. Dakota leather comes equipped to all three models, with Nappa leather available with the M Sport and Premium Packages. Extended Merino leather is also available with certain packages. The basic leather comes in a variety of colors: Terra Dakota, Cognac Dakota, and dual-tone Coral Red/Black Dakota, Ivory White/Black Dakota, and Canberra Beige/Black Dakota. Nappa leather options are limited to Ivory White and Cognac, both paired with Black. The BMW Individual palette provides Smoke White, Nutmeg, Taupe, Criollo, or Amaro Merino color schemes to option on. The trim along the dashboard and door panels is available in Poplar wood, Fineline Oak wood, Fineline pure textured wood, Fineline striped wood, brushed aluminum, and aluminum hexagon.
What would be an impressive amount of cargo space is somewhat reduced by the coupe-style roof of the X6. Behind the rear seats, you will find 26.6 cubic feet of space. This is about nine cubic feet less than what is offered in the almost identical, and cheaper, X5 SUV. Unsurprisingly, rivals that follow a more traditional SUV design offer a lot more trunk space. Still, 26.6 cubic feet should be enough to cover most of your daily needs, and even some unusual cargo requirements - although the low roof height means that taller items are a no-go. On the plus side, the rear seats can be folded down in a 40/20/40 split, to increase the overall space to 59.7 cubic feet.
Small-item storage is typical for a family-oriented SUV, with cup holders and knick-knack trays abounding. The glove compartment and central console bin provide space for larger items; the door pockets are quite generous, although the bottle holders can be a bit difficult to use.
The entry-level model comes equipped with a power liftgate, dual-zone climate control, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, 14-way power heated front seats with lumbar and driver-seat memory, 40/20/40 split fold-down rear seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, and 12-volt power outlets. Added when you upgrade to the 50i, are keyless entry and ignition, multi-contour front seats, quad-zone automatic climate control, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, and a surround-view camera. A wireless charger, head-up display, and night vision with pedestrian detection are also available.
BMW's iDrive infotainment system comes with a 10.2-inch touchscreen display, navigation, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, a USB port, HD Radio, and a nine-speaker sound system. The 50i sees the audio system upgraded to a 16-speaker Harman Kardon setup, and SiriusXM is added. Apple CarPlay is available at a surcharge, as is a rear-seat entertainment system with DVD player and dual monitors. If the Harman Kardon sound system isn't premium enough for you, you can also opt for the Bang & Olufsen system as an optional add-on.
J.D. Power rates the X6 at 87 out of a potential 100 for dependability. This is several points lower than a few more modestly priced rivals. The SUV was subject to two recalls in 2018, one for improperly fastened wheel bolts, and one for low-quality lower control arms. It was also recalled late in 2017 for improperly torqued wishbone suspension bolts. BMW offers a basic warranty and powertrain warranty for 50,000 miles/48 months and 48-months of unlimited roadside assistance. A 36,000-mile/36-month maintenance warranty is also provided.
The 2018 BMW X6 was not rated by the NHTSA for safety, and the IIHS only tested the mechanically identical X5 for moderate front overlap and side crashworthiness, for which is received the best rating of Good. The X5, on which the X6 is based, received a full five stars from the NHTSA for most tests.
The basic safety features you would expect on any modern car are present on the BMW X6: stability control, traction control, four-wheel ABS, emergency braking assist, and six airbags - dual front, front side, and side curtain. Advanced safety features are a bit bare as standard, though, with only a rearview camera, and front/rear parking assists equipped. Features added with the 50i include blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, and a surround-view camera. A few advanced features can be optioned on, including a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and active parking assist. The most high-tech feature available is a night vision system with pedestrian detection.
The BMW X6 fills an unusual niche segment that only recently came into being - the fastback crossover SUV, or Sports Activity Coupe, as BMW calls it. Other manufacturers are still trying to play catch-up to the innovative German company, so it's no surprise that the BMW still stands out. That said, this niche segment is not for everyone. True, the X6 delivers an interesting and unique driving experience, being more sporty and exciting that other SUVs, but it makes some pretty serious sacrifices for this playfulness.
Sometimes all play and no work can be a vehicle's downfall, and it could be argued that the X6 falls victim to this. The sloping coupe-style roof gives the car a sporty, almost sedan-like appearance, but it still has all the weight of a mid-size SUV. However, for these looks, it pays a hefty price in utility, losing around nine cubic feet of cargo space over the X5 on which it is modeled. The rear passengers also suffer from limited headroom and awkward ingress.
Still, the X6 delivers a driving experience that can hardly be faulted. It is athletic and fun in a way that few large vehicles can compete with. If you don't particularly mind the reduced cargo space, and you have a small family (with members on the short side), then this SUV could certainly spice up your daily commute or family outings. Just be sure you know what you're getting into, as the BMW doesn't have stellar fuel economy, and it already costs more than its more practical X5 counterpart. The BMW X6 is a great SUV if you can look past all these factors.
As you'd expect from a luxury brand like BMW, the X6 sits on the pricier side of the spectrum. But even within the luxury mid-size SUV segment, it's pretty expensive with a starting MSRP of $62,950 for the base-model sDrive35i. Opting for the all-wheel xDrive35i variant will cost you an additional $2,300. The price hike up to the top-tier xDrive50i is quite startling, as it asks you to lay down $77,700 without any optional extras. These prices exclude tax, registration, licensing, and BMW's destination charge of $995.
The sDrive35i, xDrive35i, and xDrive50i comprise the BMW X6 line-up. The lower-end 35i models come with a 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder engine that puts out 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. On the sDrive, this is directed to the rear wheels, while the xDrive powers all four wheels simultaneously. The top-tier xDrive50i boasts an impressive 4.4-liter bi-turbo V8 under its hood. The 445 hp and 480 lb-ft produced by this monster is directed to all four wheels. All powertrains are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Apart from their differing drivetrains, the 35i trims all share the same equipment. This comprises 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, 14-way power heated front seats with lumbar adjustments and driver-seat memory, a power liftgate, a moonroof, dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, a 10.2-inch iDrive infotainment system, Bluetooth, HD Radio, and a nine-speaker sound system.
Along with the powerful V8 engine, the xDrive50i also sees the sound system upgraded to a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio setup. Keyless entry and ignition, quad-zone climate control, multi-contour front seats, a surround-view camera, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warning are all added as standard features.
Most of the optional add-ons for the X6 have been sorted and bundled into packages that resemble trim-level upgrades. Some packages worth considering include the Driver Assistance Package ($1,700) for the 35i models, which adds active blind-spot detection, an active driving assistant, lane departure warning, a head-up display, and speed limit information. The Dynamic Handling Package ($4,500) for the four-wheel-drive models adds dynamic damper control and rear-axle air suspension, as well as dynamic performance control, and active roll stabilization.
The Premium Package for the 35i ($1,150) adds keyless entry, quad-zone climate control, and SiriusXM; for the 50i ($1,600) it adds a heated steering wheel, active blind-spot detection, an active driving assistant, side- and top-view cameras, a parking assistant, and speed limit information. An Executive Package can also be specified that installs soft-close automatic doors, adaptive LED lights, automatic high beams, and surround-view camera for $2,550. Lastly, the famous M Sport Package, priced at $4,350, can be optioned on for 19-inch M themed alloys, keyless entry, sport seats, Aluminum Hexagon interior trim, four-zone climate control, M steering wheel and door sills, as well as an aerodynamic kit with Shadowline exterior, and a hands-free trunk.
With so many packages available to customize your purchase, you can get everything you really need on the 35i models without needing to shell out the extra $10k for the V8 xDrive50i. 300 hp and 300 lb-ft is plenty of power to move the sporty SUV. The sDrive feels more focused on performance in this guise thanks to its rear-wheel drivetrain, but the xDrive35i is still a great performer and offers the added peace of mind that all-wheel-drive brings, especially if you drive in adverse weather conditions often. If you truly desire pure road dominance, the xDrive50i with its 445-hp engine won't disappoint. But if you want that level of aggressive driving, should you even be looking at an SUV to start with?
The niche coupe-style crossover SUV is still a relatively new segment, and not many have tried to emulate what BMW started with the X6. But, never one to back down from a challenge, Mercedes offered up its GLE Coupe as a rival. Now both SUVs have been on the market for a while and are beginning to show their age. Naturally, the GLE makes similar sacrifices in terms of utility and interior space, and while its rear seats are easier to access, they aren't as spacious as the X6's. Where the GLE does outpace the X6 is the base engine, which delivers 362 hp as opposed to the BMW's 300 hp, while also offering more balanced handling compared to ride quality. However, it doesn't offer a second engine option to compete with BMW's impressive V8. So if you are still trying to be economical, the Mercedes offers more at a more affordable price tag. But let's face it, if you're looking at these brands and this particular style of vehicle, you're trying to make a statement - and that statement won't be "I couldn't afford the beastly BMW X6 xDrive 50i".
Built as a follow-up to the successful experiment that was the X6, the BMW X4 follows the same approach and serves as a redesign of the smaller X3, with a focus on sportiness that doesn't sacrifice too much utility. It is smaller and nimbler than the X6 and only gets access to the weaker 300-hp engine that BMW uses in the X6 35i twins. However, due to its smaller size and lower overall weight, the X4 gets performance from this engine that competes with the X6. So if athletic handling is your primary concern, then the X4 does seem like the logical choice, but the X6 is bigger, more luxurious, and makes a bolder statement. Considering that neither of these vehicles is particularly practical, you may as well opt for the most ridiculously opulent one and get the X6, despite the $15k hike in pricing.