By Jay Traugott, Editor At Large
Full disclosure: I've never been a fan of the BMW X6 or really any German-built SUV or crossover (with the exception of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class). So call me biased if you'd prefer. But like anyone else who likes cars and follows the industry, I was interested in the X6 simply because it was something new and different when it launched in 2008. How new? Try an all-new automotive segment. Automakers are always trying to find the next "big thing" that will draw buyers into showrooms.
Whether those customers are loyal to the brand or not, the whole point is to sell as many cars possible. Fair enough, but another point is for a model to have a niche. SUVs and trucks are what they are; sports cars, sedans, and vans also all aim for a specific audience as well. Even station wagons, although they're sadly not the most popular in the U.S. as they are in Europe, have a rational need for existence. BMW calls their X6 a 'Sports Activity Coupe,' which continues with the 'Sports Activity' theme that began with the X5 back in 1999. Only this time, the name is a bit harder to swallow. For starters, the X6 clearly isn't a coupe.
Nor is it an SUV. A crossover? Ok, let's settle on that. Now, the whole point of the crossover segment is to combine the fuel economy of a sedan, the seating of a small minivan, and the fashionable appearance of an SUV. The X6 doesn't accomplish any of these. Partly because of its weight, the X6 is not very fuel efficient (base model returns 16/23mpg city/highway). And neither was the newly discontinued Active Hybrid model, which was marketed as the world's most powerful hybrid with its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 totaling 480hp and 575lb-ft of torque. And it returns just 17/19 mpg and only costs $90,000.
And for something that costs more than double the average American yearly income, the X6 doesn't even have enough rear seat passenger space. There's limited headroom, a small cargo area, and poor rearward visibility. So surely this supposed four-door coupe looks good. Not so much. Unlike four-door coupes such as the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the Audi A7, the X6 designers simply weren't able to capture the beauty the former two have become known for. Quite honestly, the X6 resembles an angry humpbacked chimpanzee with wheels and BMW badges. So what does it do well?
The V8-equipped models can tow up to 6,000 pounds and all trims come with all of the typical upscale features we've come to expect from the brand. The high-performance X6 M is also quite something with its twin scroll twin turbo charged V8 producing 555hp and its 0 to 60mph time of 4.5 seconds. It is also currently the fastest BMW model on a straight-line. So there's that. But if I had the opportunity to spend serious cash on something in the X6's price range, there are easily a dozen other vehicles I'd choose. None of them would be BMW SUVs.
The automaker already builds some of the finest sedans and sports cars in the world, so what sense would it make to buy a 'Sport Activity' vehicle from them? While the X5 was already borderline useless, except for vanity purposes, the X6 has actually managed to take that vanity even further. Not long ago I realized something: The only people I've seen driving an X6 simply don't know any better. If someone buys an X6 M purely for its straight-line performance, then they're excused from this statement: Just because it's expensive and it's a BMW, doesn't mean it's a good car. It can even be utterly useless - even for those angry chimps.