The BMW X6 is sports-car fast, and it "handles better than an SUV has the right to," as Car and Driver puts it. But critics say its chunky body topped by a fastback roof robs it of any SUV-like usefulness -- and it has some of them competing to find the most creative synonyms for "ugly."
"The X6 looks like two different vehicles, each individually cool, yet when merged add up to a pile of automotive offal," writes Dan Roth at Autoblog.com. He find the A-pillar perfectly positioned to crack him in the head, and the X6's "gigantic gluteus region" looks oddly tall but still smashes the eggs in his grocery bags. "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." Other critics are kinder, or at least less blunt: Edmunds.com calls the look "aggressive" and "muscular." Car and Driver declares it looks like an AMC Spirit, circa 1983.
Mechanically, "it's a prettier picture," Car and Driver says. The X6 accelerates powerfully and grips obsessively in all trim levels, in test after test. Edmunds.com credits its "nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution, wide, sticky tires," and a standard all-wheel-drive system that can send torque automatically to any wheel to maximize balance and grip. The high-priced, high-powered BMW X6 M takes this to a whole new level, testers say. In a Car and Driver road race, "it felt like a 66-inch-tall Corvette: absolutely no body roll -- none."
However, all is not rosy on-road. The tall-rumped shape means testers can barely see anything out the back, and it encroaches upon both backseat passengers' headroom (the X6 seats only four) and cargo space, which is a class-trailing 60 cubic feet max. Fuel economy is mediocre to thirsty, depending on trim. When BBC tester Jeremy Clarkson tries to drive the X6 to an Alpine ski resort, he spins and slides on the snowy road.
As for off-roading, "there's no low-range gearbox, there's no ride height control, and there's no locking differentials. Hmmm," Clarkson says as he gets stuck in a hilly field, sliding backwards even in park with the handbrake on. John Phillips at Car and Driver attempts to negotiate a soft alfalfa field in the X6 and winds up getting towed out of a stream by a Dodge Power Wagon.
In short, experts prefer the more usefully shaped 2010 BMW X5 (Base MSRP: $47,600 to $85,500), or a Land Rover if you'd like to off-road in your luxury SUV. If you don't need the highest-performance SUV on the market and simply want a luxurious and practical daily driver, critics recommend the much less expensive 2010 Lexus RX 350 (Base MSRP: $37,625 to $39,025).
Three powerful trim levels
Trim levels start with the BMW X6 xDrive35i (Base MSRP: $56,500), which testers say gets impressive thrust from its 300-horsepower, 3-liter turbocharged inline-six engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway/17 mpg combined, and towing capacity is 6,000 pounds. This trim includes leather seats with driver memory, a sunroof, a power liftgate, parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, a CD stereo with HD radio and auxiliary audio jack, among other standard features. Options include a backseat entertainment system (Base MSRP: $1,700) and navigation (Base MSRP: $1,900).
The BMW X6 xDrive50i (Base MSRP: $67,200) steps up to a 400-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, also adding the voice-activated navigation with real-time traffic, sport steering wheel and special seats that are optional on the xDrive35i. Fuel economy dips to 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway/15 mpg combined. A hybrid version, the 2010 BMW X6 ActiveHybrid (Base MSRP: $88,900), is covered in our report on Hybrid SUVs and Crossovers.
The BMW X6 M (Base MSRP: $89,000) high-performance model produces 555 horsepower from its 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V8, which lets drivers tow up to 6,600 pounds. It gets a special suspension, summer performance tires on 20-inch alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth and more, but only 14 mpg combined (12 mpg city/17 mpg highway).
The BMW X6 has not yet been crash-tested by either the federal government or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but it includes all of the usual safety features: antilock brakes, traction and stability control and front, front-side and curtain airbags. The X6 carries four-year/50,000 mile basic and powertrain warranties.
TopGear, the BBC's car review show, posts an extremely entertaining video segment in which the BMW X6 takes a world tour and fails at just about every task it tries. Car and Driver's review of the superpowered X6 M is just as fun to read, although the SUV does a better job here. Car and Driver also tests the other X6 versions, as does Edmunds.com. Autoblog.com and Truck Trend both concentrate on the X6 M. Kiplinger.com analyzes the X6's ownership costs, and FuelEconomy.gov analyzes its gas consumption. ConsumerReports.org has not tested the BMW X6.
The BBC's TopGear sends acerbic car critic Jeremy Clarkson on a round-the-world trip with the BMW X6, to find out exactly what this vehicle is useful for. Unfortunately, the answer is not much: Clarkson gets stuck trying to off-road, spins trying to drive in snow, and gets annoyed with the cramped, complicated cabin in this two-part video.
Review: Brand New Clip: Clarkson vs. BMW X6: Part 1, Jeremy Clarkson
2. Car and Driver
Editors here give the BMW X6 4.5 stars (out of 5) for its speed, great handling and luxurious appointments. Links lead to road tests of each version of the X6, including a humorous one in which Car and Driver tests the X6 M on a drag strip and a field of alfalfa.
Review: 2010 BMW X6, Editors of Car and Driver
The BMW X6 performs great in tests here, but editors say its high price and impractical shape "make it a dubious purchase."
Review: 2010 BMW X6 Review, Editors of Edmunds.com
The BMW X6 M "doesn't make much sense, but it's a whole lot of fun," editors conclude. It's exorbitantly fast and handles great, but it's also "one of the least versatile crossover SUVs we've tested."
Review: 2010 BMW X6 M Review, Editors of Edmunds.com
Autoblog.com tester Damon Lavrinc has a lot of fun throwing the BMW X6 M around a curvy track. He predicts that the technology that allows this speedy, road-hugging behemoth to exist "will eventually find its way into the next generation of BMWs and M products."
Review: First Drive: 2010 BMW X6 M -- Bimmer Builds a Highrider GT-R, Damon Lavrinc, July 10, 2009
6. Truck Trend
"If money is no object," the BMW X6 M delivers huge power and "absolutely phenomenal handling," Truck Trend says. It's the runner-up Factory Power Runner winner, behind the less expensive Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. This write-up is extremely short, but you can find individual reviews for the various X6 versions elsewhere on the site.
Review: Truck Trend's Best in Class 2010: Factory Power Runner, Editors of Truck Trend, June 2010
The BMW X6's lowest trim, the xDrive35i, ties with the BMW X5 turbodiesel for best resale value among large and midsize crossovers at Kiplinger.com. This short synopsis also shows dealer cost, five-year service cost, one-year insurance cost and three- and five-year resale values for this SUV.
Review: Best Resale Value: Large and Midsize Crossovers, Editors of Kiplinger.com, March 2010
Official fuel-economy estimates for most 2010 SUVs, including the BMW X6, are posted on this government website. The X6 delivers 17 mpg combined with its least powerful engine, dropping to 14 mpg with the most powerful M trim level.
Review: 2010 Sport Utility Vehicles, Editors of FuelEconomy.gov