2009 BMW X6-Series
BMW calls the 2009 X6
the first Sports Activity Coupe -- never mind that Subaru created something similar in the Outback SUS or that coupes traditionally have two doors. Semantics aside, the X6 is unique in today's market. Despite its all-wheel-drive system and the big, brawny shadow it casts, the X6 was designed to be a purely on-road machine - just check out its tires, which are low profile and very, very wide. The X6 offers a choice of six- or eight-cylinder power, both with twin turbochargers, and an innovative suspension and rear differential electronics that bring fast driving and safe driving together in physics-defying, exhaust-blatting, tire-squealing harmony.
What's to Like
The butch styling is brilliant, the big trunk makes it as practical as an old Honda Civic
hatchback, and both engines are simply fantastic. And then there's the fact that it drives like a car -- not just any car, mind you, but a BMW.
What's Not to Like
Big power and big weight means big fuel consumption, and the racy profile means most adults will find limited headroom in the back seat (assuming they don't knock themselves out on the low roofline while trying to get in).
DriverSide Driving Impressions
The X6 really does drive almost exactly like a sports sedan. We say "almost" because the steering has a very slight SUV-like on-center dead spot. But in our mix of open freeway, backcountry roads and wet and dry racetracks, we found that the X6 basically goes, turns and stops like a proper BMW. Thanks to the Dynamic Performance Control rear differential, the X6's electronic stability control system is less reliant on the brakes, which makes spirited driving with the electronic nanny switched on much more enjoyable.
Engine and Drivetrain
The X6 xDrive35i comes with BMW's twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six, while the xDrive50i packs a new twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8, both mated to a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque of the six moves the X6's bulk with authority, while the V-8's 407 and 442 numbers pull harder, respond quicker, and sound better, though it tends to jerk occupants' heads backwards when starting out. A small price to pay for such brute power. Both engines though tend to display an admirable absence of turbo lag, which is a huge plus.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
The Dynamic Performance Control rear differential is based on a BMW patent from 1928, but it was only with the advent of computer control that BMW could really put the system to good use. By fitting a planetary gear set to both rear wheels, DPC can actually cause one rear wheel to spin faster than the other, even if the driver lifts off the gas. This differential allows the electronic stability control system to correct oversteer with less use of the wheel brakes by simply accelerating the inside rear wheel. In other words, the system helps create a better drive.
Key Technology Evaluation
Along with the standard Dynamic Performance Control system, the X6 offers optional Active Steering, which quickens the steering ratio during aggressive driving, and Adaptive Drive, which alters anti-roll bar and shock absorber stiffness based on conditions. These technologies make a noticeable difference in the way the X6 drives; they gave us the ability to better control the X6 on slick pavement or when simply banging through the curves.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
The X6 includes a plethora of technologies to increase its efficiency, from direct fuel injection to Brake Energy Regeneration, which attempts to charge the battery only when the driver lifts off the accelerator. Still, the X6 is a fast car that weighs two and a half tons. BMW has not released EPA fuel economy figures; they estimate numbers in the high teens, but we averaged just 14 MPG in the V-8-powered X6.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The X6's dash is virtually identical to the X5
's, including the love-it-or-hate-it iDrive dial controller with redundant buttons for climate and some stereo functions. Leather upholstery is standard; front seats are comfortable but back seat headroom is limited and even short folks must duck under the roof to get in.
Styling is one of the X6's best features. The coupe-like roofline and tough-looking all-wheel-drive stance make it an imposing vehicle, while familiar cues like the twin-kidney grille mean there's no mistaking who makes this car. By far, this is one of the best-looking BMWs in years.
Market Segment and Pricing
The X6 xDrive35i starts at $53,275, while the xDrive50i is priced at $63,775; options can add $20,000 or more to that price. As for market segment, the X6 is forging its own path. Part SUV and part sports sedan, we expect the X6 will pull buyers from both camps.
What We Think
In a world of look-alike sedans
, the X6 is refreshingly unique. It is great to drive, has a high cool quotient, and is actually quite practical for cargo, if not passengers. Lousy fuel economy, limited back-seat headroom and a high price limit its appeal, but we think the X6 will be a hit to both die-hard Bimmer fans and neophytes alike.