What's New for 2011
The BMW ActiveHybrid X6 carries over unchanged for 2011.
It's really quite difficult to know where to begin. The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 wants to be a kind of hybrid vehicle with personality, a crossover utility executed with coupe-style character and hybrid-style fuel efficiency. But in the end, the result is a matrix of facts, figures, calculations and comparisons that keeps you from indulging yourself with this vehicle. It's almost befuddling, but nonetheless, we'll walk you through it.
It starts with the BMW X6, a carlike crossover based upon the platform of the full-size BMW X5 sport-utility. To make it more personal, the X6 is designed for just four passengers and its radically sloping roof line limits rear-seat headroom, cargo space and outward visibility. In this way the X6 is simply the SUV equivalent of a conventional coupe.
To this platform BMW adds its first-ever hybrid system to get the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6. Co-developed with General Motors and the conglomerate formerly known as DaimlerChrysler, this hybrid system can propel the X6 at low speeds solely using the power sent from its batteries to a pair of electric motors encased within the transmission. Together with the turbocharged V8 from the BMW X6 xDrive50i, the ActiveHybrid system produces a total of 480 horsepower and 575 pound-feet of torque. That's a lot more than the xDrive50i, but all those hybrid components (notably the batteries) add about 500 pounds to the xDrive50i, compromising acceleration and cornering performance.
Yet a hybrid is more about fuel economy than performance, right? Well, thanks to all that power and weight, the ActiveHybrid manages to only better the 300-hp X6 xDrive35i by 1 mpg in EPA combined driving. Considering there's a $32,000 gap in price between the ActiveHybrid X6 and the X6 xDrive35i, it would take you 350 years to recoup the price premium (based on 15,000 miles per year and $3 per gallon of gasoline). That's not Star Trek time; it's Star Trek: The Next Generation.
We've found the BMW X6 to be one of the best-handling SUVs around. But the hybrid model's substantial weight gain and loss of BMW's trick Dynamic Performance Control system mean the ActiveHybrid X6 is just not as capable or rewarding to drive as its non-electrified siblings. That goes double for the hyper-performance BMW X6 M, which costs exactly the same as the ActiveHybrid X6.
So the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 becomes an overly complicated answer to a question we don't remember asking. It's a showcase for some interesting technology, but there's no compelling impact on the ownership experience. It's meant to deliver the performance of the V8-powered X6 with the fuel economy of the inline-6-powered X6, but it does so for the price of the exotic high-performance X6 M. In comparison, the diesel-powered BMW X5 is more practical, costs less and delivers 4 mpg more on the EPA's combined cycle.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 is a four-passenger SUV available in a single trim level.
Standard equipment includes 20-inch wheels, self-leveling suspension, front and rear parking sensors, automatic and adaptive xenon headlights, a sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, a power tailgate, keyless ignition/entry, soft-close automatic doors, running boards, heated 14-way power seats with adjustable bolsters and lumbar, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, driver memory functions, leather upholstery and dash trim, a navigation system with real-time traffic and voice controls, a head-up display, Bluetooth, BMW Assist telematics and a 12-speaker sound system with six-CD/DVD changer, auxiliary audio jack, iPod/USB adapter and HD radio.
The Cold Weather package adds a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, retractable headlight washers and a rear seat pass-through ski bag. Other options include automatic high beams, 19-inch wheels, sport seats, ventilated and massaging front seats, rear manual window shades, a rear seat entertainment system, an enhanced sound system and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 is the combination of a traditional gasoline engine and two electric motors that are integrated with the transmission. The gas-powered engine is the same twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 found in the X6 xDrive50i and it produces 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. With the added output from the electric motors, combined power output jumps to 480 hp and 575 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission available is a specialized seven-speed automatic unit with manual shift control that sends power to all four wheels.
In performance testing, the ActiveHybrid X6 went from zero to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds -- the same performance as the regular V8-powered X6. The fuel economy according to EPA estimates is 17 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. In comparison, the X6 model powered by an inline-6 engine achieves 15/21/17 mpg while the X6 with a V8 makes 13/18/15 mpg.
Standard safety features on the 2010 ActiveHybrid X6 include antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, trailer stability control, hill descent control, adaptive headlights, front-seat side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, active front head restraints and BMW Assist emergency telematics.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the regular X6, the ActiveHybrid version can seat only four people and its maximum cargo capacity of 60 cubic feet is smaller than many compact crossovers. As such, you get all the weight and size of a big SUV with only a fraction of the utility.
Of course, the cabin also offers the same precise construction, high-quality materials and crystal-clear instrumentation of its sibling, but with some richer trim pieces and a full complement of standard luxury and convenience features. The optionally available, ventilated 14-way-adjustable "multicontour" seats are among the finest ways to treat backsides, offering an almost infinite degree of adjustability and comfort.
The ActiveHybrid X6 has BMW's latest iDrive interface, which includes improved user-friendly buttons next to the control knob and a more sensible menu structure. It also has BMW's joystick-like gear selector, which drivers might find initially find confusing to operate.
Driven very conservatively, the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 can propel itself under electricity alone up to 37 mph, at which point the electric motors and gas-powered V8 work in concert with each other. Some drivers might find the character of the ActiveHybrid X6's acceleration a bit unusual due to the added powertrain complexity. Off the line, initial forward motion is met with a pregnant pause before the vehicle seriously gets underway -- otherwise, acceleration is brisk.
Like the rest of the X6 lineup, the ActiveHybrid X6 feels far more maneuverable than you would expect given its size, weight and "hybrid" moniker. Nevertheless, the combination of a substantial increase in weight and the deletion of the Dynamic Performance Control system found in the conventional X6 make this hybrid feel far more ponderous on the road. The artificial feel of the hybrid's electric-assist power steering and regenerative brakes also compromises the two key areas in which BMWs have always set themselves apart from the competition.