What's New for 2008
The BMW X6 is an all-new model for 2008. Despite having a name numerically higher than the X5, the X6 isn't any bigger. Instead, this four-person, performance-themed crossover features coupelike styling, a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system and a potent range of engines.
In the past, BMW didn't exactly rush in to follow the trend toward larger, more family-friendly vehicles. Like a fashionable latecomer to a cocktail party, the German automaker launched the BMW X5 a few years into the SUV craze. But when the tide turned and the market clamored for scaled-down utility, BMW was ready with the nimble X3. And now that the crossover has found its way into the lineup of practically every marque in the auto industry, the German automaker steps up to bat with the X6, a four-passenger "Sports Activity Coupe" that BMW hopes will entice customers looking for the superior handling of a sport sedan with the space and functionality of an SUV. And just to clear up any potential confusion: Yes, BMW is calling the X6 a coupe, but that's just pure marketing, as it really does have four doors.
Underneath the crossover's controversial styling lies the capable, athletic handling BMW is known for. The all-wheel-drive X6 shares the same platform as the X5, with some major differences. Perhaps most significant is the X6's new, optional 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. It makes 400 horsepower (just a bit shy of what the new M3 puts out) and a beefy 450 pound-feet of torque that peaks as early as 1,750 rpm and doesn't waver until 4,500 rpm. Right now, this is the only BMW you can get with the twin-turbo V8. And it's probably just as well; with a curb weight of nearly 5,300 pounds for the V8 version, the X6 needs the power.
If the BMW X6's weight doesn't shock you, the sticker just might. The X6 starts in the mid-$50,000 range, with the V8 version starting at $8,500 more than the V8-powered X5 4.8i. And for that price premium, you get less rear passenger room and cargo space than the X5. We're hard-pressed to find direct competitors for the X6 save for the '09 Infiniti FX50, which also offers coupelike styling, V8 power and sporty handling -- starting at a few thousand dollars less than the six-cylinder X6. The Range Rover Sport, as well as the Porsche Cayenne S, are priced comparably, but both have more of an SUV look and lack the X6's lower profile. For those willing to fork over considerably more dough for a midsize crossover that's still smaller than the average midsize SUV, the 2008 BMW X6 might make sense. But for everyone else, we'd suggest looking elsewhere.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 BMW X6 comes in two trim levels: xDrive35i and xDrive50i. Both trims come standard with a moonroof, 19-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, power front seats with driver memory settings, parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control and the iDrive multimedia interface. Also standard is a 12-speaker audio system with a CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary audio input.
Naturally, one can further equip the X6 with a variety of options. The Technology Package adds a voice-activated navigation system with a rearview camera and real-time traffic information. An optional Sport Package adds Adaptive Drive (which adds increased control over body roll) and bumps the wheel size up to 20 inches. The Premium package adds BMW Assist and auto-dimming mirrors. The Active Ventilated Seat Package includes perforated power front seats equipped with fans that blow air underneath passengers.
The optional upgraded sound system includes iPod and USB adapters, as well as a six-disc DVD changer. Some à la carte options include soft-close automatic doors, a power liftgate, running boards, a head-up display, active steering, HD radio and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
The AWD 2008 X6 xDrive35i uses a 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-6 that makes 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. BMW claims it goes from zero to 60 mph in the low 6-second range. The xDrive50i's 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 packs a 400-hp punch with 450 lb-ft of torque. BMW estimates its 0-60 time to be 5.3 seconds. Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.
Standard on the 2008 BMW X6 are stability control, hill descent control, antilock disc brakes and active front head restraints. Also included are front-seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags. In the event of a rollover, a standard rollover sensor, integrated with the stability control system, activates both the curtain airbags and the seatbelt tensioners. The X6 also uses Dynamic Performance Control (DPC), a new torque distribution system that actively redirects power to each of the four wheels as needed to help with traction and directional stability.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the BMW X6 is nearly identical to that of the X5, at least up front. The gauges, shift lever and center console are the same in appearance and quality in both models. The X6 gets standard leather upholstery and a sport steering wheel, as well as luxurious little touches such as cushions on either side of the center console to help protect knees. It is the rear passengers, however, who will bear the brunt of the X6's sweeping profile. A large center console restricts the backseat to two passengers, and the lower roof line knocks headroom down about 2 inches, which, for very tall passengers, turns the roof into a headrest. Legroom is adequate, but still feels somewhat cramped compared to the X5. That said, the seating is comfortable and supportive and measures up to the quality of other BMWs. Cargo space is sufficient at 60 cubic feet with the split rear seats folded down, but keep in mind that the X5 offers nearly 75 cubic feet by comparison.
Handling is one of the X6's most impressive attributes. In early testing, we found the crossover surprisingly agile. Steering is quick and cornering produces very little body roll. Braking is responsive, and the tires, combined with the all-wheel-drive system, provide plenty of grip. The only quibble is that the Dynamic Performance Control can be invasive and make the car feel a little jerky during demanding driving. Overall, however, the 2008 BMW X6 is a solid all-around performer.