What's New for 2009
The 2009 BMW X6 remains relatively unchanged from last year with only a shuffling of some features in the options structure.
Just because something's different doesn't necessarily make it better. Or does it? When BMW introduced the X6 last year, that question, along with, "Do we really need something like this?" sprang forth. With BMW covering the small and midsize crossover SUV market with the X3 and X5, the X6 finds itself in a niche within a niche.
BMW calls its midsize X6 a "Sports Activity Coupe" (even though it has four doors), presumably because of the X6's sporty and graceful profile. There's no doubt that the X6 is a head turner, but these good looks come at a price -- literally and figuratively. The unique sloping rear roofline includes the unfortunate side effect of reducing cargo space, rear headroom and visibility. Then there's the price tag. Despite sharing most of its underpinnings with the more conventionally styled X5, the X6 is priced more than $9,000 higher.
What you get for that premium, however, is a surprising amount of performance. The results from our testing of the 300-horsepower xDrive35i model are closer to those of a sport sedan than an SUV. And what is even more shocking is that the X6 weighs almost 5,000 pounds. Its ability to quickly accelerate, corner and slow down defies logic, and to BMW's credit, the X6 also provides a comfortable and quiet front-seat ride. For those who hunger for even more performance than that from the standard twin-turbo inline-6, there is the xDrive50i that boasts an over-the-top twin-turbo V8 producing 400 hp.
Stellar performance aside, it's difficult to get over the perception that you're paying more for less with the 2009 BMW X6. Taking into account that it can only seat four, when other luxury SUVs accommodate five (or more, with third-row seating), the appeal of this visual and visceral stunner begins to wane. The closest competitor, the Infiniti FX50, mimics the performance-over-utility concept of the X6, but with a different approach to styling that some may find unappealing. With similarly priced sporty SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne and Land Rover Range Rover Sport on hand, you're going to have to really love the X6's style for its sacrifice of functionality and versatility to make sense.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 BMW X6 is a midsize luxury crossover SUV that is offered in two trim levels. The base xDrive35i trim comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, adaptive xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, power front seats with driver memory settings, parking assist sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, the iDrive multimedia interface and a 12-speaker audio system with a CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary audio jack. The xDrive50i trim level includes all of the above and adds multicontour seats and voice-activated navigation with real-time traffic (all of which are available on the xDrive35i as options).
A wide array of options that are grouped into packages can be added to the X6. The Premium package includes auto-dimming mirrors, a power liftgate, ambient lighting, front-seat lumbar support, a cargo-area rail system and Bluetooth. The Sport package adds sport front seats and adaptive suspension dampers and stabilizer bars. A Premium Sound package is available that upgrades the audio system with 16 speakers, a six-CD changer and an iPod/USB adapter. Other optional features found in packages include rear-seat climate control, heated seats and steering wheel, and ventilated front seats.
Stand-alone options include active steering, 20-inch wheels, keyless ignition and entry, a rearview camera, a leather-wrapped dashboard and center console, a head-up display, satellite and HD radio, and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 BMW X6 xDrive35i is powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-6 that produces 300 hp and 300 pound-feet of torque. In our testing, this X6 accelerated to 60 mph from a standstill in an impressive 6.3 seconds. The xDrive50i comes with a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that generates 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque; BMW claims a 0-60 time of only 5.3 seconds. Both engines route power to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.
Fuel economy registers an EPA-estimated 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 17 mpg in combined driving for the xDrive35i, while the xDrive50i manages only 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 15 mpg in combined driving.
Standard safety features on the X6 include antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, hill descent control, front-seat side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Also included is BMW's advanced Dynamic Performance Control (DPC) that greatly enhances directional stability and traction by redirecting power to individual wheels.
Interior Design and Special Features
From the front seats, the BMW X6 is nearly identical to the X5 that it is based on. The X6 adds details like sportier seats and steering wheel that make the cockpit feel more like a sport sedan's than an SUV's. Cushioned center console sides (to help protect knees during aggressive cornering) are also unique to the X6. Luxurious leather upholstery is standard throughout the cabin as is dark wood trim for a decidedly upscale flavor.
The big changes happen behind the front seats, mostly due to the sloping roofline that reduces rear headroom by about two inches. The rear seats are also only capable of accommodating two passengers, since the large rear center console is not removable. The rear seats however, are comfortable and supportive, though legroom feels a bit cramped when compared to the X5's.The dramatic roofline also cuts into the cargo area, which holds up to 60 cubic feet with the rear seats stowed (compared to the X5's 75 cubes). Cargo capacity is sufficient for occasional hauling, but with the seats up, capacity is limited to a relatively shallow 25 cubic feet.
The 2009 BMW X6 delivers an astonishing amount of performance considering its size and weight. Cornering prowess is most impressive, owing to a nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution and wide, sticky tires. The Dynamic Performance Control all-wheel-drive system also contributes heavily, especially in low grip conditions or at high speeds.
Acceleration is brisk, thanks to quick yet smooth shifts from the six-speed automatic, though the shift paddles have a flimsy feel about them. Braking power is remarkably strong and fade-free, especially considering this big Bimmer's heft. Despite the X6's athletic performance, ride comfort does not suffer. In everyday driving, the cabin keeps road and wind noise to a minimum, while the suspension soaks up road imperfections with ease.