What's New for 2012
For 2012, the BMW X6 gains an optional rear center seat that increases passenger capacity to five. Otherwise, it sees no significant changes apart from a minor shuffling of standard and optional features.
Sleek "coupelike" styling is all the rage lately. Four-door sedans with downwardly sweeping roof lines started it off a few years back, and the coupe concept now has been adopted by crossover SUVs, of which the BMW X6 is a prime example.
From the beltline down, the 2012 BMW X6 has all the expected characteristics of a crossover ute -- rugged styling, elevated ride height and all-wheel drive. But all this has been capped by a sloped roof line that suggests speed. Three inches shorter than the traditional X5 sport-utility with which it shares a platform, the X6 does indeed handle a bit better when you're driving fast. But just as with any coupe, there are compromises in the overall package, notably rear seat space and cargo capacity in this case.
Of course, the X6 still provides an enjoyable driving experience in the BMW manner and even the less powerful of the two versions offered is impressively quick. A buttoned-down suspension and communicative steering further attest to its lineage. But there's just no escaping how big and heavy the X6 is, and you'll never confuse it with a sport sedan. As advertised, it drives like a really sporty SUV, only one without much practicality.
If it seems as if we think the 2012 BMW X6 makes about as much sense as putting MTV's reality programming staff in charge of the State Department, then you get the picture. There's just no reason we can see to buy an X6 instead of any number of more conventional luxury vehicles, many of which are available with all-wheel drive. Among luxury SUVs, the BMW X5 doesn't have the same flashy styling as its X6 sibling, but it offers virtually the same driving dynamics along with a full backseat and a sizable cargo area. The Porsche Cayenne is another sport-tuned SUV with greater practicality, while even the oddly styled BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo makes more sense to us.
But we have a hunch that practicality won't matter to someone who purchases the 2012 BMW X6. What will matter is that they love the styling and that it's a BMW. The former is a matter of taste, while the latter speaks to the brand's enduring quality, engineering excellence and desirability.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 BMW X6 is a four-passenger SUV (an optional center seat for the rear increases capacity to five) available in two trim styles that correspond to engine choice: the xDrive35i and xDrive50i. The term xDrive refers to an all-wheel-drive system as standard equipment. There is also the ultra high-performance X6 M, which is covered in a separate model review.
Standard equipment on the X6 xDrive35i includes 19-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, power tailgate, sunroof, automatic and adaptive bi-xenon headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, cruise control, 10-way power front seats, heated front seats, driver memory functions, leather upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, the iDrive electronics interface and a 10-speaker sound system with CD player, iPod/USB adapter and HD radio. Aside from its twin-turbo V8, the xDrive50i adds 14-way-adjustable front seats, BMW Assist emergency telematics, Bluetooth and a navigation system with voice controls and real-time traffic. These extra items are available as options on the xDrive35i.
The optional Premium Sound package adds a 16-speaker surround-sound system with satellite radio. The Cold Weather package adds heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel and retractable headlight washers. The Active Ventilated Seat package adds automatically adjusting driver seat bolsters, ventilated seats and perforated leather upholstery. The Premium package adds four-zone climate control, a navigation system, keyless ignition/entry, a rearview camera (with top view) and manual rear side window shades. The Sport package adds a choice of 19- or 20-inch wheels, the Active Drive enhanced suspension and darker interior and exterior trim. The version of this package known as Sport Activity deletes Active Drive. A Technology package provides automatic high beams, a sideview camera and a head-up display.
Several of the above items are available as stand-alone options, as are active steering, a lane departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, soft-close automatic doors, running boards, extended leather upholstery, a rear center seat and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 BMW X6 xDrive35i is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that produces 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. As with the xDrive50i, an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard. BMW estimates that the X6 35i will go from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined.
The xDrive50i gets a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 that cranks out 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. Its estimated 0-60 time is 5.3 seconds, while fuel economy estimates stand at 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined.
Standard safety features on the 2012 BMW X6 include antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, hill descent control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Also included is BMW's advanced Dynamic Performance Control (DPC), which greatly enhances directional stability and traction by redirecting power to individual wheels. BMW Assist emergency telematics are optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, an X6 xDrive35i came to a stop from 60 mph in a very short 111 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
From the front seats, the BMW X6 is nearly identical to the X5 upon which it is based, though sportier seats and a cushioned design for the center console (protecting knees during aggressive cornering) are unique to the X6. In BMW fashion, the materials are top-notch and the whole thing is put together beautifully.
The big changes happen behind the front seats, mostly due to the sloping roof line that reduces rear headroom by about 2 inches. In standard form, the rear seat accommodates just two passengers, since the large rear center console is not removable. A new center seat option can accommodate an additional passenger. The outboard rear seats are reasonably comfortable, but they lack any sort of adjustment.
The dramatic roof line also cuts into the cargo area. Cargo capacity is sufficient for occasional hauling, with a decent 25 cubic feet with the seats up, but with the rear seats stowed, the X6 holds only 60 cubic feet (compared to the X5's 75 cubes). That's less capacity than you'll get out of a Hyundai Tucson.
The 2012 BMW X6 delivers an astonishing amount of performance considering its size and weight. Cornering prowess is impressive thanks to a balanced weight distribution, wide, sticky tires and an all-wheel-drive system with lots of electronic features. The steering is great when going fast, but the effort level is a bit too heavy at low speed.
Acceleration is brisk with either of the available engines (the 300-hp 35i is definitely more than enough). Braking power is remarkably strong and fade-free, especially considering this big Bimmer's heft. And despite the X6's athletic tuning, 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.