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BMW likes to call its X6 a "Sports Activity Coupe," but perhaps "fastback SUV" would be a more appropriate description. This four-door midsize crossover, which is based on the BMW X5, has a dramatically downward-sloping roof line, evoking the timeless profiles of classic fastback coupes (or, less charitably, the Pontiac Aztek). As such, style trumps utility with limited rear passenger space and cargo volume.
For the style-conscious, these shortcomings will likely be of little consequence. BMW has given the X6 a potent range of engines and handling abilities that far exceed one's expectations for a crossover SUV. Overall, the BMW X6 is a capable niche vehicle that should appeal to those who want solid BMW SUV fundamentals in a spruced-up package. We just hope they won't mind an extra pair of doors on their "coupe."
Current BMW X6
The BMW X6 comes in two trim levels: xDrive 35i and xDrive50i. The xDrive35i features a turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine and comes standard with such luxuries as leather upholstery, power front seats and premium audio. The xDrive50i ups the ante with a turbocharged V8 and even more in the way of interior accoutrements. As with most BMWs, the options list is both extensive and pricey.
The X6 certainly impresses in the powertrain department. The xDrive35i's 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 pumps out a frisky 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, while the xDrive50i's 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 bristles with 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque.
The sole transmission is an eight-speed automatic with manual shift control. All X6 models are equipped with all-wheel drive and a trick torque distribution system called Dynamic Performance Control. This system apportions varying amounts of power to each wheel in order to maintain optimal traction and directional stability.
The X6's styling isn't for everyone, but it manages to set itself apart with the fastback roof line, huge wheels and other sporty styling cues. Inside, the BMW X6 boasts comfortable seats, an excellent driving position and high-quality materials, though the control layout can be befuddling. Rear dimensions are compromised because of the low sloping roof line, but two adults will be happy in back -- provided they aren't unusually long of torso. Should you need to carry another person, an optional three-place bench replaces the standard two-seat layout. Cargo capacity, while adequate, is considerably below average for the midsize crossover SUV segment.
In performance testing, our editors appreciated the X6's sprightly performance, especially in xDrive50i trim. BMW says this V8-powered model should accelerate from zero to 60 in 5.3 seconds, and while that may be slightly optimistic, there's no doubt that this is among the fleetest SUVs on the market. The V8's throaty exhaust burble belies its sophisticated turbocharged character, and in either trim, the X6 handles extraordinarily well for such a tall and heavy vehicle.
The BMW X6 makes sense for well-heeled buyers who want an SUV but care more about looks and performance than utility. However, such buyers will need to be undeterred by the fact that the X5 offers most of the X6's performance as well as far greater utility for thousands of dollars less.
Readers should note that there is a higher-performance version known as the X6 M, which is discussed in a separate review.
Used BMW X6 Models
The BMW X6 was an all-new model for 2009. For the first two model years, a six-speed automatic was standard with both engines. The xDrive35i also had a different and less fuel-efficient engine despite output and displacement figures that are identical to those of the current model. For 2010 only, there was a performance upgrade option available that cranked the engines' outputs up to 320 hp and 440 hp, respectively.
Inside, the X6 could only be had with two rear seats until 2012, when the optional three-person bench debuted. It should also be noted that the 2009 X6 had an older, less user-friendly iDrive electronics interface.
If you are looking for newer years, visit our new BMW X6 page.