BMW X6 / Photo by Steve Rossi

Car Review: BMW Dares To Be Different With X6

EAST HADDAM, CT – You can’t judge a book by its cover, which is why the BMW X6 is somewhat hard to comprehend. In an attempt to slice the SUV deck even further, the German automaker has opted to deliver what it considers a “sport activity vehicle.” Its purpose is to stand out in a world full of more conservative sport utilities and crossovers.

The X6 has a more coupe-like aesthetic, with the practicality of four-doors and a rear hatch, so is does stands out from other sport utilities and crossovers on the road these days.

And with utility vehicles considered somewhat irresponsible in Europe because they’re not as environmentally efficient as passenger cars, this unorthodox BMW is presented as offering what the company calls “transitional design” and an “athletic” approach.

Here in America, the more mainstream BMW X5 SUV outsells the unconventional X6 “SAV” by a factor of seven-to-one. Maybe that’s because from certain angles its proportions are a bit ungainly, although it is improved from the previous 2015-2019 iteration. But the carrying capability, outward visibility and versatility is obviously still a bit less on the latter with its condensed proportions. 

On the flip side, the company’s been consistently enlarging its landmark twin-kidney grille design to the point of being a snorting extreme. In can even be optionally illuminated (for $1,650).

The example I drove was designated X6 x-Drive40i, which is somewhat convoluted nomenclature. x-Drive was easy. It’s BMW all-wheel drive. But the X6 features a 3.0-liter engine, so the 40 enumeration is a bit illogical. It really signifies a product range hierarchy, instead of engine displacement like it used to.

In addition to the model designation, the BMW window sticker is another head-scratcher. Here are a few indeterminant items that were listed: Glass Controls, Gesture Control, Acoustic Protection, Refrigerant, Decoding Additional Functions and Control K. 

Who writes this stuff? 

A Google search led me to the discussion forum. “BMW questions you thought were too stupid to ask.” So I guess I’m not the only one who’s been confounded! 

BMW has also entered into the realm of perplexing electronic control which means that the X6 is not the most intuitive to operate. The radio sometimes demonstrated a mind of it own; coming on after the car was shut off and the door was opened. 

Instead of the clock automatically adjusting itself (like a common cell phone), I was never able to get it on daylight saving time. And no matter how hard I tried to the contrary, the heated steering wheel came on every time I started the car.

The good news is that while the stylists, electrical engineers and marketing mavens may have strayed from BMW tradition, the powertrain and chassis gurus have not.

The X6 still behaves like an “Ultimate Driving Machine.” It’s powered by a 375-horsepower turbocharged inline six-cylinder that’s combined with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. It has a well behaved eight-speed automatic transmission. The supplementary hybrid system can deliver an output boost of up to 147 lb.-ft. torque.

An adaptive M suspension includes electronically controlled shock absorbers that precisely adjust compression and rebound settings as a function of road irregularities. The driver can further influence such behavior by choosing comfort vs. sport settings. The M Sport package also includes larger Brembo brakes (up from 13.7-inch to 15.5-inch front discs/13.6-inch to 14.5 rear discs). The X6 rides on rather meaty 315/30 x 22 rubber. An upgraded exhaust with quad tips is featured as well.

Interior appointments are a rich amalgam of Teutonic taste. The upscale sanctuary combines premium fabrics with refined surface treatments down to carbon fiber-inspired effects and a crystal glass gear shift toggle control. 

Contributing to a cockpit-like environment, a panoramic 12.3-inch instrument cluster is combined with a curved 14.9-inch center display. With soft, leather-like Cognac Sensafin (vegan based) upholstery and Harman Kardon Hi Fi audio, my X6 conveyed a quiet and serene, lap of luxury aura.

Being a BMW, a well-engineered safety ethic is also part and parcel with the X6. It includes a carefully considered combination of active and passive safety features from Active Driving Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Detection and Lane Departure Warning to Front and Dynamic Stability Control and Rear Head Protection Systems. 

Needless to say, utmost connectivity is also included with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with Real-Time Traffic and On-Street Parking services.

Daring to be different comes at a price. The BMW X6 x-Drive40i mouthful that I drove retails for $73,900. With options, mine stickered at $87,545. 

Obviously, based on the company’s sales statistics, you won’t see yourself comin’ and goin’ in an X6. But you’ll still be rewarded by a superlative driving experience along the two-lane twisties and our wide-open interstates.

(Photos courtesy of BMW unless otherwise noted.)

About Steven Rossi

Steve Rossi is an automotive engineer-turned-marketing communicator. With some 25 years in the industry, including three tours of duty in Detroit, he serves as senior columnist for "Antique Automobile" magazine. His work has also appeared in "Collectible Automobile" and "The New York Times." He holds 21 international speed and world automotive endurance records.

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