by James Allen
And thus the BMW X6 was born to widespread jeers of derision and slack jaws. But in spite of its challenging aesthetics, enough people bought it to motivate BMW to introduce a second generation for the 2015 model year. The formula remained unchanged: take an X5, give it a sloping liftback roof, remove the (cramped) third row seats, and sit back and watch the dollars roll in. The 2017 model year brought a few detail updates, but nothing serious enough to rock the boat.
Exactly as it was before, really. The 2017 X6 copies BMW's current interior design, with horizontal lines creating an impression of width. This impression doesn't really need any reinforcement: it is a wide car to begin with, giving adequate leg-, elbow-, and head room for the front occupants. The rear seats are less accommodating due to that slanting roofline, and the tapered greenhouse eats into shoulder room. BMW pitches the X6 as a “4+1” seater, with that “+1” likely denoting a small child in the very cramped centre rear seat.
Material- and build quality is still suitably upmarket, and a wide array of optional trim packages offers a selection of seat designs, upholstery choices and cabin lighting gimmicks. In short, it's exactly like an X5 inside, only with fewer seats and smaller daylight openings – although the standard powered, sliding glass moonroof alleviates the worst cave-like tendencies.
This is still a modern-era BMW, which means that it's sure-footed and competent, if not quite as involving to pilot as traditional BMWs used to be. Its high seating position and large dimensions suggest ponderous dynamics, yet it turns into corners with responsive steering and plenty of grip, while sports-tuned dampers keeps body roll in check. But, while the steering is accurate, its transition to electric assistance has robbed it of feedback, and it's rather artificially sticky on-centre.
This sporty bias has some trade-off in ride comfort, where broken road surfaces often penetrate the cabin's calm, an effect amplified by the standard-fit run-flat tires. Best avoid those sexy oversized wheels on the option sheet, and consider adding the adaptive damper system instead – your spine will thank you.
Performance, even without an “M”You won't find any diesel engines in US-market X6s, only gasoline engines in three flavours. The range opens with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six in the “35i” variants, delivering 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, and sending power through a (standard) eight-speed automatic transmission with either rear- (sDrive) or all wheel drive (xDrive). Next up is the “50i” derivative, with a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 producing 445 hp and 480 lb-ft, which only comes with xDrive AWD.
For the really power-hungry, there's an X6 M derivative (also with AWD) at the top of the pile, using a derivative of the 4.4-liter V8 tuned to produce 567 hp and 553 lb-ft. They're all rapid, with the slowest 0-60 MPH sprint taking only 6.0 seconds, and the gearboxes are well-matched to the engines' power delivery characteristics.
In typical German fashion, an expansive options list allows buyers to tailor their cars to their unique requirements. The 2017 updates include touch screen functionality for the high resolution 10.2-inch iDrive display, which features the latest navigation system with 3-D maps, a 200 GB hard drive with 20 GB storage for audio files, voice feedback and voice command system. BMW's suite of ConnectedDrive services are also available.
Safety is well taken care of by the usual stability control systems, along with eight airbags. Optional features include the Driving Assistance Packages, which add (among other things) various cameras around the outside, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking. Also available are adaptive full-LED headlamps, an infrared night vision system, pedestrian detection, and blind spot monitoring, making a fully-optioned X6 one of the most feature-rich cars out there.
The BMW X6 isn't particularly spacious for a car of this size, and its appearance probably won't be to everyone's taste, but its presence and performance cannot be denied. It makes a bold statement on the road, and for many, that's enough reason to cough up the almost $ 6000 price premium over its boxier, roomier sister.