Test Drive: 2009 BMW X6

BMW X6 console. / Photo: BMW USA

BMW X6: The Crossover Redefined

Small sport utility vehicle, modified minivan, or new age station wagon. Any of these might describe what is commonly referred to as a crossover vehicle. None of them describes BMW X6. The company that claims to produce the ultimate driving machine has created the ultimate new-style crossover in the X6.

Where the typical crossover looks like a sport utility vehicle and feels like a car, the X6 looks like a car and feels like a sport utility vehicle; a truly refreshing concept that BMW calls the Sports Activity Coupe. Keep in mind that what every other automaker calls a utility vehicle, BMW calls an activity vehicle.

The X6 comes in two models: the six cylinder xDrive35i and the eight cylinder xDrive50i . Both are produced at BMW TMs Spartanburg, South Carolina assembly plant alongside the X5 model. BMW delivered an eight cylinder version for me to evaluate.

One word can express my feelings about this ride on many levels"WOW! But, since I TMm sure you would like more than that, here are more detailed thoughts based on my week in the vehicle.


At first glance, the X6 appears imposing and aggressive. It is both. Upon closer inspection, you discover it is also elegant and well mannered. Its footprint is large. My X6 test model, with its wide stance and tall profile, was only made more imposing by its massive 20-inch wheels with fat, performance tires.

The body commands attention, especially the sloping rear. It TMs sleek, sporty and like no other crossover on the market. The X6 comes in ten available colors including eight metallic choices.


Under the hood, a 4.4 liter twin turbo V-8 engine producing 400 hp and a peak 450 lb-ft of torque available between 1,750 and 4,500 rpm. BMW says the X6 will vault you from 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds. If you TMre not a numbers person, suffice it to say this vehicle is quick. The engine packs pure power and the exhaust note is melodically muscular. Get yourself a good radar detector. Before I knew it, the heads-up display showed the number 92 on the windshield. An indication that I needed to slow down or at least do a peripheral scan to make sure Smokey wasn TMt lurking nearby ready to pounce with an expensive citation since I had just passed a sign with the number 60 beneath the words speed limit.

Of course, all of the exhilaration comes at the expense of fuel efficiency. The X6 xDrive50i gets an EPA estimated 12 MPG in city driving and 18 MPG on the highway. My actual mileage pretty much matched the estimates. I got 11 in the city and 17 on the highway. The six cylinder model gets an estimated 15 MPG in the city and 20 MPG on the highway. Both require premium gasoline.


Inside, the X6 has what you would expect from a luxury coupe: front and rear, heated leather bucket seats; automatic, digital dual-zone climate control and premium sound system among many features. The cabin is very quiet. You hear minimal road noise and maximum engine rumble. I like that.

Seating is outstanding. The 20-way power multi-contour fronts can adjust in so many ways, it should be nearly impossible to get seat fatigue even on the longest of road trips. Leg, head and shoulder room are more than ample, even in back where you might think head room would be tight due to the sloping roof. You do need to watch your head getting in and out of the rear, but once inside passengers fit nicely into bucket seats that look and feel just like the fronts.


The X6 comes with a long list of standard features including BMW TMs xDrive all-wheel-drive system, Dynamic Stability Control, Xenon Adaptive headlights which swivel the lights in the direction the car is steering, front and rear Park Distance Control, GPS navigation and more. BMW TMs iDrive on-board computer is also standard. Highly criticized when first introduced in 2001, iDrive has been greatly improved. I would prefer direct access buttons to reach features more quickly, but iDrive is user friendly enough. The test model is fully loaded with every option available. Among them-- a 6-disc DVD changer and LCD screen attached to the center console to keep rear-seat passengers entertained during road trips; high-definition radio; iPod and USB adapter (the system can read your music library and give you full access through iDrive); rear-view camera and the aforementioned head-up display.


One thing that suffers, noticeably, in the X6 is visibility. Your view of the road through the windshield and front windows is superb. But the vehicle TMs high stance, sloping roof and low-slung rear windshield make the rear view seem limited. Also, the wide b-pillars greatly limit your over-the-shoulder view out of the side windows. You are forced to rely almost entirely on the more than adequately large side-view mirrors.


I TMm back to my one word description"WOW! When it comes to European cars, I TMve always preferred Germany TMs other big brand. Now, it TMs a toss-up. Clearly, BMW has an edge in this new SAC category. We TMll see if other automakers decide to compete and whether any try to create a similar vehicle at a more universally affordable price. The X6 is expensive by the average buyer TMs standard. The starting price for the xDrive50i is $66,550. The test model, fully loaded topped $84,000! The xDrive35i starts at $55,900. Pricing aside, I think it will be hard for anyone to match what BMW has done with the X6. It gets two thumps up and a hearty high five from me.




2009 X6 xDrive50i

Dates Tested:

April 21-28, 2009

Exterior Color:

Mineral Silver Metallic

Interior Color:

Saddle Brown Nevada Leather


4.4 Liter Twin-Turbo V-8

400 hp @ 5500 rpm

450 lb-ft @ 1750-4500 rpm

Fuel Efficiency:

City: 12/Hwy: 18

Fuel: Premium gasoline required


Base: $67,475 including destination charge

As Tested: $84,170

Thumbs Up:

Overall appearance

Throaty exhaust note

Super fast acceleration

Great headrests

Thumbs Down:


Limited side and rear view visibility

Did I mention price?