2016 BMW X6 xDrive50i Review
BMW didn’t create the X6 to pad its bottom line. Like the Z4 roadster, 6 Series Coupe, Gran Coupe and Convertible, and new i8, not to mention all of its M-badged models, the X6 is a niche image building model that shines its halo across the rest of the brand’s meat-and-potato vehicles, although to be fair to the Munich-base automaker its core models are more Chateaubriand and truffled potato gratin than the usual commoner’s stew.
The X6 has had few challengers since it came into fruition in 1997, the rival most often mocked being Acura’s ZDX, a vehicle I happened to really like for its boldness and clean, uncluttered lines from the outside in. It was considered a slow seller, and while it slid down the sales chart as its four model years came to an end, its initial U.S. numbers weren’t that much lower than X6 sales with 3,259 sold in 2010 compared to 6,257 X6s for BMW (ok, they were about half, but it’s an Acura), whereas the unorthodox coupe-like German CUV only found 3,896 buyers last year. A redesigned X6 arrived during 2014 as a 2015 model and looks to be gaining back its popularity, with 5,687 delivered this calendar year as of October and two months left to potentially beat its 2012 record of 6,749 units, despite yet another wannabe competitor in the new Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe going head-to-head since summer, but even if it breaks that previous high-point, X6 sales will continue to pale against the 44,782 X5s sold within the same 10 months, and that more conventional crossover SUV’s best-ever 2014 sales of 47,031 units.
That’s what I love about BMW, however, they’re not afraid to take risks. It’s these caution to the wind rolls of the dice Munich continues to gamble with that keeps fans of the brand on their collective toes, the X6 followed up by the smaller X4 in similar fashion to how the segment-first 4 Series Gran Coupe resulted from the popularity of the 6 Series Gran Coupe, the success of most BMW creations no doubt causing competitors to shrug in chagrined acceptance that anything wearing the blue and white roundel will be a winner, but of course we’re all very aware of BMW’s 5 Series Gran Turismo which, while wonderfully innovative, fell flat on its fascia; at least the 3 Series GT continues.
BMW is not alone in its ability to create and occupy market niches, its main rival from Stuttgart just as capable and similarly successful. They both fill far more luxury and performance cracks, crannies and razor-thin cavities than their premium branded rivals, which is undoubtedly an expensive exercise although it certifies that each and every client will have their unique individual desires and requirements satisfied, while as noted this practice continues to breed killer brand images that upstart luxury challengers can’t even hope to compete with.
The X6 appears to be back on track when it comes to getting its thick meaty slice of the ultra-thin five-door luxury crossover coupe market. It’s all due to fresh new styling that pulls inspiration from the recently reshaped X5, with a stronger front fascia wearing BMW’s new signature headlights that seamlessly flank the outer edges of its reworked twin kidney grille, as well as more masculine fender swells, shapely body sides and a decidedly more curvaceous rump featuring a more interesting set of LED-infused tail lamps. The details are particularly nice, from the organically shaped ductwork on the lower front valance to the deeply sculpted bodylines, some of which flow out of the side engine vents, and my favorite element on this particular model, the glossed gray rear bumper cap with its big fat rectangular chromed exhaust pipes. Even more imposing are its wickedly wide 275/40R20 front and 315/35R20 rear performance rubber circling a sensational set of machine-finish Y-shaped twinned five-spoke M Sport rims, although the X6 is such a large ute that a set of 22s wouldn’t look out of place. Yes, it continues to be a standout design, but compared to my previous 2015 tester that was detailed out in satin silver this 2016 model gets a chromed grille with glossy black trim bits due to its optional M Sport package treatment, therefore drawing more attention to its gorgeous Flamenco Red metallic paint.
While the updated X6 is fresh and even more aggressive than the original design, I can no longer say it’s totally unique within its own Sports Activity Coupe segment, because Mercedes’ GLE Coupe is disappointingly similar. Of course, BMW will always have our respect for originating the concept, but years ago when Munich decided to come out with their own version of the four-door coupe, a segment that was created by M-B, the 6 Series Gran Coupe looked completely different than the CLS originator. I only wish Merc had been as respectful.
Behind the base X6’ stylish fascia is a carryover 3.0-liter inline-six that produces 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque thanks in part to twin-scroll turbocharging and direct injection, the net result being a 6.0-second sprint from 0 to 60 mph and a limited terminal velocity of 130 mph whether in base rear-drive sDrive35i trim or optional all-wheel powered xDrive35i guise. While I personally like this base powerplant very much I must admit to enjoying the xDrive50i even more, and why not as its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 puts out an intoxicating 445 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque that makes for deceptively quick 4.6-second blasts from naught to 60 and a much more autobahn-like top speed of 155 mph when fitted with its optional performance tires. That’s 45 more horsepower and 30 lb-ft of addition torque over the first-generation X6 xDrive50i, by the way, while in harmony with the reworked engine’s higher dose of energy comes a wonderfully expressive exhaust note, beginning with a guttural rumbling that increases to a sonorous albeit subdued bellow as revs ramp up to redline, the mechanical noise nearly as exciting as the accompanying speed.
BMW also fitted a new eight-speed automatic between engine and driveline, which delivers lightning quick shifts that are also incredibly smooth, unless you’ve swapped out of Comfort or Normal mode to Sport or better yet, Sport+, which makes each flick of the steering wheel-mounted paddles purposefully felt from the backside in firm, positive increments. Engaging Sport will also enhance the adaptive suspension, minimizing roll, pitch and dive and therefore allowing a tighter more controlled fast-paced drive on smooth surfaces.
As you might expect it’s no slouch in the corners, the X6 unbelievably adept at straightening and flattening a curving, undulating stretch of tarmac. The twin-turbo V8 under hood is so strong that a good set of legs is critical, it’s handling prowess becoming a matter that’s as much about enjoyment as it is about safely getting you around each bend, especially if the road isn’t bone dry. You might think your sports or muscle car is fast, but beware that an otherwise quiet business suited type in an X6 might embarrass you if an attempt to smoke him or her off the light is attempted, and when you’re both targeting the same cloverleaf there’s just no need to try to get ahead because you’ll have your tail ridden all the way around if you do. While I don’t mess with those who want to road race unless it’s on a track, I’m well aware of how an X6 will measure up to most of today’s performance models. This CUV’s capability along a snaking back road will astound you, and the best part is that it’s easy for a moderate to good driver to get a lot out of it, unlike the aforementioned muscle cars that require real drifting expertise to exact the most from, and even then can’t fully measure up unless in their top trim levels. The best thing about the X6 is that it delivers all of its amazing performance capabilities within a vehicle that sits high above traffic, thus allowing great frontal visibility albeit not the best rearward sightlines when compared to an X5.
As usual I kept my eyes on the mirrors much of the time, that is when I wasn’t distracted by the X6’s stunning new interior. BMW finished my tester’s cabin in a sharp looking two-tone black and camel beige motif with contrast-stitched leather covering almost everything that wasn’t enhanced by polished hardwood inlays, piano black lacquered wood, and high-quality metals. The expected soft-touch synthetics surfaced anything remaining, right down to the bottom of each door panel, while all of the X6’s interior detailing was beautifully executed, including the high quality, tight fitting, well damped switchgear. This is now expected from BMW, however, which in my opinion now makes the best interiors in the luxury sector.
Ditto for its graphic displays. The X6’s customizable primary gauge package is bright, clear and easily legible. It’s comprised of a 10.25-inch high-resolution TFT screen that’s so acutely high-definition that it’s difficult to differentiate from analog. The infotainment display atop the center stack is also amongst the best in the biz, while the iDrive system within and rotating controller that allows access combine for one of the easier systems to figure out despite being packed full of useful features.
That infotainment display and the aforementioned multifunction gauge package are standard with the X6 xDrive50i, as is an extremely accurate navigation system and very helpful rearview camera, while additional standard features include adaptive auto HID headlamps with LED corona rings, LED fog lights, 19-inch alloys, proximity Comfort access with pushbutton ignition, auto-dimming interior and side mirrors, the latter power-folding and the right-side auto-dipping when in reverse, rain-sensing wipers, a powered tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction sport steering wheel, four-zone auto HVAC (newly standard this year), a 16-speaker 600-watt Harman/Kardon surround sound audio system with two subwoofers located under the driver and front passenger seats plus HD radio with “multicast” FM station reception and satellite radio (also new), 20-way powered and heated front sport seats with memory, leather upholstery, a powered moonroof, front and rear parking sonar, a universal remote garage door opener, a powered liftgate, rear privacy glass, BMW Assist emergency call, an alarm system, a full allotment of safety gear, no-charge scheduled maintenance and more for $74,500 plus freight and dealer fees.
That black and brownish interior upgrade I mentioned earlier was the result of choosing the $1,950 Cognac/Black Bi-Color Interior Design Package, an identically price package with an Ivory White/Black them also available; while my tester also included the $1,900 Lighting Package complete with full LED headlights and auto high beams; the $3,200 Executive Package with soft-close doors, a head-up display, ceramic controls and rear side window shades; a $550 Cold Weather Package including retractable headlight washers, a heatable steering wheel and heatable rear outboard seats; $1,700 Driver Assistance Plus with a collection of Active Driving Assistant features including lane departure warning, frontal collision warning, city collision mitigation and pedestrian protection, plus active blind spot detection, a 360-degree surround view camera, and speed limit info; $1,200 active cruise control with stop and go functions (which requires that last package); the 1,200-watt $3,700 Bang & Olufsen audio system; while the $3,900 M Sport package that I mentioned earlier includes my tester’s glossy black exterior detailing, which BMW dubs high-gloss “Shadowline” and it suits the M Sport line’s other upgrades nicely, which include unique front and rear bumpers, 19-inch wheels which were upgraded to 20s on performance tires as noted, an M leather sport steering wheel and an anthracite roofliner. Lastly, my X6 also featured an adaptive M Suspension with a rear air design for an additional $900.
BMW also offers a Dynamic Handling Package for $4,500 that adds dynamic performance control and active roll stabilization, while there’s no shortage of standalone options either if the latter packages aren’t enough or you’d rather mix and match, the front ventilated front seats going for $500 on their own, the Dynamic Adaptive Suspension for $1,500, active steering for $1,550,the ACC with the Driving Assistant for $1,900, park assist for $500,night vision with pedestrian detection for $2,300, the surround view camera for $700, aluminum running boards for $400, extended smartphone connectivity for $200, and a rear entertainment system with two high-resolution screens integrated in the rear seatbacks for $2,200, and more.
I shouldn’t forget to add X6 M specification to that list too, which includes numerous styling enhancements and go-fast features plus 21-inch rims wrapped in 285/35 front and 325/30 rear rubber, all topped off by a specially tuned version of the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 producing 567 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque resulting in a 4.0-second dash to 60. I tested this powertrain in the X5 M last year and was thoroughly impressed, so I imagine it’s even more entertaining in the X6.
Independent of available X6 features, most people should find the front seats as comfortable and accommodating as can be, whereas those in the rear should also be adequately cared for unless particularly tall. BMW carves out the descending roofline in order to improve rear headroom, while leg, hip, elbow and shoulder room should be ample for two adult passengers in back. Additional good news is more cargo space since the 2015 redesign, the area behind the standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks now measuring 20.5 cubic feet while volume expands to 53.8 cubic feet when all seats are laid flat, so don’t going saying the X6 isn’t practical.
On that note it’s also fairly efficient for such a sporty CUV, with its EPA fuel economy rating coming in at 18 mpg city, 25 highway and 21 combined for the base X6 sDrive35i, 18 city, 24 highway and 20 combined for the base X6 xDrive35i, and 15 city, 21 highway and 17 combined for the X6 xDrive50i. This, of course, has much to do with BMW’s EfficientDynamics technologies that combine lightweight construction and aerodynamic principles with the aforementioned eight-speed transmission that includes an Eco Pro mode to help to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 percent if engaged, plus an auto start-stop system that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling. Additionally a coasting function decouples the drivetrain from the engine under light loads between speeds of 30 and 100 mph, while a Route-Ahead Assistant works with the navigation system to provide tips on where you can ease off the throttle and still maintain speed, plus a similar Eco Pro Route feature uses nav info to provide fuel-efficient trip management. It’s all impressive kit that’s almost as fun to use as the X6 xDrive50i’s gripping performance.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press