By David Colman
For: Stand Alone Looks, Opulent Front Cabin
Against: Bus-Like Steering, Wheel Position
In contrast to their family-sized SUV, the X5, BMW considers the X6 to be a “personal” sports ute, meaning it’s designed primarily for two, with a nod to accommodating four in a pinch. You can thank the X6’ severely sloping roofline for the reduction in passenger (and cargo) carrying capacity. That fastback roof is not the only feature that differentiates the X6 from the X5. The X6 also sells for a substantially higher premium than its more utilitarian stablemate. Base price for the X6 we tested is $58,900, versus $48,095 for a comparable 3.0 liter turbocharged X5.
Of course, $58,095 is just the starting point for the X6, because you’ll want to personalize your ride with a host of pricey options. Ours had the following extras appended to its bottom line: Cold Weather Package for $750, Premium Package (Rear View Camera, Keyless Entry, 4-Zone Climate Control, Navigation) for $3,500, Premium Sound Package for $1,500, Sport Package (Adaptive Drive, 19 inch Alloys) for $4,600, Multi-Contour Seats for $950, and Technology Package (Auto Hi-Beams, Side View Camera and Head-Up Display) for $1,700. Throw in a few less consequential extras like a Space Saver Spare ($150) and Running Boards ($300) and you’vegot yourself a $73,825 vehicle.
First Test: 2011 BMW X5 xdrive35i. This video is brought to you by MotorTrend
Let’s take a look at the options and decide which ones can be eliminated. The most expensive is the $4,600 Sport Package. After all, who wouldn’t want the sportiest BMW on the block? Normally, I’d be the first one to sign up for higher performance, but not this time. The “Adaptive Drive” system activates with the touch of a button on the center console. The system remembers your preference for Sport or Normal mode even after you restart the X6, so there’s no need to reset the switch each time you start your SUV. But the Sport setting, which stiffens the suspension and quickens the shifts, also instantly saddles the X6 with such heavy steering feedback that you’d swear you were driving a truck without power assist. Even on the Normal setting, steering feedback is sluggish. So dump this expensive option group, save $4,600, and use some of the savings to buy an aftermarket set of 19 inch alloys.
The 2-way power glass sunroof is standard on the X6. It maximizes interior light, but you won’t want to run with it in the open position when the side windows are up because the drumming is louder than a fife corps. The rear doors are abbreviated in height so you’ll need to duck your head to clamber aboard. Once seated back there, anyone over 5’8” tall will be rubbing the anthracite headliner. The rear hatch can be opened automatically with the key fob or via a button on the dash. Liftover is high, so you’ll need to raise baggage above your waist prior to sliding it into the X6. Both rear seats fold flat enough to allow insertion of a mountain bike through the rear hatch.
The strong suit of the X6 is its quick and efficient 6 cylinder engine which produces plenty of accelerative snap thanks to an intercooled turbocharger. The 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission squeezes every last bit of juice out of the direct fuel injection motor. Steering wheel mounted paddles allow you to swap cogs at will once you’ve positioned the idiosyncratic floor lever in the manual override gate. BMW has devised an interlock which prevents you from driving off with the parking brake engaged. If you select Drive with the brake on, the gearbox automatically reverts to Park. This is an intelligent upgrade. Not so useful is when the same override kicks in with a door open. There are numerous reasons why you might want to maneuver your BMW with a door cracked open, but the X6 refuses to acknowledge them.
The X6 is a high-powered, responsive SUV that looks like nothing else on the road, so if appearance trumps practicality than by all means buy one. If, however, you’d like to maximize carrying capacity and cargo space, select the virtually identical X5 instead.
2012 BMW X6 xDrive 35i
- Engine: 3.0 liter DOHC, 24 Valve inline 6, intercooled and turbocharged
- Horsepower: 300hp
- Torque: 300 lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 16 MPG City/ 23 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $73,825
- Star Rating: 7 out of 10 Stars