Practicality is central to the mission of most crossover SUVs; after all, "utility" is part of the name. At the other end of the spectrum, you have coupes, which generally forego everyday usefulness for swoopy styling and sporty handling. Trying to marry the two, as BMW does with the 2015 X6, can be problematic. Based on the midsize X5, the BMW X6 has a dramatically sloping roof line that gives it a unique silhouette but puts the squeeze on interior room. It provides quick acceleration and a cozy drive as crossovers go but not significantly more so than the more conventionally shaped X5, which has vastly more space for groceries, people and pets. See what we’re getting at?
That’s said, there’s a sinuousness to the BMW X6’s sheet metal that might be appealing if you want a luxury crossover that looks different from the rest. For 2015, BMW has redesigned the X6. The flavor of the styling hasn’t changed, but the automaker has tried to make this midsize crossover a bit more useful. This is most evident in the backseat, as the 2015’s X6 longer, taller, wider body has opened up considerably more headroom and legroom. By popular demand, the previous X6’s standard rear bucket seats have given way to a more useful three-person bench seat. The cargo bay remains small for a midsize SUV, though.
However, the X6 does deliver great performance from its stout inline 6-cylinder and V8 engines. The V8 is up to 445 horsepower this year, and keep in mind that a new high-performance X6 M model is still to come later in 2015. Beyond that, the X6 features a taut suspension and impressively smooth ride. Couple that with the 2015 X6’s truly posh interior furnishings, and there’s a case to be made for this BMW.
In the end, though, most shoppers will be looking for more utility than the 2015 BMW X6 can really deliver. If you find the performance potential of the X6 most appealing, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, Land Rover Range Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne all have plenty of entertainment value of their own, yet are far more practical for families. If it’s the coupelike styling that grabs you (and you don’t necessarily think you’ll use the X6’s 8-plus inches of ground clearance), cars such as the Audi A7 and even BMW’s own 5 Series Gran Turismo have all-wheel drive and similar-sized interiors without all the X6’s extra bulk.
BMW’s insistence on performance suspension tuning and high-end hardware help the 2015 BMW X6 bridge the gap between a taut sport sedan and a large, high-riding crossover. The X6 has a smooth drive over bumpy surfaces but it can also be switched to Sport mode for a stiffer, more taut driving experience. Handling and steering are acute (especially for such a large vehicle) but there is minimal feedback through the steering wheel. The X6 can be driven quickly, but it isn’t a very rewarding experience. One of the clearest realizations of the X6’s size occurs on challenging back roads, where you discover that the X6 is neither small nor light.
However, your sense of the 2015 X6’s considerable size will quickly be erased by the brilliant performance from both the inline 6-cylinder and V8 engines. The historically snappy turbocharged 6-cylinder should be enough for most, especially since the steep premium for the X6 xDrive 50i is due almost entirely to the engine under the hood. Then again, what an engine: Plant the throttle on an open road and it seems the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 wouldn’t be out of place in a locomotive, as it propels the X6 with supreme authority regardless of the driving situation.
The 2015 BMW X6 is a midsize crossover styled to resemble a coupe, although it has four doors and seating for five as standard. Unlike BMW’s X5, it does not have an optional third-row seat. There are three primary models: the rear-wheel-drive sDrive 35i and the all-wheel-drive xDrive35i and xDrive50i. The high-performance X6 M model (reviewed separately) returns later in 2015.
The rear-wheel-drive sDrive 35i and all-wheel-drive xDrive35i come with essentially the same standard equipment. That list includes 19-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, LED foglamps, auto-dimming side mirrors, automatic windshield wipers, a sunroof, a power liftgate and front and rear parking sensors. Standard features in the cabin include dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable steering column, heated 10-way power front seats (with four-way power lumbar), driver memory settings, leather upholstery, wood trim accents and a 20/40/20-split-folding rear seat. Standard electronic features for all 2015 X6 models include BMW’s iDrive interface with a touchpad controller and 10.2-inch screen, navigation, Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, the BMW ConnectedDrive services and integrated smartphone apps, BMW Assist emergency communications and a nine-speaker sound system with HD radio, CD player, an auxiliary sound jack, 20GB of personal music storage and an iPod/USB sound interface.
Stepping up to the xDrive50i brings a V8 engine, a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry with hands-free hatch opening, and 20-way "multicontour" front seats with adjustments for the shoulder and thigh bolsters. Except for the V8 engine, all of these features are optionally available for the X6 35i models.
Both the 6-cylinder and V8-powered 2015 X6 models offer two comprehensive option packages, the xLine and M Sport, both of which include unique 19-inch wheels and the ability to upgrade to 20-inch wheels. The xLine also includes aluminum running boards, while the M Sport package also includes special aerodynamic bodywork, the choice of a variety of interior trims, a special steering wheel, a choice of sport seats and multicontour seats for the 6-cylinder models, and the ability to add other upgrades such as high-performance 20-inch tires, adaptive suspension and a speed governor with a higher limit.
For the 6-cylinder sDrive 35i and xDrive 35i, the Premium package adds keyless ignition and entry, four-zone automatic climate control and satellite radio. Also for the 6-cylinder X6 models is a Luxury Seating package that brings the multicontour front seats with a ventilation function. A Driver Assistance package incorporates a rearview camera and a head-up display that projects pertinent driving information onto the windshield in front of the driver.
There are several option packages available for all X6 models, including the Cold Weather package, which adds a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats. A Lighting package brings adaptive LED headlights with automatic high-beam control. The Dynamic Handling package adds an adaptive suspension and enhanced speed-sensitive steering, while the Driver Assistance Plus package bundles the contents of the standard Driver Assistance package and adds adaptive cruise control (that can bring the car to a complete stop), a frontal collision warning and mitigation system (with pedestrian detection), blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warnings, and side- and around-view cameras.
The Executive package is available only for the V8-powered X6 xDrive50i and includes soft-close doors, quad-zone climate control, leather trim on the dashboard, ceramic controls, a high-end Harman Kardon 16-speaker sound system, satellite radio and the head-up display. If Harman Kardon sound isn’t good enough, you can upgrade to a Bang & Olufsen system for an additional cost.
Significant single options include BMW’s Active Steering, driver-adjustable adaptive shock absorbers with rear air suspension, the rearview and side- and around-view cameras, automatic parallel parking, a night-vision system, a rear-seat entertainment system and a choice of premium sound systems.
The X6’s interior has always been a strong suit, and the redesigned cabin for 2015 is even nicer than before. With a Jumbotron-sized 10.2-inch screen positioned at the top of the center dash, an all-new electronic gauge cluster and rich-looking upholstery and trim throughout, BMW hasn’t cut any corners when in here. The slick and attractive iDrive interface works well for controlling and adjusting all of the X6’s systems, though in our experience it typically takes a few more clicks and twists of the control knob to get what you want; some competitor systems are easier to use.
Front-seat passengers will welcome both the X6’s exclusive padded knee bracing along the center console (a feature the X5 doesn’t have) and the deep door pockets for oversize drink bottles and other supplies. Perhaps more important is the extra legroom and headroom in the backseat, which now seats three across in the standard configuration. Getting in and out of the backseat can be a bit of an event, too. The sloping rear roof forces most adults to duck down pretty low to climb in, while also maneuvering around the arch for the rear wheelwell. Once inside, the extra legroom on this year’s model is noticeable, but headroom will still be an issue for taller passengers. And in an SUV that nears six figures with options, we’d like to have rear seats that can recline, too.
But the extra passenger space comes at the expense of the X6’s already skimpy cargo hold. Last year’s X6 offered 25.6 cubic feet of cargo volume behind its rear seats; now it’s down to a meager 20.5 cubic feet. Drop the rear seatbacks and there are just 53.9 cubes. For perspective, Porsche’s Cayenne, itself not the most capacious crossover around, has a maximum cargo capacity of 62.9 cubic feet. On the upside, the 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks gives you the flexibility to seat a passenger or two while hauling longer items.
Every 2015 BMW X6 includes stability and traction control, antilock brakes, automatic brake drying, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which provides automatic crash notification, stolen car recovery and on-demand roadside assistance.
Other safety features that are optional or standard (depending on the trim level) include a rearview camera, blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems, a forward collision warning and mitigation system with pedestrian detection, sideview and around-view parking cameras and a night-vision system.
During SUVS performance testing, braking performance was excellent, as an X6 xDrive35i with summer tires came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 108 feet, which is much shorter than other luxury SUVs and even on pace with some high-performance sports cars.
For 2015, the X6 sDrive 35i and xDrive35i have a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine that develops 300 hp and 300 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard for the sDrive 35i, and all-wheel drive is standard for the xDrive 35i. Both models use an eight-speed automatic transmission. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon combined (19 city/27 highway) for the sDrive 35i and 21 miles per gallon combined (18 city/27 highway) for the xDrive 35i. During SUVS performance testing, the xDrive35i went from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 5.6 seconds, which is a quick time for the segment.
The 2015 X6 xDrive50i gets a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 engine that produces 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. Using the same eight-speed automatic transmission as the 6-cylinder X6 models, the V8-motivated X6 will hit 60 miles per hour in a claimed 4.6 seconds. Fuel economy is 17 miles per gallon combined (15/22).
Powerful engines; cozy ride; top-quality, quiet interior with cozy front seats and ample storage.
Marketed as a cross between an SUV and a high-end coupe, the 2015 BMW X6 is engaging to drive but offers little in the way of utility.