You could put together a pretty good argument that the BMW X6 is the car that killed the "U" in SUV. Once upon a time, all sport-utility vehicles were boxy-looking and were meant for hauling people and cargo. But the X6, which is now in its second generation after last year’s full redesign, is a midsize luxury crossover SUV known primarily for its daring exterior design and athletic character. True, it’s based on BMW’s X5 crossover, but if you need to bring along children or pets, the X6 isn’t nearly as accommodating.
The 2016 BMW X6 has an unusual look from certain angles, but its handsome X5-derived nose makes a strong first impression.
Blame it on the sloping, coupelike roof line. This defining feature gives the X6 presence on the road but reduces headroom for adults in the backseat and habitable space for large dogs in the cargo bay. Earlier X6s were basically empty-nester vehicles with their rear bucket seats and four-passenger seating capacity, but in response to customer demand, BMW has fitted the current version with a standard three-person rear bench seat. The cargo bay remains small for a midsize crossover SUV, though.
High-end interior furnishings help distract you from the general lack of utility, as does the X6’s performance. Even the entry-level inline 6-cylinder engine provides brisk acceleration. Meanwhile, the V8 engine in the xDrive50i gathers speed with such smoothness and civility that you might actually prefer it to the hot-rod version in the high-performance X6 M model. Beyond that, the X6 delivers a nicely composed and surprisingly serene ride.
If you’re considering a BMW X6, you’ll certainly want to check out the all-new 2016 Mercedes GLE-Class Coupe, which is a longer, wider, sleeker version of the standard GLE-Class (formerly the M-Class). Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so they say, and this Mercedes follows the X6’s formula closely. Otherwise, we’ll point you toward a batch of more useful — but still sporty — crossovers. Those drawn to the performance potential of the X6 will find that the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, Land Rover Range Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne offer similar entertainment value, yet are far more practical for family life. If it’s the coupelike styling that grabs you, the Audi A7 offers all-wheel drive and a similar-sized interior without all the BMW’s bulk.
Of course, none of these vehicles makes quite the same design statement as the 2016 BMW X6. And if that’s what you find most appealing, you’ll probably be able to overlook its limited utility.
By far the most memorable aspect of driving the 2016 BMW X6 is the rush of acceleration when you mat the gas pedal. Most drivers will be delighted with the vigor and refinement of the 6-cylinder engine in the 35i models. The eight-speed automatic transmission serves up smooth shifts, too.
Still, there’s a lot to be said for the V8 engine in the X6 xDrive50i if you don’t mind the steep premium. The 445-hp V8 not only sounds glorious, it moves the 2.5-ton SUV away from a stoplight with such thrust that it feels like a much smaller vehicle. In everyday driving situations you only need to toe into the accelerator pedal a small amount to maintain a brisk pace. It’s an extraordinary combination of power and civility that the chronically amped-up X6 M would be hard-pressed to match.
The 2016 X6’s driving position feels sportier and more intimate than that of its X5 sibling.
Ride comfort is also a strength for the BMW X6. It delivers a smooth, serene drive over bumpy surfaces, especially if you select the Comfort mode on an X6 equipped with the adjustable shock absorbers. Switching to Sport mode provides a firmer drive that helps the X6 feel more controlled around tight turns. Nevertheless, this is a large, heavy car that sits high off the ground. Though the X6 handles well for its size, it’s nowhere near as involving to drive as a proper luxury sport sedan. Likewise, the steering is precise but doesn’t offer much feedback. If these details are important to you, a Porsche Cayenne might be more to your liking.
The 2016 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 is reviewed separately.
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 foglights, auto-dimming side mirrors, automatic 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 40/20/40-split-folding rear seat.
Standard electronics features for all 2016 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 (including BMW Assist emergency communications) and integrated smartphone apps, and a nine-speaker sound system with HD radio, a CD player, USB and auxiliary sound inputs and 20GB of personal music storage.
Stepping up to the xDrive50i brings a V8 engine, a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry with hands-free hatch opening, 20-way "multicontour" front seats with adjustments for the shoulder and thigh bolsters, four-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded Harman Kardon 16-speaker surround-sound sound system and satellite radio. Except for the V8 engine, all of these features are optionally available for the X6 35i models.
Upscale interior trim sets the 2016 BMW X6 apart from many mainstream luxury crossovers.
Both the 6-cylinder and V8-powered 2016 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 between sport seats and multicontour seats for the 6-cylinder models, and the ability to add other upgrades such as high-performance 20-inch tires, an adaptive suspension and a higher-limit speed governor.
For the 6-cylinder sDrive 35i and xDrive 35i, the Premium package adds keyless ignition and entry, four-zone 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 options 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 driver-adjustable shock absorbers, rear air suspension, an adaptive suspension that improves the vehicle’s balance around turns, and enhanced speed-sensitive steering. The Driver Assistance Plus package bundles the contents of the standard Driver Assistance package and adds adaptive cruise control, a frontal collision warning and mitigation system (with pedestrian detection), blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warnings, and side- and top-view cameras.
The Executive package is available only for the V8-powered X6 xDrive50i and includes soft-close doors, leather trim on the dashboard, ceramic-trimmed controls, manual rear side window shades and the head-up display.
Significant single options include active steering (xDrive models only), adjustable shock absorbers with rear air suspension, rearview, side- and top-view cameras, automatic parallel parking, a night-vision system, a rear-seat entertainment system and a deluxe Bang & Olufsen surround-sound sound system.
Elegant is the only way to describe the X6’s interior. With a Jumbotron-sized 10.2-inch screen in the center of the dash, a stately BMW instrument panel and rich-looking upholstery and trim throughout, the X6 has all the high-end touches you’d expect in a car in this price range. The 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.
The optional rear-seat entertainment system provides each outboard rear passenger with a personal high-resolution screen.
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. Getting in and out of the backseat can be a bit of an event. The sloping rear roof forces most adults to duck down pretty low to climb in, while also maneuvering around the large arch for the rear wheelwell. The rear doors don’t open especially wide, either. Once inside, there’s enough legroom for adults, but headroom will be an issue for taller passengers. And in an SUV that nears six figures with options, it’s surprising that the rear seats don’t recline.
Cargo capacity is downright skimpy by midsize SUV standards. When the BMW X6’s rear seats are occupied by passengers, there are only a meager 20.5 cubic feet available. Drop the rear seatbacks and there are just 53.9 cubes. For perspective, a Porsche Cayenne (hardly the most practical of crossovers) has a maximum cargo capacity of 62.9 cubic feet. On the upside, the X6’s 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks give you the flexibility to seat a passenger or two while hauling longer items.
Every 2016 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, side- and top-view parking cameras and a night-vision system that’s also able to detect pedestrians.
In SUVS testing, an X6 xDrive35i with optional summer tires (all-season tires are standard on all models) 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 2016, the BMW X6 sDrive 35i and xDrive35i have a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine that develops 300 horsepower 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, which also has hill descent control. Both models use an eight-speed automatic transmission. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are included.
The EPA’s estimated fuel economy is 21 miles per gallon combined (18 city/25 highway) for the sDrive 35i and 20 miles per gallon combined (18 city/24 highway) for the xDrive 35i. During SUVS performance testing, an X6 xDrive35i went from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 5.8 seconds, which is a quick time for the segment.
A turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine rated at 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque is standard in the 2016 X6 xDrive50i. This model also uses an eight-speed automatic transmission and has standard AWD. BMW claims the V8-powered X6 will hit 60 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds. Fuel economy is 17 miles per gallon combined (15 city/21 highway).
Powerful engines; cozy and quiet ride; top-quality interior with cozy front seats and ample storage.
Marketed as a cross between an SUV and a high-end coupe, the 2016 BMW X6 is engaging to drive but offers little in the way of utility.