To understand the new X6, you must go back a few years to the 2001 X Coupe Concept. This was the first time the world got a look at BMW's vision of a jacked-up sports car that "deliberately questioned existing preconceptions." Nothing whatsoever made it from the concept to the production X6– save a bit of flame surfacing and the chutzpah necessary to give well-heeled motorheads what they didn't know they needed: a jacked-up five thousand pound, four-door, four-seat, all-wheel-drive sports car.
It sure doesn't look like a sports car. Nor does the X6 ape the "Patton invades Sicily" SUV template. In fact, the X6 is from The Mars Rover School of SUV design. From certain angles, this futuristic Bimmer is downright ugly. Or worse. And whoever signed-off on those rear three-quarter windows should sign-out of the car designing biz.
From other angles, depending on the sun's position, the X6 has genuine presence. There's no mistaking this mamma for anything else; in a cognitive dissonance, supermodel in the supermarket kinda way. Of course, a lot of the X6's curb appeal stems from its sheer scale. The X6 is enormous. The top of the spoiler is at chest level. The roof is 18 inches higher still. Jeep Liberties are dwarfed while Ford F-150s are cut down to size.
As Mercedes calls the chop-top four-door CLS a "coupe," BMW refers to their quad-portal X5-derivative as one, too. Bimmer's "Sports Activity Coupe" (SAC for short) offers supremely comfortable rear seats for two. Despite the X6's sharply-raked roof, a brace of non-slouching six footers have more than merely adequate headroom. The roof's slope continues to the hatch, yet the X6's trunk can easily hold all four occupants' stuff. Or as the X6's press team translated it from the mother tongue, "Gear for unusual sports." In your face, Xterra.
Considering the fact that the X6's exterior is nothing short of bonkers, the parts-bin interior is a let down. From iDrive (which is getting better), to willfully counter-intuitive turn signals and windshield wipers, to the world's most annoying gear lever, all the crowd (un)favorites are accounted for. Luckily, the SUV's perfectly-executed steering wheel and the sporty seats (with adjustable side bolsters) draw attention away from the haptic haplessness.
Let us not forget the killer interior app: on either side of the transmission tunnel you'll find knee pads. Although they're as soft as you'd expect from the Germans (i.e. rock hard), the pads demonstrate BMW's faith in their two-and-a-half ton whale's on-road performance. As do the donuts; the X6 sports the fattest rubber ever offered on a production SUV (315/20 at all four corners).
Wide tires on a big, heavy vehicle usually mean nothing more than axle hop and long, lurid skids. BMW attacks Newtonian physics with a beer stein full of acronyms: xDrive (all wheel-drive), ICM (integrated chassis management), DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) and DPC (Dynamic Performance Control). The latter, DPC, is the one to watch. In essence, the system shifts rear-wheel torque left to right, all but eliminating understeer and oversteer.
Houston, we don't have a problem. Wet, dry, rocks, dirt, mud, whatever. No sky-high hunk of lard should feel this confident and secure across mountain two-laners. While only auto journos (hi mom!) would take an X6 onto a wet race track, the SAC's intelligent driveline allowed me to drift through corners. Yes the X6's steering is all but D.O.A., making its massiveness hard to plant with inch-perfect accuracy. Yet the soft-roader rewards smooth and gentle inputs with genuine finesse.
The X6 offers sports-oriented SUV drivers two ways to boogie: the beloved twin-turbo I-6 from the 335i or an all-new twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8. The xDrive50i's monster motor generates 407hp and 442 ft-lb of torque (@1750 to 4500 rpm). So equipped, the X6 bellows from zero to 60mph in 5.2 seconds. The xDrive35i takes a bit longer (6.4 seconds) to make the same sprint.
If bragging rights and stop light fights are your bag, by all means choose the double-blown V8. It's one hell of a mill and I look forward to BMW dropping it into any of their sedans. However, the lag-free I-6 gets the X6 closest to the Ultimate Driving SAC. Despite being down on power, the 3.0-liter is plenty punchy. More importantly, the lighter engine shaves 264 lbs. of ballast off the X6's front end, creating a much nimbler and more balanced machine.
Did I just say that?
On the downside, the X6's six-speed slushbox constantly hunts for gears. And I feel obliged to report an observed 12.5 mpg– though I did drive the X6 as if BMW were buying the gas. However, if you've ever been wowed by how well an Infiniti FX or Porsche Cayenne handles, the xDrive35i is going to blow your mind. If you hate sporty SUVs, look away now.
[BMW paid for JL's airfare, accommodation, meals, gas and insurance]