2009 BMW X6 Review

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman

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]

Jonny Lieberman
Jonny Lieberman

Cleanup driver for Team Black Metal V8olvo.

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  • Jstnspin82 Jstnspin82 on Nov 24, 2008

    When the X6 first was being discussed and I saw the concept photos and then it finally came out, I was not sure what to think. The X5 was in its second generation and the lines were similar. Sporty and elegant yet muscular and the look was like the front of the 5 series which says "get out of my way" I am an admirer of the new X5 which is an improvement from the first X5. The X6 is sort of a low slung X5 kind of like the X5 and M6 collided and out came something out of this world. I like it though, while it does not appeal to some, I think its a automotive work of art in it's own right. Smooth lines, plenty of power, amazing X drive, room for 5. It's almost as if its a BMW station wagon / Sports car so you can get your groceries very fast and do a little off roading on the way. I just hope BMW engineers there SUV's both the X5 and X6 with more off road capabilities which they will, when BMW sets out to engineer something it simply gets done and done properly. They are the experts and would not just toy around off road SUV's or SAV's

  • Justaguy Justaguy on Jul 06, 2009

    "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." Ummm...I suppose a six footer may have headroom. Someone who is 6'1" (like me) does not. My head literally hits the ceiling, which has never happened to me in any other Sport-utility anything...ever. The back seats may be comfortable for about 60 seconds, but the backs are concave, so that any longer than a few minutes and your back starts to hurt and you start feeling like quadimodo. Also, if you're able to enjoy the the adult rides at amusement parks, you probably won't be amused by how little leg room there is in the front seats even when they are moved as far back as they can go. I am usually a Bimmer fan, but this car is humongous on the outside and TINY on the inside. I'm glad my roommate bought it before I did, so I didn't have to be the one to regret it.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic At this time, GM had a "Me Too" attitude towards engine development:[list][*]the Euro luxury brands have diesels, so can we via an Olds V8[/*][*]variable value timing, welcome to the brave new world of Cadillac V8-6-4[/*][*]an aluminum block V8 engine via the HT4100, the go-go 80's[/*][*]double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, no sweat, just like the Asian brands via NorthStar. [/*][/list]When you mindset is iron block and cast iron heads, life if easy. However, each time, GM failed to understand the nuances; intricate differences; and technical difficulty in each new engine program. Each time, GM came away with egg on its face and its reputation in ruin.If you look today, the engines in most Cadillacs are the same as in many Chevrolets. 🚗🚗🚗
  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.