2010 BMW X6 xDrive50i
Base price: $56,500 – $89,875
As tested: $84,170
MPG: 12 city/18 highway
- Exceptional performance and handling
- Terrific to drive
- Comfortable, supple ride
- “What were they thinking?” styling
- Poor rear visibility
- Sport Activity Coupe? Really?
By Jim Prueter
The Beast from Bavaria
Even though the X6 has been out since 2008, chances are pretty good that you haven’t seen one on the road yet. With sales of less than 400 per month, the progenitor of BMW’s X5 hasn’t sold well. The truth is, the company’s self-proclaimed “first-ever Sports Activity Coupe” could be discontinued on looks alone, even if it wasn’t otherwise practically useless.
Not since the Buick Rendezvous and its ugly sibling the Pontiac Aztek have we witnessed such design conflation gone so wrong.
And what’s up with the “Coupe” nomenclature? Really, a coupe? The coupe designation is for passenger cars with two doors, whereas the X6 has four of them. But that isn’t all that’s off-kilter here. This behemoth weighs in at over two-and-a-half tons, seats just four and carries less cargo than most compact crossover vehicles.
Still, its DNA is all BMW, which means exceptional performance and handling, awesome build quality, and excessively complex iDrive operating controls are all present and accounted for.
For 2010 the X6 is offered in a choice of four models: xDrive35i, powered by a TwinPower Turbo 300-horsepower inline six-cylinder ($56,500); xDrive50i, powered by a 4.4-liter 400-horsepower V-8 engine ($68,075); the super high-performance X6 M with a 555-horsepower TwinPower Turbo 4.4-liter V-8 ($89,875); and the new-for-2010 ActiveHybrid X6 with a 480-horsepower V-8 and electric-powered system ($89,775).
I drove the X6 xDrive50i with more than enough power to encourage bad behavior behind the wheel. All models except the hybrid deploy BMW’s excellent six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode, standard all-wheel drive and enough over-the-top hi-tech garb to stump even Bill Gates.
Power is incredibly smooth and instantaneous; X6 reaches 60 mph in just five seconds from a standing stop. Additionally, the X6 comes standard with Dynamic Performance Control (DPC), a technology that electronically varies the power between the two rear wheels to improve control and pulling force to maintain straight-line control on various road surfaces. Added to that are numerous other electronic safety features, including anti-lock brakes, stability control and active suspension. Steering to the chassis dynamics, shod it with super wide 20-inch wheels and performance tires, and the X6 clings to the pavement like a pit bull to a pork chop and performs much better than it looks. Brakes, by the way, are superb.
X6 stands high off the ground, even though it isn’t recommended for anything other than very light off-road use. Its looks are mostly that of its X5 sibling with a fastback roofline and a too-generous caboose. Rear-door openings are narrow and wide rear wheel wells impede accessing the back seat. Once back there, the sloping roofline more than imposes on headroom for anyone not requiring a booster seat.
The interior mimics that of the X5, with ample praise for quality materials, fit and finish. Seats are more than comfortable, there’s a pull out thigh support extension on both driver and passenger side for extra comfort. We still struggle with BMW’s maddening iDrive, with its console-mounted mouse knob that’s the mission control center for controls and settings necessary to operate the vehicle. And in typical BMW fashion, the gearshift knob doesn’t simply move from P to D to R with ease, rather you have to futz around with a reluctant gearshift that requires wiggling, jiggling and a bit of luck to find the chosen gear.
Other complaints are the optional ($300 and not worth it) running boards, whose only purpose seemed to be keeping the legs of our pants muddied when getting in and out of the vehicle. Even though rear visibility is severely compromised thanks to the sloping roofline, the optional ($400) rear-view backup camera takes forever to load on the screen, and is pretty much useless anyway. It doesn’t help that the image is incredibly fuzzy due to a poor camera lens, and doesn’t work after sundown because of poor lighting. We disliked the poor location of the optional ($1700) rear seat DVD entertainment system so much, we recommend not opting for it. Mounted to the rear edge of the center console, it folds flat and forward when not in use, impeding access to the console and creating a completely uncomfortable place to rest your elbow. In the up position, its location makes it a constant target for bumping your elbow. The location couldn’t be worse. Finally, have we mentioned the maddening iDrive system yet?
Rear storage space is small, 25 cubic feet vs. 40 in the X5; the floor is flat and conceals the spare tire.
For all our misgivings, the X6 we tested was nonetheless immensely enjoyable to drive. But the sheer mass of the vehicle, its pitiful fuel economy, superfluous controls, bailout loan pricing and unattractive styling is too much to overcome. It doesn’t happen often, but even BMW isn’t immune to automotive mistakes.