BMW's latest foray into SUV territory comes in the form of the X6, a tallish fastback the company calls a sports activity coupe. It's basically a medium-sized SUV with four doors, extroverted styling and a choice of two powerful engines. The X6 competes roughly with the Porsche Cayenne and Mercedes M-Class.
BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive is standard, and it comes with a few new performance tricks. The X6 comes in two trim levels: the xDrive35i and xDrive50i. Both models seat four occupants, and the xDrive50i's V-8 will propel the SUV from zero to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds.
If you took BMW's Z4 coupe, raised it up and lengthened the rear quarters to add two more doors, you would get something of the X6's profile.
The scalloped headlights, twin kidney grilles and stacked tail are classic BMW. The xDrive35i has black moldings around the grille; the xDrive50i gets titanium-colored trim, as well as chrome window moldings. Up front, both models have a monotone front bumper. That's an upscale departure from the black inlays used on the X3 and X5.
Nineteen-inch wheels and run-flat tires are standard, with 20-inch wheels available. An optional Adaptive Drive system electronically alters the suspension's stiffness to suit different driving conditions. Drivers can choose between a sportier or comfort-oriented setting.
The four-seat interior incorporates a shelved dashboard that houses the navigation display without adding an extra hump in the center, as many BMW dashboards do. Metallic rings grace the dual-zone climate controls, and BMW's much-maligned iDrive system operates the navigation and entertainment systems. Stitched trimming on the dashboard is an upscale touch you won't find in some pricier BMWs. The curvy gear selector, finished in galvanized metal, has the sculptured look pioneered by gearshifts in the 5 Series, 6 Series and X5.
The three-spoke steering wheel comes standard with paddle shifters and radio controls. Fully loaded, the X6 includes four-zone climate control, with separate settings for each rear passenger, as well as a power-operated steering column, power tailgate, and heated front and rear seats.
There's 25.6 cubic feet of luggage space behind the second row, which handily beats the X5's 21.9 cubic feet. With the seats folded, maximum capacity expands to 59.7 cubic feet. That compares favorably with the X5 (61.8 cubic feet) but falls short of the smaller X3 (71.0).
Under the Hood
Both engines incorporate direct fuel injection and two turbochargers. As with other BMWs, the numbers on the trunk don't have much to do with the engine size. The xDrive35i uses a 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder that makes 300 horsepower and 300 pounds-feet of torque, while the xDrive50i uses a 4.4-liter V-8 with 400 hp and 450 pounds-feet of torque. BMW says both engines promise minimal turbo lag and a flat torque curve that begins under 2,000 rpm.
A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Thanks to the rear differential's new Dynamic Performance Control feature, xDrive can dole out power from front to rear and also from side to side, at least among the rear wheels. The differential electronically varies power from a full 50/50 lock to as much as 100 percent going to either wheel, and BMW says it does so proactively to enhance performance and safety.
Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system are standard. The xDrive50i has upgraded brakes with aluminum calipers. BMW's Integrated Chassis Management coordinates the Dynamic Performance Control differential with stability and traction systems to optimize the X6's stability.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows are also standard. The curtain airbags include a tip sensor to deploy for several seconds during a rollover.
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