No one really needs an BMW X6. There is no specific need it fulfills unlike an X5 let alone a 3 Series. It is purely a lifestyle vehicle akin to a 6 Series or even a Z4. Yet why is it so much more contentious than either? Clearly the height, weight and the nature of the vehicle make it hard for some traditional BMW enthusiasts to accept. But perhaps it’s most of all the concept and the shape that make it such a hard product to wrap our heads around.
When I first saw photos of the X6 I can certainly say I was one of the non-believers. Not because I didn’t find it interesting or perhaps even more in line with my own needs than an X5. It was more the ideological concept behind it. Why create something based on utility, and then take the utility out of it? But it’s easy to wipe the slate clean of misconceptions when you walk up to the X6 for the first time. There is simply nothing else like it on the road. The presence of the thing is hard to argue with and certainly hard to ignore. And once you allow yourself to think in terms that don’t relate to SUV or sedan or even coupe forms, the X6 starts to stand on its own and make a little more sense.
BMW calls their SUV/Crossover products SAVs or ‘Sport Activity Vehicle”. The key there is the active lifestyle that BMW wants to portray in these products. Sure it’s sexier than than Sport Latte Vehicle or Sport Potterybarn Vehicle, but does it hold true? Let’s start with sport. It’s hard to think of anything 5300 lbs as sporty. Yet the X6 and it’s trick torque vectoring AWD system, coupled with the twin turbo V8 in our X6 50i test
car SAV was nothing less than mind warping. The X6 may not have the poise and subtley of an M3 going around a corner but it has incredible grip. Lowered with more aggressive rubber I can only imagine what this beast could do around a track. There’s little question in my mind it would surprise more than a few sports cars (enter the X6 M coming soon). Even off the dealer showroom the X6 50i equipped with 20″ wheels and summer tires is simply astonishing in what it can do when pushed. Sure it’s still a bit of a brute, but the sheer grip ability is something that is hard to believe if you haven’t driven it in anger.
The secret is that all-wheel drive system or the Dynamic Performance Control which makes its debut for BMW on the X6. DPC is a full-time system that regulates traction and over/understeer by sending the appropriate power across the rear axle. Torque is distributed from side to side as well as front to back in an effort to improve agility and stability. The system features a clutch pack which activates a planetary gear on each side of the two axles that is controlled by an electric motor. Unlike a conventional system which relies on braking (which in turn causes extra wear among other things), DPC sends power to the tire with the most traction in an effort for improved grip and stability. It all adds up to incredible grip that seems to defy the laws of everything you’ve learned in driving school. It makes good drivers great and great drivers Schumachers.
With 425 hp and 425 ft lbs of torque it also goes quite well to. The engine note, the low-range and mid-range power, it all creates a menacing attitude that fits this, the attack dog of the SAV range. Sure it’s basically the same engine and transmission combo found in the new F01 7 Series. But here BMW has tuned the exhaust note to create a slightly more aggressive and sinister personality.
Our test car came equipped with the all important sport package which endowed the X6 50i with sport suspension and more aggressive summer tires. Added to this were the optional 20″ tire/wheel package that helps fill-out the wheel-wells and gave the X6 a bit more knife edge feel to it. Additionally it had the premium and cold weather package along with a selection of some of the more popular options out there. All said and done the total on our X6 tester came to $80,320.
What about the activity in “sport activity vehicle”? The way BMW uses the term would indicate that this vehicle can support an active lifestyle. Surprisingly this is where X6 started to make sense to me. When it was first released it was easy to scoff at the notion of a SUV four door coupe. Yet the X6 has some flexibility that sedans and coupes don’t have. Sure it doesn’t match the cubic feet of an X5 or a 5er wagon. But that’s not what BMW expects you to be shopping for when you’re considering an X6. Instead, think Mercedes CLS or even a 6 Series. When you give the X6 those kind of expectations it really starts to make sense. For those who are young professionals or empty nesters, a coupe is sometimes all the practicality you need. Yet there are many out there that prefer the seating position, utility (or just slightly more of it) and an aggressive look. For them the X6 works in most levels.
It’s a very personal statement. Maybe that’s why I felt such an affection to the X6 by the time the week was over. During those seven days I travelled across three states to attend a wedding, did some slight off-roading and packed the thing to the roof with luggage. The X6 shrugged it all off and delivered nothing but a seamless driving experience and that all important style statement. Never did I mistake the experience for a 6 Series or even a Mercedes CLS. But it did deliver a driving experience far beyond any luxury SUV or crossover I’ve ever driven. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of the “Ultimate Driving Machine” tag-line as redefined by this vehicle.
It’s not for everyone. Hell the X6 can perhaps be best described as a niche within a niche. Yet it’s a statement that made more sense every day I spent with it.
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