Driving impressions by Laura Burstein.
Compared with the X5, the X6 only seats four and has less headroom for rear passengers. It offers less cargo space than the X5, itself not a standout in cargo capacity. The X6 most closely compares with the Mercedes-Benz MLC-Class and Range Rover Sport.
Newly redesigned, this second-generation BMW X6 was introduced for the 2015 model year and is based on the X5.
The 2016 BMW X6 lineup brings a few minor upgrades: For 2016, Bluetooth and enhanced USB come standard and have been upgraded. The 2016 BMW X6 xDrive50i has been upgraded with four-zone climate control, satellite radio and Harman Kardon surround sound.
The BMW X6 xDrive35i and X6 xDrive50i come with all-wheel drive. The BMW X6 sDrive35i uses rear-wheel drive. The sDrive35i and xDrive 35i are powered by a 300-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6. The xDrive50i has a 445-hp 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8. All get an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
The BMW X6 M boasts a specially tuned 4.4-liter twin-scroll, twin-turbo V8 rated at 567 horsepower and 553 foot-pounds of torque and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 4.0 seconds, according to BMW. It comes with all-wheel drive.
Fuel economy for the X6 sDrive35i is an EPA-rated 19/23 mpg City Highway. The X6 xDrive35i is rated at 18/27 mpg. The X6 xDrive50i gets 15/22 mpg, the X6 M 14/19 mpg.
X6 sDrive35i includes leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, iDrive, navigation, six-speaker audio, satellite radio, CD, USB port and auxiliary audio jack, Bluetooth streaming, power tailgate, park distance control, bi-xenon adaptive automatic headlights, LED foglights, 19-inch alloy wheels.
The X6 xDrive50i adds 20-way power multi-contour front seats, rearview camera, four-zone climate control, Harman Kardon surround sound.
The X6 looks aggressive, sleek and sculptured, yet it resembles the BMW X4 and X5. The front styling is very similar to that of the X5 and, in fact, they share grilles, headlights and hoods.
In profile, the X6 has an upright stance with a low roofline, long hood, and short front and rear overhangs. From the back, the X6 is high and wide, with broad shoulders and a high trunk. Exhaust tips are round on six-cylinder models, rhomboid-shaped on the V8-powered 50i.
The X6 M is distinguished by the M double-bar design on the front grille, larger front air intakes, side gills and air breathers. Staggered Michelin Pilot SuperSport performance tires are wrapped in unique, M-specific 21-inch alloy wheels.
Because of the low roofline, rear-seat passengers have less space in an X6 than in an X5. Children and average-size adults will be comfortable, but those around the six-foot mark might feel cramped. The X6 seats four, not five.
The X6 interior is modern, with a tasteful variety of finishes and trims and soft-touch surfaces. The cockpit is oriented around the driver, with all controls within easy reach, from the center stack and iDrive console to the multiple buttons on the thick steering wheel. The digital instrument display changes colors depending on mode, blue for eco-plus and red for sport.
A wide, freestanding color display provides access to navigation, applications and real-time information via compatible iPhone or Android-powered smartphones. A touchpad surface on top of the iDrive rotary knob makes it easier to enter information by drawing letters and numbers, instead of scrolling through a seemingly endless screen of characters.
X6 M models get an M-specific instrument cluster, supportive 20-way power sport seats and an M sport steering wheel, along with the signature contrast stitching, carbon fiber trim and an Alcantara headliner.
Rearward visibility is restricted by the small rear window, making the top-view camera a smart option.
Cargo space falls short compared with other SUVs. The 40/20/40 folding rear seat provides some flexibility in arranging people and cargo. Because of the X6's high rear end, the load floor sits very high, making it a poor choice for dogs.
For cruising freeways and suburban streets, Comfort mode offers the best balance between good handling and a cushy ride. In Sport mode, body roll is minimized. Sport Plus is useful for very hard driving with less invasive traction control for more wheel spin around corners.
Around the skid pad, we found the optional torque vectoring control, which automatically changes the power split between the rear wheels, increases grip and stability.
Braking performance is impressive on the X6 xDrive50i with M Sport package and the pedal feels progressive and comfortable.
The X6 handled a moderately challenging off-road course well. Rocks and ruts are best handled in Comfort mode. Hill Descent Control automatically controlled our X6 down steep hills without using the brake pedal. A front-view camera helps drivers see obstacles in the road, but wasn't particularly helpful in navigating narrow passageways and turns.
The X6 xDrive50i features a 445-hp V8 that feels smooth and powerful on the open road.
The X6 sDrive35i and xDrive35i uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 rated at 300 horsepower and 300 foot-pounds of torque and, according to BMW, makes the X6 capable of 0-60 mph in 6 seconds flat, which is quick for a vehicle of this size. EPA estimates for the six-cylinder are 19/23 mpg City/Highway for the rear-wheel-drive sDrive35i, and 18/27 mpg City/Highway for the all-wheel-drive xDrive35i.
The X6 M is fast traffic, with 567 horsepower, as we discovered at the Circuit of the Americas.