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2009 BMW X6

Activity vs. Utility

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)

By

2009 BMW X6

Sedan? Coupe? SUV? Crossover? X6.

Photo © Aaron Gold

What do the star ratings mean?

BMW calls the X6 a Sports Activity Coupe; in reality it's a totally unique vehicle with a swoopy fastback body set atop all-wheel-drive SUV running gear. Pricing for the 2009 BMW X6 starts at $56,325, and a fully-loaded example will run you $88,070. EPA fuel economy estimates are 12 - 15 mpg city/18 - 20 highway, and the 4 year/50,000 mile warranty includes all scheduled maintenance. Okay, enough numbers -- let's drive!

First Glance

Larger Exterior Photos: Front Rear

I start out most of my SUV reviews by saying that I don't really like SUVs. I'm not trying to make a point or push my (admittedly car-biased) agenda or anything like that; I just think that if you're going to get anything useful out of my reviews, you need to know where I'm coming from.

Jason, the guy in charge of this site, has a knack for assigning me reviews of SUVs that I assume I'm going to hate, but wind up falling in love with.

Rack up another point for yourself, Jason.

Let's get one thing out of the way: The X6 is not particularly useful. BMW refers to their SUVs as SAVs (Sports Activity Vehicles), and if ever a vehicle deserved to have "utility" dropped from its name, it's the X6. The X6 can't go off-road and its lack of back-seat headroom makes it a lousy vehicle for hauling four adults. (It does, however, have a colossally big trunk.) It's incredibly expensive and sucks down fuel at an alarming rate.

And yet I still love it. I don't just mean "like it a lot"; I really do love the X6.

The first thing I fell in love with was the styling. To paraphrase the late Issac Hayes, the X6 is one bad-looking mother...Shut your mouth! (But I'm talkin' 'bout the X6!) The idea of blending a fastback body with an SUV chassis is brilliant. Pictures don't really do the X6 justice -- you have to see it in person, where you can appreciate its hulking stance and aggressive lines. The X6 is dripping with cool -- it looks like it was carved from a solid block of attitude.

In the Driver's Seat

Clean dash with aluminum accents.

Photo © Aaron Gold

Larger Interior Photo

Inside, the X6 is almost identical to the X5, BMW's conventional mid-size SUV. (The two are closely related under the skin and are built in the same plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.) Is that a good thing? That depends on your opinion of BMW interiors. I have mixed feelings; I like the angular look of the dash and the contrasting colors on the seats and doors. But I abhor the German penchant for using lots of buttons on things like the air conditioning and stereo, when simpler dials will do.

That said, the X6 has the ultimate simple dial: BMW's famous (infamous?) iDrive system, which uses a menu-driven interface to control stereo, climate, and navigation systems. I didn't explore all of the menus; doing so would take almost as long as exploring one of the Great Pyramids. iDrive has been debated and debased in countless reviews, so I won't re-hash it here; I'm just glad that most of the essential functions (turning up the stereo or turning down the fan) can be accomplished with other buttons... if you can figure out which one to press, that is. The X6 also employs BMW's joystick-like transmission shifter. Jason complained about it bitterly in his X5 review, but I didn't think it was all that bad.

The X6's svelte roofline cuts into rear seat headroom; I'm only 5'6" and even I had to duck so as not to clonk my noggin when getting in. The cargo bay stores a healthy 25.5 cubic feet, but what makes it really useful is the huge trunklid that opens to reveal a gaping maw -- you can load practically anything into the X6 this side of a grand piano.

On the Road

BMW offers the X6 with two engines, a 306 horsepower 3-liter inline six-cylinder and a 407 hp 4.4 liter V8. Both engines use twin turbochargers to boost output and come mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Both engines are great -- the six is fast and the V8 is really fast, to the point that it's difficult to move off in the V8 without giving yourself whiplash. But all that power -- and the X6's colossal weight -- conspire to drop fuel economy down in the low- to mid-teens.

When I say the X6 drives like I car, I don't mean that it's car-like -- I mean it drives almost exactly like a car. I drove the X6 on highways, back roads, and wet and dry racetracks, and aside from a slight on-center numb spot in the steering, the X6 feels like a very tall BMW 3-series. Amazing. Though the X6 features all-wheel-drive (AWD), it's not designed for off-road work; AWD provides great on-road grip and the X6 exploits that with a patented rear differential design (Dynamic Performance Control) that can distribute power to either rear wheel, even when the driver isn't stepping on the accelerator. That makes the X6's standard electronic stability control system less reliant on the brakes, improving both safety and the X6's fun-to-drive factor -- which, by SUV standards, is off the scale. Options include a $3,700 Sport Package, which adds variable-rate shock absorbers and active stabilizer bars, as well as the $1,400 Active Steering system, which alters the steering ratio based on driving conditions and really sharpens up the X6's already-amazing handling.

Journey's End

Swoopy roofline restricts rear seat headroom.

Photo © Aaron Gold

And now we come to the sordid matter of coin. Pricing for the X6 starts at $56,325 for the six-cylinder model and $67,025 for the V8. And that's before you start adding options -- navigation system, rear-seat air conditioning and DVD player, ventilated seats, premium stereo, rear-view camera, heads-up display, bigger wheels, keyless ignition... the list goes on and on. Check enough boxes and you can bump up the X6's sticker price by $22,000 -- enough to buy a Honda CR-V. That said, BMW foots the bill for scheduled maintenance for the first 4 years or 50,000 miles, which saves buyers a good-sized heap of cash.

This is the point in the article where I recommend competing vehicles, except in the case of the X6, there really aren't any. The Hummer H2 and H3 come close, putting their own spin on the X6's blend of head-turning styling and carefree disregard for practicality. Even so, there's really nothing quite like the X6 -- and that uniqueness is a big part of its appeal.

It's kind of a shame that the X6 came along when it did, with Americans still in shock from high gas prices and watching their bank balances carefully. But the economy will bounce back, and when it does, I think the X6 might still have its time in the sun. The X6 isn't very practical and it certainly isn't very prudent, but it's an awesome looking SUV that's a lot of fun to drive. It's the kind of SUV that the anti-SUV crowd loves to hate -- but once you see it and drive it, it's hard not to fall in love. If you can afford the payments and the gas, the X6 is a fantastic choice.

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5
2010 BMW X6 5.0, Member LewisLipnick

I have recently purchased a 2010 BMW X6 5.0 twin turbo SAV (Sport Activity Vehicle). After having owned 12 BMW's from 1972-1989 and 17 Mercedes Benz's from 1989-2009, I can say with a degree of certainty that the X6 is the best overall vehicle I have driven so far. No, the X6 will not appeal to everyone, since it seats only four, is large and drinks a lot of fuel. But no two and a half ton monster of a machine (and it is big) should handle as well, or ride as comfortably as this. While nothing can totally defy the laws of physics, the X6 with the V8 twin turbo and sport suspension comes darn close. Think of a BMW M3 with all wheel drive and smooth ride (neither of which exists) on steroids. In spite of the limited seating room (driver and three passengers), there is a lot of internal space to spread out. Rear storage is excellent, and becomes cavernous when the two rear seats are folded down. I play contrabassoon in the National Symphony Orchestra, and I can easily get my horn's large case (58"" long) into the back with room to spare for two passengers and their luggage. BMW has made some significant improvements to the 2010 X6 over the 2009 model. Among these are the introduction of a ""top view"" parking assist camera that not only gives the driver a view of what is behind the X6 when parking, but also up to seven feet around the sides and rear as well. Another significant improvement is the incorporation of an updated I-drive. Ever since the introduction of the BMW I-drive interface, the automotive press has had little good to say about the idea. And I would have to agree that the first generation of I-drive was a bit of an ergonomic nightmare. But this third generation, taken directly from the 2009 7 series sedan, is intuitive and much easier to navigate than competing systems from Mercedes, Audi, and even Lexus. If you enjoy the art of driving, and want a vehicle that will challenge your driving skills, sticks to the road like glue no matter what the weather, is solid as a rock and safe as a bank vault, all the while doing much more than simply getting you from point A to point B, I suggest that you give the BMW X6 a serious audition.

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