Pros: Great engines; impressive handling; premium interior; rich feature set

Cons: Limited cargo and passenger capacity relative to X5

What's New: Like its X5 sibling, the 2013 X6 gets an optional M Performance package that adds 15 horsepower to the xDrive35i and 40 hp to the xDrive50i. Other tweaks include subtle exterior styling revisions and available adaptive LED headlights.

Introduction

The 2013 BMW X6 is a vehicle that car critics love to hate. We'll save you the Google search and sum up the complaints: "BMW calls it a coupe, but it's got four doors!" "It's based on the X5, but it has less cargo capacity and no third-row option!" "It costs how much?!" "It's just so?silly!"

You get the idea.

Now let's look at the X6 from a more realistic perspective. It's expensive, yes, but that just means prospective buyers have a different set of car-shopping criteria.

First and foremost, they're looking for something out of the ordinary, and the X6's unique hatchback-on-stilts design certainly delivers. They're probably looking for speed too, and the X6 has plenty of that, especially with the new-for-2013 M Performance package.

If they're sensitive to the way a car handles, they'll be blown away by the X6's athleticism. And if they want an urban assault vehicle with an elevated ride that stays above the fray, well, the X6 can play that role too.

Look, haters gonna hate, right? But unless you actually need the versatility of a true crossover, don't listen to their rants. Go drive an X6 for yourself and see if it's the right fit.

Comfort & Utility

The X6 is available in two trim levels: a 6-cylinder xDrive35i and an 8-cylinder xDrive50i. The high-performance X6 M is reviewed separately.

The xDrive35i comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlamps, LED taillights, fog lights, a sunroof, a power liftgate, keyless entry with push-button ignition, leather upholstery, 10-way power-heated front seats with lumbar support and driver memory, two rear bucket seats with a center armrest, dual-zone automatic climate control, iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity, a 10-speaker audio system with dual subwoofers and the iDrive infotainment system with a small, square display.

The xDrive50i adds different 19-in alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim, 20-way Multi-contour front seats and a larger, wide-screen iDrive display with a navigation system and hard-drive-based operation (including digital music storage).

Most of the xDrive50i's standard niceties are available on the xDrive35i. Notable options include quad-zone climate control, three-person rear seating, sport seats, adaptive dampers, 20-in wheels, adaptive LED headlights and a 16-speaker, 600-watt audio system. New for 2013 is the M Performance package (more on that in Performance & Fuel Economy, below).

Compared to the X5's driving position, the X6's is definitely more low-slung, so BMW got that part of the coupe equation right. It's a pleasantly strange sensation to be sitting higher than in a regular car but within the intimate confines of a coupe-like cabin. The standard 10-way power front seats are no slouches, but the xDrive50i's phenomenal 20-way Multi-contour seats, optional on xDrive35i, are without question the way to go. We'd skip over the admittedly solid sport seats and go straight to the Multi-contours--they're that good.

The gauges are standard BMW-spec, employing those classic white-on-black numerals that change to orange-on-black at night. Interior materials are mostly high quality, though the X6's dashboard is largely shared with that of the X5, which means it's older than most current BMW dashboards, and perhaps not assembled to quite the same exacting standards. We were disappointed to discover that the high-priced X6 doesn't come standard with the crisp wide-screen iDrive display; you'll have to pay extra for the navigation system to get the wide-screen, or else you're stuck with a very plain square display.

The X6's standard rear bucket seats are more comfortable for two passengers than the X5's rear bench, in our opinion. BMW raised the hip point of the back row for X6 duty, which means you sit higher than in the X5 and with better thigh support. There's an available middle seat that you can specify in place of the standard center armrest, but we wouldn't recommend it. The X6 is comfier and cooler with the Porsche Panamera-style rear buckets.

As for cargo space, the X6 may pale in comparison to the boxier X5, but it's actually not bad at all relative to smaller crossovers like the X3. In fact, the X6 technically has more maximum cargo space than the X3 (59.7 versus 56.5) and nearly as much regular trunk space at 25.6 cu ft. Of course, those are the on-paper numbers. In the real world, the X6's sloping rear roofline makes its cargo bay look more like that of a big hatchback than a true SUV.

Technology

Unfortunately, the standard X6 xDrive35i comes with a basic version of iDrive that utilizes the sort of small, square screen we expect to find at a much lower price point. But if you check the box for the navigation system, standard on xDrive50i, you get a beautifully crisp wide-screen display backed by a hard drive with digital music storage. Either way, the iDrive interface has improved dramatically from its controversial early years, now featuring a vastly better menu structure and numerous physical buttons next to the controller knob for direct access to common pathways. It's one of the best infotainment systems on the market, and we appreciate that it's controlled by that console-mounted control knob instead of a touchscreen, so there's no need to lean forward and smudge the screen with your fingertips.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The xDrive35i is powered by a turbocharged inline-6 rated at 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration is satisfactory with this motor, and refinement is high; however, the X6 is a roughly 2.5-ton beast, so 300 hp really isn't all that much.

As such, we'd be sorely tempted to go whole-hog and get the xDrive50i, which features a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that's good for 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. Add the M Performance package and you're looking at a whopping 440 hp and 480 lb-ft. So equipped, the X6 transforms into a veritable muscle car, surging forward effortlessly at any speed when you give it the spurs. This V8 is otherworldly--few engines can match its combined performance/civility index.

Note that the M Performance package, which also includes 20-in wheels and a smattering of M-themed styling twists, can be added to the xDrive35i for increases of 15 hp and 30 lb-ft.

A slick 8-speed automatic is standard on every X6, as is all-wheel drive. Not surprisingly, fuel economy is a weakness, checking in at 16-mpg city/23-mpg highway with the inline-6 and 14/20 mpg with the V8.

Safety

The X6 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front side, full-length side curtain). Also offered is BMW Assist, which includes four years of enhanced roadside assistance, stolen vehicle recovery and more.

Neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash tested the X6.

Driving Impressions

The X6 has great genes, as the X5 (itself based on the nimble previous-generation 5 Series sedan) is one of the most athletic crossover SUVs we've ever driven. Due to its lower center of gravity and some suspension tweaks, the X6 is even sharper than the X5 in corners, exhibiting a degree of poise that's scarcely believable given the car's roughly 5,000-lb curb weight. Nonetheless, the ride quality somehow remains thoroughly civilized. We'd only ask for less steering effort at parking-lot speeds. The X5 passed along its heavy steering too, and the X6 could do without that.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW X5: If you want more cargo space and passenger capacity than the X6 provides, the X5 delivers a very similar driving experience in a more practical package.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8: Jeep hasn't quite cracked into the X6's refinement bracket with the new Grand Cherokee, but it's getting there. Plus, who's going to argue with 6.4 liters of pure American V8 muscle for thousands less than even the 6-cylinder xDrive35i?

Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: The pint-sized Evoque only has 240 horses, so maybe we're reaching here, but it's a similarly fashion-forward crossover, and you'd likely save a bundle.

AutoTrader Recommends

If you're looking for an X6, you've already decided to go all-out on this purchase, so why not pick the xDrive50i with the M Performance package? Here's another way of looking at it: You'd be getting most of the X6 M's performance for considerably less.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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