The 2014 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, yet it has four doors!" "It's based on the X5, yet 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 that 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 xDrive50i model's twin-turbocharged V8.
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 are going to 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.
What's New for 2014?
The X6 is mostly unchanged, receiving only two new standard features: a universal garage-door opener and a compass for the rearview mirror.
What We Like
Great engines; impressive handling; premium interior; rich feature set
What We Don't
Older and less practical than the latest X5
The X6 xDrive35i employs a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 rated at 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the xDrive35i at 17 miles per gallon city/24 mpg highway.
The X6 xDrive50i features a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 rated at 400 hp and 450 lb-ft. Fuel economy checks in at 14 mpg city/21 mpg hwy.
An 8-speed automatic transmission and xDrive all-wheel drive are standard on every X6.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 BMW X6 is available in two trim levels: 6-cylinder xDrive35i and 8-cylinder xDrive50i. The high-performance X6 M is reviewed separately.
The xDrive35i ($61,725) comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlamps, LED taillights, fog lights, a sunroof, a power lift gate, 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.
The xDrive50i ($72,325) adds perks such as different 19-in alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim, 20-way Multi-contour front seats and a navigation system with hard-drive-based operation (including digital music storage).
Most of the xDrive50i model's extras are available as options on the xDrive35i. Other add-ons include quad-zone climate control, 3-person rear seating, sport seats, adaptive dampers, 20-in wheels, adaptive LED headlights and a 16-speaker 600-watt audio system.
In terms of cargo space, the X6 may pale in comparison to the boxier X5, but it actually stacks up well on paper against smaller crossovers such as the X3. In the real world, however, the X6's sloping rear roofline makes its cargo bay more like that of a big hatchback than a true SUV.
The 2014 model comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain). Also standard is BMW Assist, which includes four years of enhanced roadside assistance, stolen vehicle recovery and more. A lane-departure warning system is optional.
Neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the X6.
Behind the Wheel
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, yet within the intimate confines of a coupe-like cabin. The standard 10-way power front seats are no slouches, but the xDrive50i model's phenomenal 20-way Multi-contour seats (optional on the xDrive35i) are without question the way to go.
The gauges are standard BMW-spec, employing classic white-on-black numerals that change to orange-on-black at night. The interior materials are mostly high-quality, though the X6's dashboard is largely shared with that of the previous-generation X5, which means it's older than most current BMW dashboards (and perhaps not assembled to quite the same exacting standards).
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 up higher, 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 frankly cooler with the Porsche-Panamera-style rear buckets.
Under the hood, its acceleration is satisfactory with the xDrive35i model's turbo six, and refinement is high. However, the X6 is a roughly 2.5-ton beast, so 300 hp really isn't all that much. We'd be sorely tempted by the xDrive50i model's V8, which transforms the X6 into a veritable muscle car. The xDrive50i surges forward effortlessly when you give it the spurs. It's a combination of speed and civility that few engines can match.
On the road, the X6 has great genes that trace back to the nimble previous-generation 5 Series sedan. Not surprisingly, it's 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 sharper than the X5 in corners, and exhibits 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.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW X5 -- The recently redesigned X5 is a more practical and up-to-date package.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 -- Jeep hasn't quite cracked into the X6's refinement bracket, but 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 Sport - With a supercharged V8 under the hood, the sleek new Range Rover Sport can keep up with the X6 on the pavement and run circles around it on off-road trails.
If you're looking for an X6, you've already decided to go all-out on this purchase, so why not pick the xDrive50i? Here's another way of looking at it: You'll be getting most of the epic X6 M's performance for considerably less.