2015 BMW X6 xDrive50i SAV Road Test


2015 BMW X6 xDrive50i

Let’s just not mention the styling, OK?


I doubt there has ever been a Road Test where the author didn’t dwell on the BMW X6’s styling. Whether or not they find it painfully awkward, (most of them) or they are smitten by it (a vast minority) doesn’t matter, because BMW has never determined if a product is a home run over the buzz generated by jaded auto journalists but rather how much cash they send into the company coffers. By that measure, the X6 is a smashing success.

Just ask the 897 Canadian households who bought an X6 last year, or the nearly 250,000 worldwide that have been sold since the cars introduction in 2009. Surely that many people can’t have been blinded to the compromises the X6 demands you live with every day because clearly, they aren’t put off by the aesthetics. I admit that it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the concept of a vehicle based on the popular X5 that is more expensive, and has less cargo space and poorer outward visibility. If you think this is a short lived phenomenon, think again; Mercedes Benz have recently announced they are bringing a GLC Coupe based on the brisk selling former ML class that is a dead ringer for BMW’s X6. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, BMW had better be blushing a deep shade of red. It should surprise exactly no one that Audi has recently thrown its hat into the mix with its own take on the Armadillo inspired SAV, rumoured to be called the Q6.

PROS: Impeccable engine, intelligent transmission, opulent interior.

CONS: Driving Dynamic Control can get confused, subpar brake feel, wonky brake feel.

THE VERDICT: It’s easy to forget about the controversial aspects of the X6 when you’re driving one.

I’m tired of echoing these voices of aesthetic contempt any longer. The X6 styling obviously sells, and if car companies listened to the bellyaching of us journalists and the enthusiast community at large, there probably wouldn’t be an auto industry, period. For the rest of this review, we won’t mention the X6 styling again, at all. Rather, we’ll judge it on its many other merits (and some demerits, but we digress.)

First item under the microscope is the engine, and coming from BMW this is how many conversations about the X6 should begin. Long known as a company who crafts some of the best engines out there, those expecting a high level of underhood proficiency will not be disappointed. Power comes from a 4.4 litre V8 making 445 horsepower and 480 lbs/ft. of torque. Yes, this engine has a couple of turbos slapped onto it- what BMW engine doesn’t these days- but it is an absolute honey of a motor and reminded us fondly of the days where everything powering a BMW was special in its own way. It’s smooth as a belt of your favourite single malt just about anywhere in the rev range, and any undue noise vibration and harshness has been completely exorcised. Even the sound is delightful if a bit too muffled, serenading our ears more deliciously than the ersatz soundtrack that comes out of the M-tuned version of this powerplant.

It’s lashed to an 8-speed automatic gearbox that is a near perfect match to the V8’s power delivery characteristics. For those who still doubt just how good automatics have become over the last few years need to experience this comes-as-close-to-a-dual-clutch-unit as possible example of a slushbox. As much as I’d love the idea of a manually shifted X6, these bleeding-edge generation of gearboxes are startlingly good.

Our tester was equipped with the Dynamic Adaptive Suspension ($3,500) which works in tandem with the sporty bits from M Sport Package ($2,900), and BMW will equip all such X6’s with massive wheels and tires all in the name of generating prodigious mechanical grip. It works. It feels a bit weird hustling a vehicle like the X6 in corners, but is strangely rewarding when you do. You are acutely aware of a whole bunch of mass doing things it just shouldn’t be doing. Even with the firmer suspension and the aggressive rolling stock, the X6 still delivers a good ride.

The only unsavoury component of this dynamic stew is the brakes. We don’t measure stopping distances, but the seat of our pants keeps telling us that the X6 doesn’t scrub off speed with the same alacrity we’re used to from BMW. Moreover, the pedal feel is ghastly- we haven’t experienced such disconnect in the braking department since we drove the smaller X4 last year.

Inside will be instantly familiar to anyone who has spent time in a 5 series and beyond within BMW’s lineup. By now, you’ll be used to the newish relocation of the trunk release to the near the window switches, a migration that had the door lock switch following suit. You get an upsized infotainment screen which displays the latest version of iDrive software, something that took BMW a while to engineer the maddening frustration out of it (it’s now a pleasure to use.) Also new are the digital gauges in the instrument panel whose look completely changes when you select Sport or Sport+ when toggling through the various chassis settings. I never had an issue with BMW’s always legible analogue gauges, but these electronic ones are pretty good so no complaints there.

Our tester came equipped with two options that particularly enamoured us- the always awesome but very dear Bang and Olufsen sound system ($4,900) and the sumptuous Cognac Exclusive Nappa Leather package ($2,500) that really does feel a step above the already premium stuff found in other upscale Bimmers.

There are a few areas where the X6 comes up short, despite the hedonistic list of extras.

One bit of kit we’d leave off the list of options would be the Active Steering. Not only is it an easy way to keep $1,650 in your pocket, but it takes an already artificially feeling steering rack and muddles the feel even more. It also feels counterintuitive when you feel the system dialing up more lock you don’t necessarily need, like in low speed parking lot maneuvers. The now familiar Driving Dynamics Control switch that changes the behaviour of steering, suspension and throttle is meant to offer the driver varying choices on how he or she would like their X6 to behave, but we found that Comfort feels too close to the Eco Pro setting which pretty much renders the controls to feel as if they are moving through a viscous syrup and Sport feels too frenetic, making the X6 feel simultaneously too touchy and prone to lurching when driven around in this mode.

We can therefore conclude that our lavishly equipped X6 turned out to be a pretty enjoyable mount during its time in the Carpages Garage. It isn’t easy to look down on something that oozes so much comfort while serving up generous amounts of speed. Just don’t ask us to talk about the styling.

2015 BMW X6 xDrive50i SAV – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $105,640
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  4.4-litre V8 twin turbo, DOHC, 32 valves
  • Horsepower: 445 @ 5500-6,000 rpm
  • Torque (lb-ft): 480 @ 2,000-4,500 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 2,345 kg (5,172 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 16.2L/100km (14 mpg)