The cars we loved.
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of SUVs. I just don’t care much for “trail crunching” station wagons. Although there have been a few that have caught my attention, the Jeep Cherokee SRT10 for one, it’s usually because of its extreme on road performance. With that said, I was intrigued by BMW’s foray into the world of the SUV in 1999. The 5 Series based X5 ended up looking like a truck, but handled nearly as well as any of it’s cars, but was still upright and bulky like a proper SUV was at that time. No amount of street performance would make me forget my bias. BMW followed it with other truck things, all of which I was indifferent to.
Then things got interesting in 2008 when BMW introduced its most un truck-like X6. This is the closest think to a truck entry that will ever make it to Autopolis and for good reason. The X6 is a crossover technically, but is sold under BMW’s “X” banner – a refuge for its trucks. The South Carolina built X6 is interesting in that as a crossover it embodies more car-like virtues than BMW’s other X vehicles. For starters, its brand of mid-sized luxury rivals a 5 Series. Categorized by BMW as a Sports Activity Coupe (SAC) it has a higher ground clearance than the typical all-wheel drive 3 or 5 Series car. BMW’s the X6 comes with the 3.0 V6 with 300 hp for starters. The engine code-named N63 has (or will) power everything various 5 to 7 Series cars in the near future.
Although there were four diesel and petro engines being used worldwide for the X6, early US models came with just two twin turbo gasoline engines. Late in 2009 a hybrid with an advanced 8 speed automatic transmission was added to the model range, giving the X6 line the potential for 36 mpg. The steep starting price of $60k gave its buyer a 300 hp 3.0 litre V6 and a certain degree of exclusivity.
The coupe-like styling is bold, yet looks more attractive than the 5 Series GT, a car with a similar roofline. Where the 5 Series GT looks bloated, the X6 comes across as taunt and muscular looking. The effect of the X6’s GT car stance is heightened when equipped with 20 inch wheels. The X6 is of course more car than truck, with a ground clearance more suitable for Rodeo Drive than rocky terrain. That’s just fine as promotional material never shows the X6 on terrain more challenging than rolling hills anyway. In a further nod to car-ness, the X6 was initially available with a coupe like 2 + 2 four passenger seating arrangement. In 2011, a third seat was added in back, at the expense of the storage console between the two rear seats. Not that anyone bought a X6 for cargo volume, its sloping roof line made sure of that.
The concession to passenger capacity did not change the X6’s image as a performance crossover, as the X6 was more likely to be seen carving up curves than carrying kids to soccer practice. All models benefited from BMW’s first use of its Dynamic Performance Control system. The traction regulating system works in unison with the xDrive system to correct for over and understeer. It also regulated the distribution of power from front to rear or left to right wheel bias.
The X6’s street cred went up a notch in 1999 with the introduction of a M version. Its 444 hp 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 was the same one in the M5 and helped move the X6 to a 4.3 0 to 60 time (9 seconds for regular 3.o models). Visually more aggressive, the X6 M had its own wheels and ground effect treatments befitting of the M brand. The X6 goes a long way toward bridging to gap between car and SUV performance. For 2013, BMW made slight revisions to the interior and exterior with updated tail lights and a revised front end. Mechanically, its pretty much unchanged.
Id wish that instead of a crossover, the X6 just came out of the closet as a full-bore coupe or alternative/replacement to the 5 Series Gran Tursimo. Better yet, the fast back coupe style could be applied to a two door car about the size of the 1 Series. BMW has never had a car of this type in the mode of a Toyota Celica or Mitsubishi Eclipse. With all the new BMW models and variations recently, there’s always the chance for a proper two door fastback coupe in 3 Series form, but for now the X6 will have to do.