When BMW opened up its American manufacturing plant in upstate South Carolina in 1994, the public responded with mixed emotions. Why would BMW choose that location, 200 miles from the closest port, to crank out their tiny Z cars? When they started rolling off the line, and drivers started getting their hands on them, there was nothing but praise and worship of the big BMW plant.
Now, that same plant that cranked out those Z cars by the thousand creates the X platform. And the public is still crazy about them too. Americans love a good SUV, but they’re entirely infatuated with big ones. Big, huge, fast ones. Welcome to the X6, the new pride of Spartanburg, SC.
Some of those Z-lovers have now grown up. They need just a little more room than what the two-door Sportster could offer. Sure, a 3-series is cushy enough. But why not go bigger? A lot bigger! The X6, compared to its slim sedan sister, is what we like to imagine we look like after a perfect pump at the gym; toned and agile. Graduating from a sedan to a luxury SUV is an accomplishment, like finally working off those holiday pounds. But is it worth it? Let’s take a glance and give the X6 a good workout. We’ll see just what kind of shape it’s really in.
Price Point Contention
Before delving into the fun parts of the new BMW X6, addressing the elephant in the room is crucial. Without doing so would be like doing sets of 10 but actually counting 15. We’re talking, of course, about the price tage. It’s a robust number to swallow, but not without justification.
The base model (with is very well-equipped, mind you) will set you back roughly $65,000. Imagine any other base model BMW, we’re not talking crank-style windows and Naugahyde seats. The sDrive40i model will still get you where you need to go in an opulent cloak. Depending on your bank account, it’s a great bang for the buck. The xDrive40i is slightly more expensive, but only adds all-wheel drive.
Top Tier Trim
Stepping up a notch in luxury with the X6 M50i model. It will set you back a significant amount more cash. A larger engine, markedly lower fuel economy, and extra buttons will cost you an additional $20,000. We’re still talking about the same X6, in a way.
If you’re going for gold and want to load up the option, performance and overall price tag, splurge and go with the X6 M50i. Be warned though, because you can quickly spend almost twice as much as you would the base X6. You’ll get a strong 523 horsepower V8 engine and plenty of “M Sport enhancements” in exchange. Now that there’s full transparency behind the actual cost of this clumsy-looking Bavarian brute, it might be easier to appreciate precisely how impressive the 2020 X6 is. Even the base model will shiver your timbers.
A Curbside View
For the German car crowd, the BMW SUV concept has been a hard pill to swallow. Actually, the company calls it an SAV — Sport Activity Vehicle. Seems like just mere semantics, though. Bloating the lines of the sleek sedans into some gargoyle-esque vehicle has slowly progressed from the surprising introduction of the X3 to what we’re looking at today. The X6, in particular, has gone through its share of awkward pubescent stages over its three-generation run. This third stage may be the winning combination of fashion and function. Before griping about the size of the grille or the plastic air dams, hear us out.
The front clip of the X6 has gotten a little renovation. Yes, the grille is a bit bigger than what most BMW fans are comfortable with. For those willing to step out of their comfort zone and appreciate why its so big, kudos! The grille itself is only proportionate to the towering stature of the vehicle. In comparison to the 20″ wheels (or even 22″ should you decide to roll on dubs), it fits. Zooming out, you can take an overall picture of the raking windshield, massive moonroof, and stretching greenhouse. All together, it works. Comparing it to the diminutive kidney grille of the late ’80s, of course, it doesn’t fit. Imagine the grill from an e30 on the front of the X6M. Ridiculous, right?
From the rear, a lot is going on. So much so, that it’s hard to pinpoint where the lines look right and where they go awry. The precariously placed Roundel in the center of the liftgate seems a bit like an afterthought, almost as if the designer was told: “we need more BMW swag!” Even in brochures and online advertisements for the X6, there are very few snaps of the back end. It’s almost like a tease tactic to make you want to see one for yourself. Good play, BMW! It’s working.
Fantastically, the grille, the odd rear end, and the massive wheels combine into a genuinely fetching SUV. Sorry, we mean SAV, right? Take the C-pillar, for example. It caresses itself up into the greenhouse and hugs it in a way that converts and signs of bloat into a svelte side profile. Even the wheel arches give the appearance of broad shoulders, holding up muscular haunches. BMW dabbed on an extra bit of class with side vents placed behind the front wheels, providing extra functional flair. Details omitted on the posterior appearance find their way to the sides and front. How often do you stare at the back of your car anyway?
From The Drivers Seat – And Beyond
The interior of the X6 will not disappoint. Yes, even if you don’t splurge on the massaging seats. Integrated into the dash is an appropriately sized 12.3-inch touchscreen. This configuration is delightfully more pleasing to the eye than previous manifestations, which tried to plug a flat touchscreen into a curved surface. The technology looks as if it belongs there, not that it was an afterthought.
Accessibility for both the driver and the passenger is optimal. The dongle is still there if you want to channel your old-school-cool. Coupling with the high-tech touchscreen is a fully digital cluster panel, replacing analog gauges completely. The wheel-feel gives the vibe of piloting a spaceship, not an SUV. The screens can undoubtedly become monotonous quickly, especially if you’re not fan of shiny things in your face.
Should you find yourself wanting to tote your buds down to the local farmers market, you’re in luck. The X6 has room for you and four of your friends — with space to spare. Luxurious leather and beautiful trim pieces remind occupant that they’re not riding in any plastic-ridden Rav4. No, this is German interior engineering at its finest. Down to the stitching on the seatbacks and optional Bowers & Wilkins audio system, it’s a high falutin’ ride. A drive in the X6 will be more like a trip to the spa, without having to figure in a tip mentally.
The Pedal To The Metal
BMW wasn’t shy when they crammed as much horsepower into the X6 as possible, even with the base model. The sDrive40i comes equipped with a standard 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder. It has no problem getting out of the way with its 335 horsepower. Stuffed under the hood of the middle of the X6 range, M50i is a powerful yet fuel-thirsty V8. It gives the X6 almost 200 extra horsepower. It’s an incredible increase in ponies for just $20,000 more. That same V8, when juiced up and put in the X6M can rumble out with an even more astounding 560 horsepower. A ridiculously large amount being produced out of a vehicle that doesn’t look like it belongs on a track.
The market is saturated with SUVs that are heavy on the sport and less on the utility, though. Range Rover beefed up the Evoque and Mercedes kicked the GLS in the pants. Even Jeep got into the sporty utility market with their Trackhawk line. It’s an incredibly complex market strategy for sure, but people are buying them! The price of gas and lower mileage doesn’t seem to be dissuading anyone.
The X6M, for a poignant example, gets 18 miles per gallon on the highway, if you’re lucky. The base model, by comparison, can hit 26 MPG on the highway. Not great, but certainly doable.
The X Factor
Behind the gaping grille of every X6 is that little Z car that once graced the same assembly line. Spunky and task-oriented, but inappropriately sized. As an SUV, buying one that isn’t equipped with the xDrive is pointless. It will leave you with an expensive two-wheel-drive behemoth that couldn’t get you out of a shallow mud puddle. On the other hand, going full-X and opting for the X6M might be irresponsible. It could leave you in situations where you’ll want to test the pure power, but probably in inappropriate places.
Is the X6 a great vehicle? In a vicarious way, yes. Purists just have to get past that gaping grille and allow the massaging seats to work their magic.