BMW X6, Part TwoS

Exterior Design: ***

Like many parts of the BMW X6, its looks are promising yet flawed. Doing a great job of disguising its bulk — the X6 is huge, that lip on the rear hatch is taller than an F-150's tailgate and the pictured wheels are 20-inchers — they're nevertheless awkward in some places — the huge rear end — and disappointingly conservative in others — the boring front. It's an extremely color sensitive shape; white showing off its surfaces best while the burgundy version is just boring.


Interior Design: **

In short: conservative and impractical. By opting for a CLS-style rear console BMW unnecessarily reduced the X6's people capacity to four, but haven't made the interior special enough to justify its lack of space. It's also very color and spec sensitive; the dash looks great covered in dark leather, but the beige plastic found in base versions is just plain tacky. The rear window, big on the outside, looks like little more than a slit from the front seat. The low roofline doesn't compromise rear headroom as much as it looks though, I'm 6'2" and could sit there all day, legroom is equivalent to an X5.


Acceleration: ****

Both the 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six and 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 move the X6 forward with real gusto. There's nothing in it below 100mph, but the V8 doesn't taper off at high speeds like the six-cylinder does. The revvy xDrive35i fits the X6's sporty character best, and weighs 264lbs less, making it noticeably more agile.

Braking: *****

Immensely powerful, the brakes haul the heavy X6 up without drama. On the track, they didn't fade and the ABS isn't over conservative, allowing drivers to fully exploit the available grip. The active dampers eliminate dive.

Ride: ****

Back off the pace a bit and the X6 is luxury car comfortable. While the big 315/20s ride firmly, the suspension always keeps things in control on everything from smooth highways to rough dirt tracks. There's less tire noise than you might think, but it's not as quiet as say a 7-series.

Handling: ****

So good you'll forget you're driving an SUV. Dynamic Performance Control is a genuine game changer, think of it as a form of stability control that gives you more control, increases grip to unimaginable levels and does both without interfering by grabbing brakes or cutting power. Other electronics eliminate dive and roll, too.

The laws of physics do eventually intervene and the X6 will understeer, but its limits are unbelievably high. We'd put the X6 up against any sports car on a tight, twisty and wet mountain road, it's just a shame the steering is devoid of feel.

Gearbox: *

The biggest flaw in the X6's driving experience is made worse by the rest of the car's competence. The plastic paddles are counterintuitive to use and provide a disappointing level of control. The automatic's electronic brain is an unpredictable master, you never know when or if it'll allow you to downshift and loves shifting up at unpredictable moments.

Audio: ****

Another journalist remarked to us that he hadn't noticed the sound that emanates from the differential under hard driving as he'd switched the radio on and spent the day in cruise-mode. We did exactly the opposite and were rewarded with two great-sounding engines and the unique mechanical noise coming from the back end. But taking a peak at the X6's options list reveals the kind of fancy audio systems you'd expect from a high-spec luxury car.



Toys: *****

We'd give the X6 five stars here if all it came with was Dynamic Performance Control, any technology that increases driver control, safety and speed at the same time makes us happy boys. It's the antithesis of traditional stability control — which we normally switch off — as it doesn't interfere with your driving. But, the X6 also comes with every other conceivable kid of gizmo, which while impressive, would make us worry about buying an X6 as a used car in a few years' time. The iDrive is better than ever as well, spend a few minutes getting used to it and you'll be rewarded with rapid, intuitive access to all the vehicle's settings.

Value: *

The X6 costs over $8,500 more than an equivalent X5. While it does drive considerably better, it offers a lot less utility. Having said that, it doesn't set out to be a practical package, more a car that people will want rather than one they'll need.

Overall: ***

Faster and better to drive than any vehicle this big, this heavy and this tall has any right to be, we'd love to be able to give it more stars, but ultimately its flaws compromise its ability to too great a degree.

Having said that, with the X6, driving is believing. Put your preconceptions and prejudices aside and take one for a spin, you'll be amazed. But fitting one into your life might prove a slightly less exciting experience.

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